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SALT LAKE CITY — Saying he can best serve Utah by doing the job he was elected to do, Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Monday announced he will seek a third-term in the U.S. House of Representatives instead of challenging fellow Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch in 2012.
"It's a tough and difficult decision," Chaffetz said during a news conference at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
"It's an honor to be considered a serious candidate for the United States Senate. But at this time, based on where we are today, I'm going to throw my hat in the ring for another round in the House of Representatives and bypass this opportunity to run for the United States Senate," he said.
Chaffetz, 44, had been positioning himself for a run against Hatch for several months. He recently held a series of town hall meetings outside the 3rd Congressional District he represents, and it appeared that a run against Hatch was likely.
The realization that I could spend the next 15 months campaigning to do Sen. Hatch's job or I could spend 15 months doing the job I was elected to do.
"For a lot of people, there was an anticipation that I would be running in the United States Senate," he said. "That was certainly something I was projecting. It was certainly something I was sharing with a lot of people. And I really did think about it."
Chaffetz said he made the decision after taking a vacation with his wife, Julie, who stood at the congressman's side during the news conference.
"The heart of this is the success we've had in the House," Chaffetz said. "The realization that I could spend the next 15 months campaigning to do Sen. Hatch's job or I could spend 15 months doing the job I was elected to do."
Rep. Chaffetz called a news conference for 4 p.m. Monday to make the announcement official. He recently held a series of town hall meetings outside the 3rd Congressional District he represents, and it appeared that a run against Hatch was likely.
Hatch, 77, is seeking a seventh term in the Senate. Sen. Hatch's office wished Rep. Chaffetz the best in the congressional campaign and in his continued service as one of Utah's representatives.
"Senator Hatch looks forward to continuing to work together as a delegation to find solutions to the critical issues facing Utah and our nation," said Dave Hansen, Hatch's campaign manager.
The announcement is a surprise to many political insiders, especially since recent polls have indicated Sen. Hatch might be vulnerable in a intra-party challenge.
A Dan Jones poll for KSL/Deseret News in June indicated a Chaffetz/Hatch match up would have made for an exciting race. Of the 406 registered votes polled ststewide, 41 percent said they would vote for Chaffetz, while 40 percent said they would vote for Hatch.
Among a smaller samle of voters who said they were likely to vote in the Republican primary, Hatch was favored over Chaffetz 47 percent to 44 percent.
As part of the same Dan Jones poll, only 38 percent of registered voters said it is important to re-elect Hatch. Of polled voters, 59 percent of respondents said 36 years in office is enough and it is time for someone new.