Chaffetz won't run for Bennett's Senate seat

Published: Thursday, Jan. 7 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

United States Rep. Jason Chaffetz, with his wife Julie at his side, announces that he will seek re-election Wednesday in West Valley City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, will run for a second term rather than wage an intraparty campaign against Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.

Chaffetz called his first year of service in the U.S. House of Representatives a great honor Wednesday as he announced his decision.

"I truly do believe, more than ever, that the best hope for the United States of America, the best hope for Utah, is to return to the conservative principles ... and I want to continue to do that," Chaffetz said in a press conference at West Valley City Hall.

"I'm more fired up than I've ever been. I'm more optimistic than I've ever been," he said.

The freshman congressman was flanked by his wife, Julie, who looked intently at her husband throughout his six-minute statement.

There had been speculation that he would forego a second term to run against Bennett, who is seeking a fourth term but who has little support among the influential conservative faction of the Utah Republican Party that embraced Chaffetz during his first election.

Chaffetz determined he could have more impact in the House.

"I disagree with him on some things," he said about Bennett. "But at this point in time, my wife and I have decided we'd have another go in the House. I want to continue to prove myself and make a difference. I see leadership possibilities in the House. It's been a great stage to make the points I want to make. I think I've been effective, and quite frankly, I like it."

Chaffetz poked fun at his Washington living accommodations. He has opted to live out of his office during the week and fly home on weekends to be with his family in their Alpine home.

"I would hope that every morning when I roll out of that cot that I make good and righteous decisions," he said.

Chaffetz also defended his decision to continue to run in Utah's 3rd Congressional District, even though his Alpine home is in the 2nd Congressional District. He said he has more in common with members of the 3rd District, which includes most of Utah County and a good portion of rural central Utah, than the second.

"When I was elected, it was widely known that I live three miles outside of the district's boundary," he said.

At the time, it was anticipated that redistricting to accommodate a fourth congressional district would place Alpine in the Third District boundaries. Now, Chaffetz said, that change likely will take place in 2012.

Chaffetz has received some criticism for being a publicity hound and for incidents like his run-in with Transportation Security Administration officials at the Salt Lake International Airport.

Richard Davis, chairman of the Utah County Democratic Party, said his party hopes to take advantage of that.

"We are working on finding a viable opponent to the Congressman because we think the voters want better," Davis said. "Often he gets publicity that is embarrassing for Utah. Indications are that Jason Chaffetz is a show horse. I think the people in the 3rd District can do better with a workhorse."

Davis said the party has a short list of potential candidates and plans to unveil their choice prior to the March filing deadline

e-mail: mhaddock@desnews.com

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