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Republican contenders for Mitt Romney’s open US Senate seat face off in Utah debate

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Four Utah Republicans battling to win the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney face off Monday evening in a debate that could begin to gauge the type of conservative who most appeals to voters statewide.

The marquee event in a marathon week of primary debates will test former President Donald Trump’s broad influence in Utah, one of the few red states that has been hesitant to embrace him. Trump’s day-of endorsement of a little-known mayor helped the local official to win the party nomination over nearly a dozen contenders at the April convention.

Romney has long been the face of the party’s more moderate wing, and his retirement from the Senate opens a door for candidates farther to the right. Observers are closely watching whether voters select a successor whose politics align more with Romney’s or with Utah’s other U.S. senator, Trump supporter Mike Lee.

While moderate U.S. Rep. John Curtis is considered the favorite going into the June 25 primary, convention victor Trent Staggs and former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, another Trump supporter, could push Utah politics further right in the post-Romney era.

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