PROVO — Provo Mayor John Curtis was endorsed Wednesday by fellow Republican Mitt Romney in next month's special election to fill the vacant 3rd Congressional District seat.
"Throughout his career as a businessman and a mayor, John has solved tough problems," Romney said in a statement. "That's what Washington, D.C., needs now more than ever. John's can-do attitude will serve Utah well."
Curtis, who won the August GOP primary in the race to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, was called "a leader who will get things done for Utah” by Romney, the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nominee.
There are eight candidates vying to fill the remaining year of Chaffetz's term, including Democrat Kathie Allen, a Cottonwood Heights physician who had raised nearly $729,000 by midyear, according to her most recent federal campaign disclosure.
Curtis and Allen will be joined by the new United Utah Party's candidate, Jim Bennett, in the Utah Debate Commission's hourlong televised debate on Oct. 18 in the KBYU studios after Bennett met the polling threshold for participating.
Another debate, presented by the ABU Education Fund and the John R. Park Debate Society, is set for Oct. 13 in the Eastmont Middle School auditorium in Sandy and will include Libertarian Joe Buchman along with Curtis, Allen and Bennett.
Chaffetz, now a Fox News contributor, resigned June 30.
Curtis faced two Republican opponents in the hotly contested primary, former state lawmaker and GOP delegate pick Chris Herrod and Alpine businessman Tanner Ainge.
The district, which includes parts of Utah and Salt Lake counties, as well as Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan and Wasatch counties, is among the most Republican in the country.
Romney, the leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, is one of the state's most popular politicians and is reportedly considering a run for Senate if Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, does not seek an eighth term next year.
Romney's endorsement in the race is significant, said Chris Karpowitz, co-director of the BYU Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.
"I think the endorsement helps to steady John Curtis, who’s had a rough couple of weeks with some self-inflicted wounds," Karpowitz said, referring to the campaign's Facebook ads touting President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.
The ads have been pulled, but Karpowitz said Romney's support coming amid the controversy "is a meaningful move," particularly in a race for an open seat where a third-party candidate is getting attention.
"In any case, the Republican nominee will always have an advantage in the 3rd District," Karpowitz said. "And having the endorsement of Mitt Romney only adds to that."