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Utah GOP vote to censure Mitt Romney fails while senator is booed at convention

A resolution to censure GOP Sen. Mitt Romney for his two votes to convict former President Donald Trump failed Saturday at the Utah Republican Party organizing convention, where the senator had been booed earlier in the day — a reflection of the anger that persists among the party’s core activists about Trump’s impeachment and Romney’s frequent criticisms of him throughout his presidency.

The vote failed 711-798, according to Utah Republican Party spokeswoman Lynda Cox.

The resolution to censure Romney, which was submitted by Don Guymon, a party delegate from Davis County, was rife with unproven conspiracy theories, including about President Joe Biden and his family. The language of the resolution also alleged that Romney “consistently publicly criticized President Trump” and that his “comments not only hurt President Trump’s reelection but hurt other Republicans on the ballot.”

Although the censure failed, Romney’s treatment Saturday was a reminder of the fractures in the GOP over the legacy of the former President and his sway over the future of the party.

“Now you know me as a person who says what he thinks, and I don’t hide the fact that I wasn’t a fan of our last President’s character issues,” Romney told the crowd. In response, members of the audience booed loudly enough to force Romney to stop his speech and wait for them to quiet down.

Later in his remarks, Romney referred to himself as “an old fashioned Republican,” which drew more boos from members of the crowd. The 2012 GOP presidential nominee defended himself from the jeers by listing his conservative credentials.

“Oh yeah, you can boo all you like, but I’ve been a Republican all my life. My dad was a governor of Michigan, my dad worked for Republican candidates that he believed in. I worked for Republicans across the country and if you don’t recall, I was the Republican nominee for President in 2012,” Romney said, which was met by applause from members of the audience.

“Yeah, I understand I have a few folks who don’t like me terribly much and I — I’m sorry about that. But I express my mind as I believe is right and I follow my conscience as I believe is right,” Romney said at one point, to which the crowd responded with both boos and cheers.

Guymon’s censure resolution, which had eight co-sponsors, targeted Romney for both of his conviction votes in 2020 and 2021 and rejected the notion that Trump incited an insurrection at the US Capitol. The resolution also claimed that “House impeachment managers doctored evidence” and “denied due process,” faulting Romney for voting to “proceed with the unconstitutional impeachment and convict President Trump despite the lack of evidence and due process.”

Guymon told CNN after the vote that he believes the closeness of the result reflects that there has been a “turn of the tide” against the Utah senator following his votes to convict Trump in his two impeachment trials. Guymon added that a number of delegates told him that they had decided not to vote for the censure resolution because they felt that Romney had “received the message” when he was booed earlier in the day when he came on stage to make remarks at the organizing convention.

There are about 4,000 GOP state delegates, but only about half of those delegates attended the organizing convention this year because it was mainly party business and not any major nominations, so some people opted to stay home. Attendance was also lower because of the pandemic. By the time the censure resolution against Romney came up, many of the delegates had already left the venue.

CNN has reached out to Romney’s office for comment.

Romney has long had a fraught relationship with the hardcore activists within the Utah Republican Party, whose delegates tend to be more conservative than GOP voters statewide. Even before the impeachment votes, many activists resented Romney’s decision to run for the seat of retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch in 2018, because Romney had just moved back to Utah after living for many years in Massachusetts and serving as governor there.

At the 2018 Utah GOP convention, Romney was unable to win the 60% that he needed from the state’s delegates to head to the November ballot unopposed, even though he was enormously popular across the state because of his history helping to rescue the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. He was vying against 11 other candidates for the nomination, and ended up in a runoff with Utah state Rep. Mike Kennedy. Another challenger carried a carpetbag up on stage as a prop to protest Romney’s presence in the race — illustrating the animosity toward Romney even at that early juncture. Ultimately, Romney easily won Hatch’s seat statewide with 62.6% of the vote to Democrat Jenny Wilson’s 30.9% that November.

Romney is just the latest Republican lawmaker to receive blowback from state party activists upset about elected Republicans bucking the former President.

Trump slammed those who voted for his impeachment or conviction as “grandstanders” and “Republicans in name only” at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year. And the former President has pledged to campaign against Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the only Senate Republican who voted to convict him who’s up for reelection next year.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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