Republican Utah Representative Chris Stewart said he would likely step down in September, setting off a special election process that could leave Republicans down a vote for several months. The GOP currently holds a narrow majority in the House.
“We’re trying to work out the best date for the state, and also, we want to help with appropriations bills and get some work finished here,” said Stewart Wednesday following a floor vote. “But it’ll be in September.”
Tuesday, the Salt Lake Tribune first reported Rep. Stewart’s plans to resign and cited his wife’s health as the reason. The ardent conservative and ally of former President Donald Trump officially announced his plans on Wednesday. However, he wasn’t specific when he was planning on leaving office and said it would only occur “after an orderly transition can be ensured.”
According to the Tribune, Stewart had been weighing a possible challenge to GOP Senator Mitt Romney in 2024. He sits on the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees and is a former Air Force pilot and the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
“Rep. Chris Stewart is an exceptional American, effective conservative voice and good friend,” tweeted Utah Governor Spencer Cox this week. “We’re grateful for his considerable leadership and his unwavering commitment to representing our state. We honor his service and wish him and his family all the best.”
Stewart’s seat could take several months to be filled
It was unclear Thursday when Stewart’s seat might be filled, although it could take several months according to special election law in Utah.
Tuesday, Utah Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson said the state’s special election statute requires the governor to issue a proclamation that identifies the general and special primary election dates within seven days of vacancy or a resignation letter.
Without additional legislative approval, general, special, and primary election dates can only be held in conjunction with a presidential primary election, a municipal general election, a regular general election, or a regular primary election. Any primary must be held at least 90 days following a governor’s proclamation, and any general election must be held at least 90 days following that primary, said Henderson.
A general municipal election in Utah is scheduled for November 7, and a presidential primary election is scheduled for March 5, 2024.
“If Congressman Stewart doesn’t submit a formal letter of resignation until September … without legislation action, the 90-day period would preclude November,” said Jackson Murphy, communications specialist for Henderson. The governor can set special election dates outside of existing election dates if the legislature appropriates and approves the needed funds, confirmed Murphy.
Stewart has represented Utah’s 2nd District since 2013. The District is a GOP stronghold and has backed Trump by over 17 percentage points in 2020.