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Chaffetz Confirms He Will Leave Congress Next Month

Lee Hale/KUER
Republican Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz - file photo.


Republican Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz has announced he will resign his congressional seat on June 30.

In a letter to constituents on his website Thursday, Chaffetz said the time had come for him to turn the page and start a new chapter of his life. He did not reveal what he plans to do next.

The 50-year-old Republican announced last month he would not seek a sixth term in 2018, surprising many in Congress and even lawmakers and colleagues in his inner circle.

Chaffetz was first elected to represent Utah’s 3rd Congressional District in 2008 and quickly rose through the ranks to become chair of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

During his tenure, the media-savvy congressman launched high profile and frequently controversial investigations into the Obama administration and other Democratic targets, notably Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as Secretary of State.

Earlier this week, Chaffetz said he’d asked former FBI Director James Comey to testify in front of the committee and subpoenaed memos detailing communications between Comey and President Trump.

Since Trump’s election, Chaffetz has faced increasing pressure from constituents to more aggressively scrutinize President Trump’s business dealings and his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.

At a town hall in Cottonwood Heights last February, Chaffetz faced angry voters who booed and shouted “Do your job!” in videos that quickly went viral. Chaffetz later claimed that the negative reception was the result of “paid protestors.”

Other Republicans have also faced heat from constituents, but Chaffetz’s prominent role and frequent media appearances have made him a lightning rod for critics who say he has not pursued oversight of the Trump administration with the same fervor he did President Obama’s.

Chaffetz has not ruled out a run for public office again at some point in the future. His campaign registered the web domains and in early April.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told reporters on Thursday during his monthly KUED news conference that his office is making plans to hold a special election to fill Chaffetz’s seat — only the second time in state history a congressional vacancy has occurred.

Current state statute requires the governor to call for a special election in the event of a vacancy, but does not outline specifics. Herbert has resisted calls by state lawmakers to hold a special session to give them more input on a timeline and how candidates are whittled down.

“I believe my responsibility is to see, if we have the need for a special election…it is conducted in a manner that meets the expectations of the voters in the 3rd Congressional District, so they feel like they are enfranchised, and not disenfranchised,” he said.  

Herbert said he believes a primary and general election could be conducted fairly quickly, leaving Chaffetz’s seat empty for two to four months.

This story continues to develop throughout today. Stay tuned to KUER for the latest news.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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