Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who has been a top ally of the Trump Administration in Congress, says he will not run for re-election in 2018. He says he’s taking a break from the political life—he’s represented Utah’s 3rd district since 2008.
“Since late 2003 I have been fully engaged with politics as a campaign manager, a chief of staff, a candidate and as a Member of Congress. I have long advocated public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career,” Chaffetz said in a statement posted to his official Facebook page.
“Many of you have heard me advocate, ‘Get in, serve, and get out.’ After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time. I may run again for public office, but not in 2018,” he said.
It’s an odd move for a man who has made his name in just the last couple of months. Even senior GOP strategists in Utah, who spoke to Heat Street, say they were surprised by the news, finding out Wednesday morning when Chaffetz took to social media. There’s no clear indication, they say, whether Chaffetz will even finish out his current term.
Chaffetz attained national political stardom at the helm of several investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, and has stood out among Republicans in Congress for his staunch, often casual defense of Donald Trump, amid concerns that Trump’s ongoing ties to his businesses pose an ethical conundrum—often from his own party.
He’s often even stumbled over himself trying to make headlines: over the summer he endorsed Trump only to recant his endorsement in October after it became clear Trump could be a political liability. And Chaffetz has always, reportedly, had an eye on higher office, likely replacing Orrin Hatch in the Senate.
Hatch says he will run for another term in 2018 unless his handpicked successor, Mitt Romney, declares an interest in taking his seat.
But now Chaffetz will return home to Utah, vacating his seat. Speculation, on Wednesday, ran the gamut from a burgeoning ethics investigation that might have landed Chaffetz in the Congressional doghouse, to a possible run for governor. In fact, “JasonForGovernor.com” (a play on his Congressional tagline, “Jason for Congress”) redirects to his primary fundraising page.
Independent Presidential candidate Evan McMullin is still considering a run for office in Utah, sources close to his operation tell Heat Street, and Chaffetz’s open seat is a tantalizing opportunity.
After wrapping up his Presidential campaign in December, McMullin told a Reddit AMA that he has not made a decision about his political future, and sources say that hasn’t changed—though McMullin’s operation found out only this morning that Chaffetz would be leaving office.
As for potential opponents, well, Utah Democrats are already planning a dance party to send Chaffetz off, so there’s that.