Rep. Jason Chaffetz said that he has no "ulterior motives" in his decision not to run
The Utah Republican had previously said he was considering a run for governor
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House’s powerful oversight committee, will not seek re-election to Congress, he announced Wednesday.
In a message on his Facebook page, Chaffetz thanked supporters and announced he will “not be a candidate for any office in 2018.”
“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.
Chaffetz said that he has no “ulterior motives,” but instead said he is ready to return to the private sector.
In Congress, Chaffetz was known as a hard-charging oversight chairman, taking on an investigation into Planned Parenthood and Former Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.
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According to two senior House GOP aides, top Republican leaders were told that the House Oversight Chairman was considering not running for re-election in 2018, and thinking about returning home to Utah.
“After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time. I may run again for public office, but not in 2018,” Chaffetz said. “For those that would speculate otherwise, let me be clear that I have no ulterior motives. I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins. I have the full support of Speaker (Paul) Ryan to continue as Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That said, I have made a personal decision to return to the private sector.”
The top Democrat on the committee – Rep. Elijah Cummings – said it was an “honor to serve” with Chaffetz.
“Chairman Chaffetz is a tenacious and dedicated public servant, and I thank him for showing sincere interest in issues that matter to me and many others on the Committee,” the Maryland Democrat said in a statement. “He has fundamentally changed the culture on our Committee so Members, as he says, can disagree without being disagreeable.”
But other Democrats celebrated Chaffetz announcement, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which said, “Chaffetz’ behavior has long been beneath the dignity of the office he holds.”
“Chairman Chaffetz’ behavior has long been beneath the dignity of the office he holds and he should step down as Chairman of the Oversight Committee immediately,” said DCCC spokesman Tyler Law. “Clearly, Chaffetz crumbled under the weight of the widespread backlash that he’s been facing for refusing to do his job, which is a victory for all Americans and will serve as a motivating force for the grassroots.”
Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, called Chaffetz “a valuable member of the Republican team” and wished him well.
“I’m proud to call him a friend,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. He added, “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.”
Chaffetz has said in past interviews including one with the Deseret News in January 2016 that he was interested in leaving Capitol Hill to pursue the Utah Governor’s mansion.
“I’m not going to be here forever. I would take a serious, serious look at running for governor,” Chaffetz told the Deseret News in 2016. “I want to go as hard and fast as I can in the House and then go home.”
Chaffetz’ statement says he isn’t ruling out running for elective office in the future, and Republicans believe that this move may be designed to help him lay the groundwork for a statewide run soon.
After House Speaker John Boehner abruptly resigned in the fall of 2015, Chaffetz mounted a bid for speaker of the House against Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, but his effort failed to gain major traction. Both he and McCarthy withdrew from that race and Paul Ryan replaced Boehner in October 2015.