Prominent conservative passes on Utah Senate bid

A prominent Utah Republican announced Monday he will not run for Senate in 2018, further fueling speculation that Mitt Romney will campaign for the seat.

Boyd Matheson, a former chief of staff for Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSupreme Court takes on same-sex wedding cake case House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments MORE (R-Utah) and the president of a conservative think tank, said in a video that he has decided not to run and will instead launch a new outside political group called Sutherland Leadership Center.

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"I have decided that I will not seek a seat in the United States Senate," Matheson said. "Instead, I will focus my effort and attention on the desperate need in the nation for strengthening and building leaders while advancing real dialogue about the principles and policies that will create a better tomorrow for America."

The announcement comes amid speculation that Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Utah governor calls Bannon a 'bigot' after attacks on Romney MORE (R-Utah) will retire at the end of his current term. Advisers for Hatch, who is 83, insist he is still undecided on his future.

Romney, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 and served as governor of Massachusetts, is said to be mulling a campaign to replace Hatch.

Romney has become a prominent critic of Trump’s, condemning the president for his response to a deadly white nationalist rally in August in Charlottesville, Va.