Mitt Romney will face a primary election in bid for U.S. Senate seat after Utah GOP convention

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Mitt Romney was forced into a primary election after coming in second at the Utah Republican Party state convention on Saturday.

After two rounds of voting, Romney was forced into a primary with Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine. Kennedy bested Romney with 1,642 votes to 1,585 (with Kennedy capturing 50% of the vote to Romney's 49%).

Speaking to reporters after the convention, Romney tried to strike an upbeat tone.

"I’m delighted with the outcome. Did very, very well," he said. "On to a good, important primary ahead. This is terrific for the people of Utah."

Romney noted that he gathered signatures, which guaranteed him a spot on the GOP ballot. He would not say if he believed more conservative GOP delegates punished him for doing that, instead of going exclusively through the caucus-convention system.

Kennedy was pleased with the results.

"I’m a candidate with a compelling life story and a unique set of life circumstances I’d like to use to serve the people of Utah," he told FOX 13.

Mitt Romney speaks to reporters after the Utah GOP convention. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Both men are seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. On Saturday, Sen. Hatch was honored for his decades of service with American flag confetti that was sprayed on the crowd of 3,600 delegates at the Maverik Center.

"Over four decades of public service. I have worked tirelessly to advance the conservative cause," Sen. Hatch told the crowd, saying serving in the Senate has been a great privilege.

Romney and Kennedy weren't the only ones to be forced into a primary. Third Congressional District Rep. John Curtis will have a rematch with Chris Herrod, whom he faced in a primary last year replacing Jason Chaffetz (who quit Congress to become a FOX News pundit).

"For me, I feel very confident with the conservative voters," Herrod told FOX 13. "I still believe this is a conservative district."

Delegates overwhelmingly backed incumbent congressmen Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart. Congresswoman Mia Love had no intra-party challenger and walked out on stage to huge cheers from the crowd.

"We love you Mia!" a man screamed from the rafters.

"I love you, too!" she said as she waved at the crowd.

A protest outside the Maverik Center over the law that allows political candidates to gather signatures and skip the caucus/convention system. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Saturday's GOP convention was marked by hours of infighting over party rules and bylaws. The Utah Republican Party has been at war with itself for years now over whether candidates who want the GOP nomination can gather signatures under a compromise law, or going exclusively through the caucus/convention system that party hardliners prefer.

After four hours of sometimes heated debate, shouting and booing, delegates voted to delay discussion of bylaws that would have set term limits for the GOP's central committee and undercut more conservative members' power. Convention chairwoman Enid Mickelsen tried to maintain order as bickering flared up.

"I would appreciate it if you wouldn't speak to us in such a patronizing way," a man shouted at her to some cheers.

"You will find my tone matches the convention's ability to follow the rules," she retorted, garnering cheers of her own.

Those bylaws were put off until next year, but Utah Republican Party Chairman Rob Anderson wasn't sure if they would return.

"Do they go into oblivion? Are they considered later on? We’ll have to see," he told FOX 13.

The convention also some some local legislative races with surprises. San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman emerged with the GOP nomination for retiring Rep. Mike Noel's seat. (Lyman, a popular conservative on federal lands policies, was convicted for his role in leading the Recapture Canyon protest ride.) Draper Rep. LaVar Christensen, who authored Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, lost a Senate race to Riverton Rep. Dan McCay. Both men were seeking retiring Sen. Howard Stephenson's seat.