Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, could face a primary challenge if he decides to run for re-election, with a top state legislator officially exploring a run.
Utah state House Speaker Brad Wilson launched an exploratory committee on Thursday as he weighs challenging Romney, telling the Associated Press that the Beehive State needs a "conservative fighter" and referring to Romney as a "professional career politician." An exploratory committee allows Wilson to begin fundraising for a potential campaign.
Wilson told the Deseret News that his decision on whether or not to formally launch a run "is going to be based on what I hear from people, what I believe is in the best interest of the state of Utah, and what is, quite frankly, in the best interest of my family.”
Romney has not yet said if he's running for re-election, telling reporters in February that he will make his decision "over the coming months."
“The question for me is, what can I get done? I have a list of things I’m working on. I’ll make that assessment over the coming months, and sometime in the spring or summer, I’ll make that decision," Romney said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. "I’m confident that I would win if I decide to run. I’ll have the resources, and I believe the people of Utah would be with me."
Romney's campaign did file a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission this week, but chief of staff Liz Johnson cautioned that the filing did not mean Romney had made a decision about running.
"No new decision or announcement to share, and as the senator has said, he will make a final decision in the coming months," Johnson wrote in an email to NBC News. "In the meantime, we’re ensuring he’s well prepared to run if he chooses."
Romney was first elected in 2018 after easily winning the GOP nomination. He has been a sharp Trump critic during his time in the Senate, voting to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. In an interview with the AP, Wilson declined to say if he would seek Trump's endorsement in the race.