Rep. Jason Chaffetz announced Wednesday that he will not run for re-election to his House seat or any other political office in 2018. But he’s not ruling out one in 2020.
The Utah Republican said in a Facebook post that there were “no ulterior motives” behind the move, and he was confident he would still be re-elected by wide margins, had he decided otherwise.
“After long consultation with my family and prayerful consideration, I have decided I will not be a candidate for any office in 2018,” Chaffetz wrote. “After more than 1,500 nights away from home, it is time. I may run again for public office, but not in 2018.”
Later, asked in an interview with Salt Lake City station KSL whether he would consider a run for governor in 2020, Chaffetz replied, “Maybe.”
“One day at a time. I’m not trying to close the door or open the door for anything in the future... I expect to be involved and engaged in politics,” he said in the interview, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Chaffetz told the station that he made his decision after his 50th birthday in March, calling it “a time to reevaluate.”
Chaffetz told the station he will get a job in the private sector, but didn’t say what that would be.
First elected in 2008, Chaffetz, known as a member of Congress who sleeps in his office, is the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
He has used that chairmanship to publicly call out problems with federal agencies. He also held public hearings and filed endless requests during the 2016 presidential campaign to look into the use of a private email server by Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of State.
Chaffetz is also among a host of congressional Republicans who got an earful from constituents at town halls when they went home to their districts this year. The Salt Lake Tribune called one such event in February “75 minutes of tense exchanges.”
From his Oversight perch, Chaffetz has also vowed to aggressively step up congressional oversight of the District of Columbia. When he led an unsuccessful effort to scuttle the District’s new assisted suicide law in February, it attracted the attention of several D.C. groups eager for local sovereignty and newly energized by the November elections.
Residents in typically liberal Washington donated money to Damian Kidd, a conservative Republican in Utah who had announced that he would challenge Chaffetz in 2018. Others 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.
Democrat Kathryn Allen, who launched a campaign against the congressman last month, announced this week that she had outraised him by a more than 3-to-1 margin in the first quarter of the year, most of the donations coming from outside the district.
The Democratic National Committee said it was sending Chairman Tom Perez and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders to Salt Lake City on Friday “to talk and work in solidarity with [Utahans] fighting back the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s disastrous presidency.”
Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, commended Chaffetz’s service and said he was confident Republicans could keep the 3rd District red.
“Jason Chaffetz has been a valuable member of the Republican team, and we wish him the best as he begins this new chapter in his life. I’m proud to call him a friend,” Stivers said in a statement.
“Republicans have a deep bench of talented candidates in Utah who are more than up to this challenge. The NRCC is very confident in our ability to keep this seat red in November 2018,” Stivers said.
Chris Karpowitz, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University, said it is likely that Republicans more seasoned than Kidd such as Provo Mayor John Curtis or Evan McMullin, who ran for president as an anti-Donald Trump independent, would run.