SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mayor Trent Staggs of Riverton, Utah, was selected Saturday as the state Republican Party’s nominee to replace Mitt Romney in the U.S. Senate, hours after the local official received former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.

While the endorsement carried Staggs, 49, through the convention, his party support may not translate to success at the ballot box. He still must face other top contenders, including U.S. Rep. John Curtis and former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, in the June 25 GOP primary. Curtis, who is more moderate, and Wilson, a Trump supporter, already have qualified for the primary by gathering signatures.

The mayor from just south of Salt Lake City built his base by calling delegates personally and courting the endorsements of Trump and many of his allies nationwide. Staggs was the first candidate to enter the Senate race, even before Romney announced he wasn’t seeking reelection.

Delegates applauded Staggs for choosing not to collect signatures — an action many say circumvents the convention process. His status as a “convention-only” candidate, paired with his eleventh-hour endorsement from the former president, gained him the respect of delegates, who tend to be more conservative.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — State Rep. Phil Lyman was selected as the Utah Republican gubernatorial nominee at the party’s convention Saturday, though political observers say incumbent Gov. Spencer Cox remains the likely favorite in the upcoming primary.

Lyman, a former county commissioner turned legislator who is best known for organizing an illegal ATV ride in protest of a federal land decision, won about two-thirds of votes from the nearly 4,000 delegates, who tend to skew to the right.

Utah GOP voters generally prefer moderates in statewide elections, however, so the more moderate Cox, who took office in 2021, is seen as well positioned for the June 25 primary. He has gathered enough signatures to qualify for that ballot despite not getting the nod from the convention, and would advance to the November general election if he wins in June.

Delegates were also set to vote later in the marquee race to succeed U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, the state’s best-known centrist Republican, who often made waves for opposing former President Donald Trump and other leaders of the party.

The pool of nearly a dozen Republicans vying to replace Romney includes a congressman, a Trump-backed mayor, a former state legislative leader and the lawyer son of Utah’s longest-serving U.S. senator. While some have sought to align themselves with farther-right figures such as Trump and Utah’s other senator, Mike Lee, others distanced themselves in an effort to appeal to the widest swath of voters.

“This seat gets to be sort of a flashpoint between the two major factions of the party in the state,” Utah State University political scientist James Curry said. “On one hand you have the more moderate faction that Romney really embodied, not just here but nationwide, versus the more pro-Trump faction that often hasn’t been as successful with Utah voters when there’s been a viable moderate option.”

Trump made a last-minute endorsement in the Senate contest for Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, writing Saturday morning on his Truth Social platform that Staggs is a “100% MAGA” candidate who knows how to create jobs, stop inflation, grow the economy and secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump’s endorsement could carry Staggs, 49, through the convention but may not translate to success at the ballot box. Republican Party nominations historically have had little bearing on who Utah voters choose to represent them.

Staggs supporter Eric Buckley, a Davis County delegate, celebrated the endorsement and said he’s confident it will be well received by Utah voters. Buckley said he already had vetted the Senate contenders months before and chosen to back Staggs — the first to enter the race even before Romney announced he wasn’t seeking reelection.

“It was his stance on the corruption in D.C. that exists and his promise to stand up against the moderate Republicans and the Democrats pushing through their agenda without any type of resistance,” Buckley said of his support for Staggs.

Even some GOP delegates who support other top contenders — former state House Speaker Brad Wilson and U.S. Rep. John Curtis — said they may vote for Staggs as the party nominee because he is a convention-only candidate, meaning he has not collected signatures to guarantee his spot on the primary ballot.

Both Wilson and Curtis already have collected enough signatures to qualify for the primary regardless of Saturday’s outcome. Staggs and other convention-only candidates must earn at least 40% of votes Saturday to advance. The Republican primary winner will face Democrat Caroline Gleich, a mountaineer and environmental activist who earned her party’s nomination earlier Saturday, in November.

Tim Lindsay, a Cache County delegate who attended the convention wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, said although he supports Trump, the former president’s endorsement will have little impact on how he votes. His vote will go to “the most conservative candidate” who has not collected signatures.

“That’s a cheap way out,” Lindsay said of signature gathering. “I respect a candidate who respects the convention process.”

Wilson, 55, has endorsed Trump’s reelection bid and promises to be a “conservative fighter” on Capitol Hill. His elaborate expo booth in the convention hall featured a tractor plowing through a pile of cinder blocks labeled the “Biden Agenda.”

Curtis, 63, who is seen as the more moderate of the two frontrunners, has been compared to Romney for pushing back against hardliners in his party, particularly on climate change. He is expected to have broad appeal among primary voters.

Davis County delegate Jonathan Miller, who donned a “Team Mitt” baseball cap, said Curtis is his pick to replace the retiring senator because he already has proven himself in Congress as someone who works across the aisle to get things done.

Delegates booed moderates such as Cox as they took the stage. “I love you guys,” the governor responded, adding that many great leaders before him also were booed at past conventions but won at the polls.

The 2014 protest ride organized by Lyman, his competitor in the upcoming primary, came after federal officials closed a southeast Utah canyon to motorized vehicles to protect Native American cliff dwellings, artifacts and burials. Lyman argued that the closure constituted overreach by the federal government.

A judge in 2015 sentenced Lyman to 10 days in jail and three years of probation after a jury that year found him guilty of misdemeanor illegal use of ATVs and conspiracy.

He reminded delegates of his short sentence just before the vote and pledged to continue fighting federal overreach if elected.

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