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Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks to members of the media on November 19, 2016. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Mitt Romney wins Utah Senate race

EXPLORE: Live election data and the shifting balance of power in Congress

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has handily won a U.S. Senate seat in his adopted home state of Utah after a campaign where he backed off his once-fierce criticism of Donald Trump.

Romney clinched the win Tuesday as he defeated Democrat Jenny Wilson, a member of the Salt Lake County council.

Romney said the victory was an “affirmation that regardless of one’s gender, or ethnicity, sexual orientation or race, or place of birth, that we are all equal not only in the eyes of God but also in the respect and dignity we are due from government and from our fellow Americans.”

Romney was the heavy favorite to win the seat in conservative Utah, where he holds near-celebrity status as the first Mormon presidential nominee from a major party.

He replaces longtime Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who chose not to seek re-election.

Romney denounced Trump as a “fraud” and a “phony” during the 2016 campaign, but has since said he approves of many Trump policies.

READ MORE: From presidential nominee to freshman senator? Romney’s bid makes history

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