It’s been six turbulent years for Utah’s “odd couple” Senate duo of Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, whose contrasting approaches to policy and former President Donald Trump have epitomized their state’s fractured Republican electorate. Now, Romney’s retirement opens the door for a frenzied GOP primary fight to succeed him — and hardline conservatives are giddy at the possibility of replacing one of the chamber’s staunchest centrists with a more reliable culture warrior.

Eleven Republicans filed bids for the open seat by the Jan. 8 deadline, one of whom is all but assured victory in November given the state’s massive GOP edge. With five months until the June 25 primary, insiders agree that the race is quickly emerging as a showdown between Rep. John Curtis and former state House Speaker Brad Wilson, though Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs remains in the mix. All three would represent shifts to the right from Romney, though to considerably varying degrees.

Many insiders feel comfortable calling Curtis the frontrunner. The former Provo mayor and gun range design businessman made his way to Congress after winning a

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