Sen. Mitt Romney endorses veteran Stewart Peay for 3rd District House seat

Stewart Peay, running for the 3rd Congressional District, speaks at the Utah Republican Party state nominating convention in Salt Lake City on April 27. Sen. Mitt Romney endorsed Peay on Wednesday.

Stewart Peay, running for the 3rd Congressional District, speaks at the Utah Republican Party state nominating convention in Salt Lake City on April 27. Sen. Mitt Romney endorsed Peay on Wednesday. (Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney waded into the state's Republican primary election for the open 3rd Congressional District seat on Wednesday by endorsing Iraq War veteran and former Utah County Republican Party Chairman Stewart Peay.

Peay advanced to the primary by collecting signatures, where he will face four other Republican candidates: Roosevelt Mayor JR Bird, entrepreneur Case Lawrence, State Auditor John Dougall and state Sen. Mike Kennedy.

"I am proud to support Stewart Peay for Congress in Utah's 3rd District," Romney said. "Stewart is a true American patriot who has served our country and community with distinction. Whether as an Army officer in Iraq or as chairman of the Utah County Republican Party, Stewart has shown the kind of leadership we need in Congress. I am endorsing him because I know and trust him to be a principled and intelligent leader who will bring a valuable national security perspective to Utah's delegation. He will be an effective member of Congress and is worthy of your support."

It's the second high-profile endorsement for Peay — who is also supported by former Rep. Chris Stewart — and comes from within the family: Peay is married to the niece of Romney's wife, Ann. Ann Romney spoke in favor of Peay during his first foray into politics as a congressional candidate in 2017, describing him as "extraordinarily bright and capable."

Peay told and Deseret News on Wednesday that the backing of Romney "shines a light on me as being a substantive, serious individual who can go to Congress, who can legislate and who can effectively represent the 3rd Congressional District."

He said he has known Romney for 26 years after both men married "into the same family," but Peay doesn't believe the familial ties are the basis for the endorsement. Romney — who has been involved in politics for decades — and Peay have spent "many hours" discussing politics, the candidate said, and their relationship spans Romney's two presidential campaigns, his turn as Massachusetts governor and his time in the Senate.

"I think he has been able to witness that I'm a serious person, that I'm a person that's been effective in very many and very different aspects of life," Peay said, "and as a result, I think he's able to make the judgment that I'm the type of conservative that needs to get into this race and wants to be a responsible, serious and substantive legislator."

Peay served for 12 years in the Utah Army National Guard, and completed a yearlong tour in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has since worked as a lawyer and specializes in commercial litigation.

None of Utah's current representatives are veterans and Peay is the only candidate in his race with military experience — something he has leaned into on the campaign trail. He said having veterans in Washington matters because their "shared experience" and "shared set of values" make it easier to work together on national security and other issues.

"We understand the sacrifices that are required to keep our country free and we understand what those sacrifices mean," he said. "And we've shown that we're willing to sacrifice for this country."

In a crowded GOP primary field, Peay is hopeful Romney's support will widen his path to victory in the June 25 primary. It's the first formal endorsement in a federal race from the first-term senator this election cycle.

Although some in the party view Romney as insufficiently conservative and disloyal to former President Donald Trump — Romney in December said an endorsement from him in the GOP presidential primary could be a "kiss of death" for candidates — Peay isn't worried about turning off anti-Romney voters.

"I can't tell you how every voter will react, but I can tell you that I'm looking for the support of every voter in the 3rd Congressional District," he said. "Regardless of what you might think of Sen. Romney, he's been effective for Utah in a short amount of time."

The race for the 3rd District seat has drawn significant Republican interest after incumbent Rep. John Curtis announced he would run for the Senate seat held by Romney, who announced last year he would not seek reelection. Curtis was initially elected in a special election in 2017 — the same race Peay tried his hand in — to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, and is currently the longest-serving House member from Utah.

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


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