OAN’s Brooke Mallory
6:12 PM – Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Republican Representative Chris Stewart said on Wednesday that he plans on leaving Congress as soon as a smooth transition can be ensured.
Due to his wife’s illness, Stewart (R-Utah), a six-term politician, declared this week that he intended to resign from the House of Representatives. His retirement would decrease the GOP majority in the House to just four seats and open a seat for a Republican on the Appropriations and Intelligence committees.
“It has been one of the great honors of my life to serve the good people of Utah in Congress. My wife and I have made so many dear friends and memories throughout our journey. I can say with pride that I have been an effective leader for my beloved home state, and I’m honored to have played an important role in guiding our nation through some troubled times,” Stewart said. “But my wife’s health concerns have made it necessary that I retire from Congress after an orderly transition can be secured.”
According to Utah law, the governor is required to call a special election whenever there is a House vacancy. Republican Governor Spencer Cox will have seven days from the time Stewart formally tenders his resignation to schedule a primary and special election.
Disregarding cases where the state legislature appropriates funding to organize a different election, the law mandates that those dates coincide with the municipal primary and general elections planned for this year.
In order to replace the position, a Republican candidate is strongly favored. In western Utah, Stewart represents the 2nd Congressional District, which runs from the Salt Lake City metropolitan region to St. George.
Stewart easily defeated his Democrat opponent, Nick Mitchell, in the 2022 midterm elections, winning re-election with a landslide 63.4% vote share.
However, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will have much less leeway in calling votes until a special election is held. McCarthy can only afford to lose three Republican votes on any given piece of legislation, assuming unified Democrat opposition.
This year, Republican border security legislation already faced internal conflict between hard-line conservatives and moderates, and current GOP differences over the debt ceiling deal show that many Republican senators are willing to defy the party leadership.
Stewart’s retirement would also shift Utah politics since he was widely thought to be exploring a bid for the governor’s office or the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah). Those ambitions would be placed on hold due to his wife’s illness, presenting openings for other ambitious Republicans.
The author and former member of the U.S. Air Force, Stewart, was first elected in 2012. He joined forces with Utah child safety activist Elizabeth Smart regarding her memoir about being kidnapped. During the tenure of former President Donald Trump, 62-year-old Stewart was mentioned as a possible candidate for the position of U.S. director of national intelligence.
It would be the second early retirement of a congressman from Utah in the previous six years.
Former U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who left office in 2017, had given up his post as head of the House Oversight Committee, prompting a special election.
“My family and I have been very blessed by this experience,” Stewart said. “Thank you to all those who have supported and sacrificed to help us. The fight goes on. God bless all of you, and God bless our nation.”
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