Trent Staggs is counting on a Republican majority in Congress next year

Senate candidate Trent Staggs listens to a question as he meets with the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards at the Triad Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

Senate candidate Trent Staggs listens to a question as he meets with the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards at the Triad Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Trent Staggs isn't big on compromise — at least when it comes to what he describes as the "America First" policies he's advocating for during his run for U.S. Senate.

The Republican candidate and mayor of Riverton said elected officials in Washington fall into two general buckets: "You've got Americans and anti-Americans." He described anti-Americans as "people in elected office in this country whose stated goal is to fundamentally change this country."

"And those are people with which I think you cannot compromise," he told the KSL and Deseret News editorial boards Wednesday afternoon.

Staggs' list of anti-Americans extends beyond just Democrats in office, as he has repeatedly expressed distaste with Republican leaders in the House and Senate who he has dubbed part of the "establishment." Sen. Mitt Romney — whose seat Staggs is vying for — is "emblematic of the issue we have in American politics," Staggs said.

He aspires to be one of possibly 15-20 such anti-establishment senators following the 2024 election, joining the ranks of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama.

Staggs has already appealed to that wing of the Republican party: Tuberville endorsed the mayor in Layton last month and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida — a frequent thorn in the side of House Republican leadership — spoke alongside Staggs at a town hall in Riverton last week.

Gaetz was instrumental in the ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy after he worked with Democrats on a deal to keep the government from shutting down, a move that ground legislative business to a halt for three weeks while the caucus worked to pick a new leader.

What can Republicans accomplish?

In order to accomplish some of his key policy goals — slashing the federal budget, increasing border security and making legal immigration easier — Staggs is counting on Republicans sweeping the White House, Senate and House in 2024, and his stance on compromise likely precludes much legislating in a divided government.

"The reality is, unless we have a majority in D.C., we're not going to get anything done," he said. "We need President (Donald) Trump back in, we have got to have the majority — not just Republicans, but people that are going to be committed to these principles. ... That's the reality of it."

Staggs said compromise could be reached if there are "enough people on both sides" who share the same objectives, although he didn't leave the door open to compromise with his ideological opponents.

Asked how he would deliver results to Utahns in the event that Democrats control one or two chambers of Congress or the White House next year, Staggs didn't offer a specific plan, but said he would "always advocate, as Mike Lee has done, even in the majority," for the issues he cares about. When it comes to the process of legislating in the Senate, he criticized leadership on both sides for the way they negotiate bills and wants to see more senators have a hand in crafting legislation.

That doesn't mean he's not open to debates with the other side.

"I joked around with some folks that, hey, I'd be happy to participate in a podcast every week with members of the other side," he said. "Get a couple of freshman senators or congresspersons and sit down with folks on the other side, because I don't have a problem talking about it. I think when you sit down and talk about it, conservative ideology, actually, in my view, always wins. And so we need to have more discussion, not less."

Staggs 'open' to 15-week national abortion ban

Senate rules currently require a 60-vote majority to pass most legislation, which has made it hard for both Republicans and Democrats to pass their agendas without bipartisan support, even if they are the party in power. It's unlikely either party will win such a supermajority in this year's elections.

Staggs said it would be "tempting" to abolish that filibuster if Republicans gained a narrow majority, but ultimately said he believes the Senate should keep the filibuster as it is.

"I'm going to do everything that I can to ensure that bills just don't sit there," he said. "We're not going to just stonewall everything, we're going to get back to a senatorial process at work where it was intended to be a deliberative body."

One of those potential deliberations will revolve around the future of abortion access in the U.S., after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. Staggs described himself as a "federalist," not just a conservative, but said he's open to a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

"The latest ruling, many would indicate that it's a states' rights issue, and my concern with that is that you've seen what's happened in states like California and New York," he said, referencing the blue states' liberal abortion policies. "I believe personally that life begins at conception, and I think it's important that the most fundamental role of government is the protection of life. Life, liberty, and property — those inalienable rights. ... I want to take a look at that, but I'm greatly concerned with states like California and others that say you can have abortion all the way up to delivery. That's a problem."

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for KSL.com. He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.

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