State Rep. Mike Kennedy shocked his colleagues in the Utah House when he announced he would not be running for another term on Utah's Capitol Hill, instead jumping into the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Orrin Hatch. 

Kennedy says he was planning on running for that seat even if Hatch had not retired in January.

"I was really surprised when he announced his retirement," said Kennedy in a podcast interview with UtahPolicy.com. "Frankly, I thought he was going to run again. There are certain doors that open in life at certain times, and they never open again. This is one of those doors that I felt like it was time to walk in and offer my services."

Kennedy stunned the Utah political world when he eked out a slim victory over Mitt Romney at the Utah GOP convention in April, forcing a June primary election. He says the contest against Romney for the GOP nomination offers a stark contrast for Republican primary voters.

"The reality is a Boston Republican is different from a Utah Republican," said Kennedy, taking a well-rehearsed dig at his opponent's service as governor of Massachusetts. "I fought against Obamacare while he and his colleagues in Massachusetts were building Romneycare, which was the prototype for Obamacare."

In our wide-ranging interview with Kennedy, we covered several topics:

President Trump:

"I stand with the president on conservative issues. I've been really impressed with President Trump and his ability to get many things done."

Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal:

"I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the details, but I would also say that President Trump is a master negotiator. He seems to know how to work with personalities. President Obama seemed to give away the farm on multiple levels based on my understanding of that. I want a president who will renegotiate those deals in the best interest of the United States."

Immigration:

"I totally support building the wall. I support border security and making sure that our country has borders that are safe and secure. I think that's a fundamental role of the federal government. The president made a promise on the campaign trail build a wall, and you have to keep that promise."

Is President Trump getting enough credit for the diplomatic advances in North Korea?

"I think history will tell where credit is due. My suspicion is he's done a lot more at this point than he is given credit for in the public eye."

Federal spending:

"We have to make cuts. The reality is we can't tax cut our way through this process. We have to make cuts on programs everywhere. Every federal spending program needs to be on the table. We cannot continue to spend as we are and not expect serious repercussions in the short and long term. We're bankrupting our children's future with our current spending. I consider the deficit the greatest national security threat our country faces."

The Trump tax cuts:

"Overall, the economy seems to improve. When we unfettered the economy, we unfettered the people; we allow them to use their money as they see fit. Yeah, corporations did receive a significant benefit with this, but they hire more workers, which means more people have jobs, they give raises to their current employees. I'm a fan of tax cuts for corporations."

Listen to the full podcast of our interview with Rep. Kennedy here.