SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mitt Romney said the bitter fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation shows the Supreme Court nominating process is “awful,” a sentiment his Democratic Senate opponent largely shared even though they differed on how to fix it during a Tuesday debate.
Romney, who would have voted for Kavanaugh, called for more deadlines and private hearings.
“The key is to have a deadline for senators or others bring forward complaints, concerns and accusations such that there’s sufficient time to investigate these things before the public hearings begin,” he said. Christine Blasey Ford sent a private letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein in July outlining her sexual assault allegation, the same month Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced.
Democrat Jenny Wilson, meanwhile, said the hearings were “heartbreaking” and rushed, without a thorough investigation of the allegations against Kavanaugh. She has disagreed with Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“I think we need a new generation of people who will step into the Senate and say ‘enough is enough,’ ” she said.
They are vying to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, a vocal Kavanaugh supporter who recruited the onetime Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor to run for the seat.
Romney, who argues his high political profile would be a boon to Utah in Washington, is the heavy favorite to win in his conservative adopted home state.
He once blasted President Donald Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud” during the 2016 campaign, but has since patched up his relationship with the president and accepted his endorsement.
He wouldn’t revisit those comments when asked by a moderator on Tuesday. Instead, he repeated his assertion that he’s been pleased by some of what Trump has done but will continue to call him on significant matters he considers racist or misogynistic.
While Wilson said she would support impeachment if special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation finds grounds to support it, Romney disagreed.
“I don’t think it makes sense to be talking about impeachment, not for a sitting president,” he said.
Wilson sought to paint Romney as a flip-flopper and outsider at the televised debate held in Cedar City on Tuesday, dubbing him “multiple choice Mitt” on issues like gun control and touting her own fifth-generation Utah roots and seat on the Salt Lake County Council.
Romney, 71, moved to Utah after his failed 2012 presidential run. He enjoys near-celebrity status in the state after running as the first Mormon presidential nominee for a major political party.
On immigration, Wilson said he was “more hawkish than Trump,” an attack that paraphrased Romney’s own language from a spring campaign event. He has since said he was referred to his past views on allowing young people known as Dreamers to be protected from deportation, though he’s since changed.
Wilson, 52, said she wants to create a path to citizenship for “Dreamers,” while Romney said they should be protected from deportation but “get in line with everybody else” for citizenship.
He supports a version of the border wall championed by Trump, as well as a system based more on skills than family ties.
Both candidates condemned the separation of families at the border Tuesday, with Romney calling it a “dark chapter in American history.”