WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Senator Mitt Romney walked out to a crowd of loud and angry boos when he attempted to give a speech at the Utah Republican Party state convention.
"So what did you think of President Biden's first 100 days?" he tried to ask as the boos from GOP delegates grew louder. He pointed to a few people in the crowd who stood to applaud him. "Thank you."
"Now you know me as a person who that says what he thinks and I don't hide the fact that I wasn't a fan of our last president's character issues," Sen. Romney said, referencing his votes to impeach President Trump.
"You're terrible!" a man shouted.
As the boos continued, Sen. Romney said to someone in the audience: "Aren't you embarrassed?"
Utah Republican Party Chair Derek Brown stood and took the podium as Sen. Romney stepped away.
"Please," he said. "Show respect."
"Thanks, Derek," Sen. Romney replied as applause began in the crowd at the Maverik Center. Off to the side, a delegate continued to shout at Utah's junior senator. A crowd of people rushed up to him and demanded he sit down.
"Yeah, I understand I have a few folks that don't like me terribly much and I'm sorry about that, but I express my mind as I believe is right and I follow my conscience as I believe is right," Sen. Romney continued as applause and boos were over him. "I'm not a fan of the current president's policies."
Sen. Romney continued his speech as hecklers continued to interrupt.
He wrapped up his speech calling for unity, then left the stage to a mixture of applause and boos. Shortly after his speech, FOX 13 was told Sen. Romney quickly left the building.
As @SenatorRomney pivots to criticizing Biden, he gets applause.— Ben Winslow (@BenWinslow) May 1, 2021
He notes he was the GOP nominee for President of the United States.
There is a man in the Box Elder Co. delegation who is shouting so loudly a woman walked up to him to tell him to be quiet. @fox13 #utpol #utgop
Later in the Utah GOP state convention, delegates narrowly rejected a resolution to censure Sen. Romney for his impeachment votes after a heated debate on a 798-711 vote.
In contrast, Senator Mike Lee received treatment more fitting of a rock star as the Maverik Center erupted in loud cheers and a standing ovation. Other members of Utah's congressional delegation also received applause and ovations.
Sen. Romney wasn't the only Republican to face a chorus of jeers at the convention. Governor Spencer Cox received a mix of boos and cheers when he took the stage.
"Some of you that hate me haven't been paying attention," the governor told some of his detractors.
The governor's critics were seemingly angry about COVID-19 health restrictions, with hundreds in the crowd appearing unmasked despite public health orders that dictate gatherings over 50 people require face masks. Gov. Cox threw them a branch when he announced that given the state's trajectory with vaccinations, public health orders will likely terminate next week under the COVID-19 "endgame" law.
But he stuck to his guns and told delegates that masks will remain in K-12 schools (which he has faced increasing pressure from conservative groups to lift).
"At the end of the school year there will be no more masks and there will be no more masks next fall," Gov. Cox said to cheers.
Saturday's Utah GOP convention had a little over 2,000 delegates show up for the in-person event — about half of what it has been in previous years. Brown, who is stepping down after his first term, warned delegates of "storm clouds" on the horizon as surrounding states turned "blue" with Democratic votes.
Newly-elected Utah Republican Party Chair Carson Jorgensen, who won in an upset vote, said it was a concern of his as well.
"We want to keep the state red. We want to make there’s a place in this party for everyone and that new people moving into this state feel welcome in our party," he told reporters afterward.
The Utah GOP delegates elected new leadership that bucked candidates endorsed by many of Utah's political leaders.
"They felt like they being told who to vote for rather than being provided with information and being able to make that decision on their own," said Olivia Dawn Horlacher, the party's new secretary.
Asked if the delegates decision could hurt fundraising, Horlacher said they could fundraise "through the grassroots." Jorgensen said he also plans to reach out to youth through social media.
Asked about Sen. Romney's treatment, Jorgensen said delegates were a "small sample" of overall Republicans.
"At the end of the day, as we strengthen the party, we want to make sure there is a place for everyone in this party," he said. "We will continue to work for that."