Who will run to replace Chris Stewart in the US House?

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, speaks during an interview at the Triad Center in Salt Lake City on Jan. 19. Insiders say more than a dozen candidates could join the special election to replace Stewart, who announced he will step down at a future date.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, speaks during an interview at the Triad Center in Salt Lake City on Jan. 19. Insiders say more than a dozen candidates could join the special election to replace Stewart, who announced he will step down at a future date. (Ryan Sun, Deseret News)


Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Chris Stewart's announcement that he plans to resign his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives was met almost immediately by a flurry of speculation about who could take his place.

At the same time, elected officials and party members across Utah seemed to be looking inward to determine if they have what it takes to meet the moment.

Former Utah Republican Party Chairman Carson Jorgensen said he's received "no less than 50 calls" from people telling him he's the man for the job. Although he said now isn't the right time for him or his family, he said it's a tempting proposition.

"My first inclination is, man, it feels like the vultures are swirling, that's what it feels like right now," he said. "I shouldn't say it like that, but that's how it feels. For me, it's a little tough, though, because I find myself in this unique position. I just got done being party chair. I know how to navigate the urban area of the state, and I really know how to navigate the rural portion of the state. ... It's kind of a hard decision to make."

It's a decision several politicians are weighing right now. With dozens of people rumored to be considering a run, here's who is likely to throw their hat in the ring:

Republicans

Republican leaders at nearly every level of government have been floated as possible candidates, but most have been coy about whether they plan to run.

Stewart, a Republican, won reelection in 2022 by a margin of 25%, and Utah's 2nd Congressional District has a partisan lean of 11 points, per the Cook Political Report.

Former state Rep. Becky Edwards was the first to declare her intent to run, telling KSL NewsRadio on Wednesday that she's "excited about the opportunity to continue to serve the people of Utah." Edwards challenged Sen. Mike Lee during the Republican primary for U.S. Senate last year.

Edwards is popular among moderate Republicans, and a website was registered by supporters at WeNeedBecky.com shortly after Stewart's official announcement on Wednesday.

State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he's "definitely considering" running, and state Sens. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, and Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, are rumored to be making similar considerations.

"So many people have contacted us about running," Kennedy said. "While no decisions have been made, my goal is to be where I can make the most positive impact for Utah, protecting our freedoms and working with others to shape a future that upholds our principles and benefits all Utahns."

Greg Hughes, former House speaker and 2020 gubernatorial candidate, is also considering, sources said, and could make a splash if he decides to enter the race.

"I'll tell you what, if Greg gets in the race, he is the front-runner," Jorgensen said.

Aimee Winder Newton, a Salt Lake County councilwoman and 2020 gubernatorial candidate, said she has also been encouraged to run.

"I need to think through where I can best serve the state and will have a final decision in the coming days," she said.

Stewart currently represents part of Salt Lake County, part of Davis County, and much of southwestern Utah, including St. George, Cedar City and Beaver. Jorgensen said he would like to see someone not from the Wasatch Front eventually win the seat.

He pointed to Utah Republican Party Vice Chairman Jordan Hess, who lives in Washington County, as someone who could do well as a candidate.

"He is exceptional when it comes to policy," he said. "He's really sharp that way and he would do a great job."

There are still more rumored candidates, and the Republican field could eventually include more than 15 challengers, Jorgensen said.

Democrats

On the other side of the aisle, state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, told KSL NewsRadio that she plans to run to replace Stewart. Riebe, an educational technology teacher, has served in the Utah Senate since 2019.

"I was contemplating this run in three years, but now might be better," she said.

Kael Weston and Nick Mitchell, both former congressional candidates, say they are considering joining the race.

Weston — who ran as a Democrat against Lee in 2022 when the state party chose to back independent challenger Evan McMullin instead — said he's been asked if he plans on running.

"Yes, I'm seriously considering seeking the Democratic nomination in the upcoming special election in Utah's 2nd Congressional District — a big and beautiful, urban and rural district that I know well and have deep family roots in across generations," he tweeted.

Mitchell garnered 34% of the vote when he ran against Stewart in 2022. While he said he disagrees with Stewart on many things, he said "his decision to step down in order to spend time with family must have been difficult, but it is also both brave and admirable."

"Regarding the special election, my family and I are considering the best decision for ourselves and the people of Utah," he tweeted.

Special election schedule

Although Stewart said he plans to step down, his announcement didn't include any specifics about when. He told Roll Call Wednesday, however, that he's eyeing September as a time to step down.

After he officially notifies Utah Gov. Spencer Cox of his resignation, Cox will have seven days to issue a proclamation to set the dates for the primary and general elections. The primary needs to coincide with an existing election in Utah — unless the Legislature appropriates funds for a separate, special election — and be at least 90 days after the governor's proclamation. The general election would then need to be at least 90 days after that.

Utah will hold a general municipal election on Nov. 7 and a presidential primary on March 5, 2024. That means if Stewart doesn't resign until September, voters will need to wait until next March for a primary election, unless state lawmakers step in.

Funding an extra election would cost the state millions of dollars, but Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson told KSL NewsRadio there's also a cost to the state in having the seat sit empty for a while.

"We've got to think about the consequence of having 25% of Utah's congressional delegation not seated back in D.C.," he said. "And the cost to the state of Utah for that is also significant in terms of our ability to have influence back there, especially with the very razor-thin majority that Republicans have in Congress right now."

Contributing: Lindsay Aerts

Related stories

Most recent Utah elections stories

Related topics

Utah congressional delegationUtah electionsUtahPoliticsSalt Lake County
Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for KSL.com. He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.

STAY IN THE KNOW

Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the KSL.com Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast