In what can only be summed up as a “David vs. Goliath” fight for the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs due to the retirement of Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, St. George attorney and political newcomer Larry Meyers is taking on the presumptive front runner and former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney this election season.
Meyers, 51, said he decided to run in January after Hatch released a statement that pointed to his leaving Congress at the end of his current term. Hatch is the longest-serving Republican member of the U.S. Senate, having been in office since 1977. According to public records, Meyers officially filed for candidacy on March 12. Romney announced his candidacy on Feb. 16 and filed on March 15.
During a campaign stop in Moab on Friday, March 23, Meyers told The Times-Independent last week he is certain he has a chance against Romney.
“I have some good distinctions with Mitt Romney,” Meyers said. “I’m a longtime Utah resident and have been here about 30 years. My wife and I met at Brigham Young University and I graduated from law school there. After that, we raised our family in St. George and we have a lot of Utah connections. Mitt Romney has some connections but he has not lived here in Utah most of his life.”
Meyers, who calls himself a “lifelong conservative,” also signaled his support for President Trump, though he dialed that claim back a notch when asked about the March 23 signing of the $1.3 trillion omnibus-spending bill.
“Another difference between Romney and myself is that I am a huge supporter of Trump and his conservative agenda,” he said. “I voted for him and I will continue to vote for him because I like what he has done so far. With Mitt Romney, a lot of people are upset with him because he attacked the president and some think he nearly threw the election to Hillary Clinton. I think that is a distinction I can draw in this election.”
When a question about the budget bill came up, however, Meyers was decidedly nonplussed about Trump’s decision to sign it — and strong in his conviction that is was the wrong thing to do.
“I tell everyone I support the president’s ‘conservative’ agenda,” Meyers said. “I don’t think the president signing that budget deal was conservative at all. He did what he thinks he has to do, but remember that the real conservatives voted against it and I would have voted against it, too. I would have gone the route similar to Sen. Mike Lee or Sen. Rand Paul in voting on this budget. This was not the right thing to do and we really need to change the way we do business in Washington, D.C. … I think you can disagree with the president but still work with him on issues you agree on.”
Meyer also took time to hit upon what he calls Romney’s “un-conservative” record as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.
“If you look at his record in Massachusetts, he had to govern from the left,” Meters said. “He supported taxpayer-funded abortions, he supported Planned Parenthood, was for gun control and socialized healthcare, all those things. Now he is saying things like ‘that was then, this is now,’ but I’m saying I have been conservative and for less government and more freedom for people for 30 years. That is what I am running on. I think that is a strong message that will resonate with a lot of Republican voters.”
On issues that hit a little closer to home, in Grand County and southeast Utah, Meyers said he wants to see control of the national parks and other public lands in the hands of those closest to home, rather than the nation’s capitol.
“At the heart of my campaign is to attempt to try to decrease the size, scope and power of the federal government,” Meyers said. “As that belief applies to federal lands, I think I’d like to see them returned back to state control and local control. I believe we can have access to public lands and still have recreation and access to resources … but I believe it should be held locally, even down to the county level. What if Grand County had control [of the parks]? I’d rather see that than the federal bureaucrats. I think we’re a long way from getting there, but whatever route we take to get Congress to move that way is what I’d like to work on in Washington, D.C.”
While Romney is busy across the state gathering signatures in hopes to appear on the ballot for the June primary, Meyers is seeking the nomination of the Utah GOP. Meyers said if he is the Republican nominee, he sees a clear distinction between himself and the Democratic Party frontrunner, Salt Lake City Council Member Jenny Wilson, should she be the nominee he would face.
“It’s even more apparent, the differences, between [Wilson] and Mitt Romney,” Meyers said. “I’m a conservative Republican and I’m for less government and less regulation, lower taxes, and pro-life and pro-gun. Generally, Wilson and the Democrats are the opposite of that. They want to raise taxes, regulate the citizenry, are for gun control, and are pro-abortion and pro-gun control. I think it is clear how different we are.”
The primary election in Utah is set for Tuesday, June 26. The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 6.