WASHINGTON (ABC4 Utah) – Utah reelected Republican Jason Chaffetz to the represent Utah’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2016. Less than a year later he announced his resignation.
He cited wanting to spend more time with family as a reason for leaving Congress.
“Once we made this decision, ‘hey we’re not running in 2018’, you mentally start to think, let’s move on with things. I was faced with the idea of 200-300 nights away through the rest of this term, and I just didn’t want to do it,” Jason Chaffetz said.
Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said leaving like Chaffetz did is unusual.
“This is a very, very rare occurrence. It’s one thing if you announce that you’re leaving after a particular term. Leaving in the middle of the term, if there’s not a direct scandal involved, it doesn’t happen very often,” Ornstein said.
Chaffetz’s last day in office was June 30th and his name has been removed from the plaque outside the D.C. office. That office is now overseen by the Clerk of the House, and Chaffetz’s former staff remains on the payroll. Without him, however, the office is considered bipartisan.
The district office in Provo is also bipartisan. According to a source in that office, some staff have left or are planning to leave because they are uncertain about whether the new representative will want to keep them on.
Staff who have chosen to stay can help constituents with casework, give general status information on pending legislation and offer constituent services like reserving a white house tour.
Without a representative, however, there are a few items that are off limits.
“They can’t represent the district in committee hearings or vote on the floor,” Ornstein said.
Brad Fitch, President and CEO of Congressional Management Foundation, said there is another alternative for constituents to have their voices heard.
“For constituents who feel a little disenfranchised because their member is not voting on the floor, they always have their two senators. They always can express their view there,” Fitch said.
In an email, Chaffetz told us “I am now working exclusively with Fox News” as a contributor.
“What Jason Chaffetz did was a very, very rare thing,” Ornstein said. “To leave in the middle of a term to take a job with Fox News? That has left a very bad taste in some people’s mouths.”
A special election will be held later this year to fill Chaffetz’s open seat. The primary election is scheduled for August 15th. The general election is on November 7th.