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Romney said in no uncertain terms Tuesday that he doesn’t believe there is a basis to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Bucking recent history, Romney’s successor won’t be a MAGA darling

We’ve written a lot over the years about the “Trumpification” of the Senate Republican Conference and the overall erosion of the deal-making middle in the Senate.

The last few election cycles have seen the departure of several old-guard GOP senators, only to be replaced by Republicans more in the mold of former President Donald Trump. We’ve also seen retirements of senators in both parties who were crucial to some of the most high-profile bipartisan deals of the last decade.

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) is on the cusp of bucking that trend.

Curtis is the GOP nominee in this year’s contest to replace the retiring Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who hasn’t been afraid to call out his party’s rightward drift and isn’t supporting Trump. Romney was also central to many of the bipartisan achievements that defined the first two years of Joe Biden’s presidency.

If Curtis defeats his Democratic opponent in November — as is expected in the deep-red state — Romney’s seat won’t be filled by a Trump-loving Republican.

It would go to a little-known, four-term House member and former Democrat who defeated a Trump-endorsed candidate in the GOP primary and has been forward-leaning on climate and energy policy, while also seeking out cross-party partnerships.

“Given the choice between serving in the Senate or spending time with my grandkids, the decision was clear,” Curtis, 64, told us. “I am only willing to serve if I can approach it with a mindset focused on solving difficult problems. Otherwise, I will choose to spend my time with my family.”

Curtis is facing off against Democrat Caroline Gleich, a climate activist. Curtis, who co-founded the House’s Conservative Climate Caucus a few years ago, recently snagged the endorsement of the Environmental Defense Fund’s political arm.

“I have carved out a niche for myself in the energy and climate space, and naturally, I am eager to be involved in addressing this pressing issue,” Curtis said, adding that there’s “a place for everyone, including conservatives,” in the climate policy conversation.

Of course, this isn’t something you usually hear from Republicans elected to the Senate these days.

National security: Curtis also wants to position himself as a leading voice in the GOP on national security issues, particularly China. Curtis is Mormon and spent two years living in Taiwan during his mission.

“We can have a productive relationship with China, but only if we demand a relationship that no longer turns a blind eye to them taking advantage of us,” Curtis said. “They steal our intellectual property, pollute the environment and disregard basic human rights.”

Curtis emphasized to us that his qualms are not with the Chinese people, but rather with the Chinese Communist Party. This is a refrain we often hear from Democrats who warn that much of the rhetoric in Western countries about China’s aggression could lead to acts of hate directed toward people of Chinese heritage.

A contrast: It’s safe to say that Curtis, if elected to the Senate, will operate very differently from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Lee is one of the most conservative members of the Senate and is a vocal critic of his party’s leaders when they compromise with Democrats.

Curtis, however, routinely emphasizes the need to find common ground and noted to us that the majority of his tenure in the House has been under a divided government.

— Andrew Desiderio

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