SALT LAKE CITY — After Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, speculation has resurfaced that Sen. Mike Lee could be a candidate to fill Kennedy's spot.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Lee, R-Utah, praised Kennedy for his service to the country and said, "I look forward to working with the president and my Senate colleagues to identify and confirm his replacement."
Both the senator and his brother Thomas Lee — the associate chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court — are on President Donald Trump's shortlist of 25 potential candidates for the position, which was published on the White House's website in November.
Trump has said he will choose someone from that list to fill Kennedy's position.
Mike Lee is the only person named on the list who does not currently serve on a state or federal court, but he has long been interested in the justice system.
"My respect for the Supreme Court and those that serve on the bench was instilled in me as a young boy. Because of that respect I know this isn't a role sought for nor declined. This, of course, is a decision that will be made not by me, but by the president," Lee told the Deseret News Wednesday.
In a live Q&A event streamed on his website Wednesday, Lee responded to a question from a Utah man who offered support and asked for Lee's thoughts on speculation that he could be appointed to the Supreme Court position.
Lee thanked the man and said that "it's great to know that some people back home" support him.
"If the president asked me to consider that, I would not say no. But that said, this is not in my hands, this is in his hands," he explained.24 comments on this story
Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, weighed in on Twitter on Wednesday and called Mike Lee "the single best choice" for the position, adding that he would be "extraordinary" in the role of Supreme Court justice.
A spokesman for Utah State Courts said Wednesday that Thomas Lee had no comment about the speculation.