Politics

Who Might Run for Chaffetz’s Seat?

Evan McMullin and Provo mayor could get into the race

Rep Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he would not run for re-election, which set off speculation about who might run to replace him. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s announcement that he will not seek re-election will likely lead to some high-profile Republicans stepping up to run for the seat.

Lawyer Damian Kidd already announced he would challenge Chaffetz in a primary race in the solidly red district. Kidd tweeted that he appreciated that Chaffetz would not become a career politician. 

Kidd said in an interview that Chaffetz dropping out could make it easier to raise money.

"It doesn't change my campaign and my message," Kidd said.

Chris Karpowitz, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University, said it is likely that more seasoned Republicans like Provo Mayor John Curtis or Evan McMullin, who ran for president as an independent, would run.

“A very very popular mayor would be a possibility,” he said, adding that the best candidate would likely be someone who has held elective office or is very popular.

“Both McMullin and John Curtis would fit that description,” he said.

State Sen. Deidre Henderson, who has served as Chaffetz’s campaign manager, is also a potential candidate for her old boss’ job.

Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox, who is considering a run for governor, said that he had been asked about Chaffetz’s seat, but he doesn’t live in the district.

Chaffetz's Democratic challenger, Kathryn Allen, announced she had out-raised Chaffetz 3-to-1 in campaign contributions. But Karpowitz said Chaffetz's retirement likely hurts her efforts.

“It’s a solidly red district,” Karopowtiz said.

D.C. residents, whose ire Chaffetz has raised over his aggressive oversight of the district’s laws, had already mobilized against him.

When Chaffetz led a failed effort to scuttle the District’s new assisted suicide law in February, residents in the typically liberal district donated money to Kidd, despite his conservative credentials.

Some formed a super PAC initially focused on ousting Chaffetz. A group of neighbors in Capitol Hill paid for an ad against Chaffetz in a Utah newspaper that ran last weekend.

Kidd said he is not deterred by the challenge from other Republicans potentially jumping in the race and that they will only do things when it is easy to do so.

"It's a huge challenge and a tough row to hoe to run against a 4 term incumbent," he said. "These individuals would not make the tough decisions."

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