Chaf­fetz says he may not fin­ish his term in Congress

Utah rep­re­sen­ta­tive can lay ground­work for gu­ber­na­to­rial bid

The Dallas Morning News - - NATION -

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz’s de­ci­sion not to seek an­other term in Congress and pos­si­bly re­sign sets the GOP con­gress­man up for a 2020 run for gov­er­nor with­out a dam­ag­ing re­elec­tion cam­paign or pres­sure to doggedly in­ves­ti­gate his party’s pres­i­dent.

In­stead, the 50-year-old con­gress­man who breezed through four re-elec­tion cam­paigns can lay the ground­work for the gov­er­nor’s race, open­ing the door for a num­ber of am­bi­tious Utah Repub­li­cans to try to re­place him in Congress.

A day af­ter an­nounc­ing he wouldn’t seek re-elec­tion next year, Chaf­fetz said Thurs­day that he may not even fin­ish the two-year term that started four months ago. Chaf­fetz said in a text mes­sage: “My fu­ture plans are not yet fi­nal­ized but I haven’t ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity of leav­ing early. In the mean­time I still have a job to do and I have no plans to take my foot off the gas.”

Chaf­fetz has faced mount­ing crit­i­cism in re­cent months for de­clin­ing to in­ves­ti­gate Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and likely would have faced a bruis­ing pri­mary and gen­eral elec­tion bat­tle in 2018.

He said in his an­nounce­ment Wed­nes­day that he had “no ul­te­rior mo­tives,” is healthy and wasn’t wor­ried about his re-elec­tion chances. In­stead, Chaf­fetz said he wants to spend time with his fam­ily, re­turn to the pri­vate sec­tor and po­ten­tially run for Utah gov­er­nor.

Chris Kar­powitz, co-di­rec­tor at Brigham Young Univer­sity’s Cen­ter for the Study of Elec­tions and Democ­racy, said Chaf­fetz’s de­ci­sion to bow out is some­what sur­pris­ing but eases the path for a gov­er­nor’s race.

“This is a de­ci­sion to avoid what could have been an em­bar­rass­ing de­feat that would have hurt his prospects in the fu­ture,” Kar­powitz said.

If Chaf­fetz runs for gov­er­nor, he won’t nec­es­sar­ily be the front-run­ner, Kar­powitz said.

He could face stiff chal­lenges from po­ten­tial GOP can­di­dates that in­clude the state’s pop­u­lar lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, Spencer Cox, and Josh Rom­ney, a Salt Lake City-based real es­tate developer and son of former Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney.

JA­SON CHAF­FETZ

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