Embattled Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah announced on Tuesday morning that he won’t run for re-election to his seat in 2018, possibly depriving Democrats of a solid opportunity to pick up a House seat. Chaffetz said on his Facebook page that he had consulted with his family and decided that he would not be a candidate for any office in 2018 and would return to the private sector when his term ends in January of 2019. Chaffetz has been the representative of Utah’s Third Congressional District since 2009, and he has never failed to win at least 66 percent of the vote since his maiden campaign for the seat.
But Jason Chaffetz’s hold on the seat became tenuous with the election of Donald Trump as president and the ethical questions surrounding the new president. As the chairman of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Chaffetz was widely expected to lead investigations into Trump’s conflicts of interest with a similar vigor to his pursuit of investigations into former president Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to The Blaze, the Republican said he did not believe one should spend their entire career in politics, and after 1,500 nights away from his family over his time in office, it was time to step away. So it appears either that there were multiple things telling him that it was time to go, or he is trying to rationalize his decision.
Instead, Chaffetz has been hesitant to lead a thorough investigation of Trump, and the investigation has since mainly fallen to senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.). The lack of progress on investigating Trump has led to some voters turning on Jason Chaffetz, with many screaming at him to “do your job” at his town hall meetings.
His declining popularity has led people on both sides of the political spectrum to consider running against Chaffetz in the Third District, which mostly represents rural southeastern Utah but also includes the southern Salt Lake City suburbs and the college towns of Orem and Provo. The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Tuesday that Democrat Kathryn Allen had outraised Jason Chaffetz by more than $400,000 in preparation for 2018, with a large chunk of that money coming after Chaffetz blundered by suggesting Americans should prioritize health insurance over a new iPhone.
On the right, conservative independent Evan McMullin, who pulled in 22 percent of the vote in Utah as an independent candidate for president in 2016, suggested in March that he might be interested in challenging Chaffetz. Unlike Chaffetz, McMullin has remained steadfastly opposed to Trump and has been one of the main voices on the right in standing up to the president.
Chaffetz’s decision is likely terrible news for Allen and the Democrats, as the district is normally not a competitive opportunity. Other than a six-year period when conservative Democrat Bill Orton represented it from 1991 to 1997, the Third District has been reliably Republican since its creation in 1982.
If Jason Chaffetz keeps his word and does not run, Allen’s fundraising is likely to diminish, and Republicans would again be strong favorites in the Third District. Such a win would not necessarily be good news for the president, however, as McMullin or a conservative in his mold would probably be as much of a thorn in Trump’s side as Allen would be in this seat.
Readers, are you surprised at Chaffetz’s decision to step aside? Does this mean the Third District will stay red in 2018? What are your feelings concerning his departure? Sound off in the comments and like and share this story!
By Dan Angell
Photo Courtesy Facebook