SALT LAKE CITY — Third Congressional District Rep. Jason Chaffetz won a second term by predictable margins Tuesday, fending off political newcomer Karen Hyer, who ran on the Democratic ticket despite the fact she is a lifelong Republican.
Chaffetz claimed a win before 10 p.m. when about 20 percent of the precincts had reported. Final unofficial results had Chaffetz with 72 percent of the vote to Hyer's 23 percent.
The most recent Deseret News/KSL-TV poll of 375 active voters, conducted last week, predicted Chaffetz would claim 70 percent of the votes with Hyer claiming 19 percent. That prediction was even stronger than the 67 percent who said they supported Chaffetz when active voters were polled Oct. 11-14.
The district includes western Salt Lake County, all but the northeastern corner of Utah County, Sanpete, Sevier, Beaver, Millard and eastern Juab counties.
"Winning an election is very humbling," Chaffetz said as returns confirmed a solid win Tuesday evening. "Its time to pause and give thanks. It was a massive undertaking," he said. Campaign issues within the district mirrored the national agenda: strengthening the economy, devising a functional immigration policy and charting a course for health care.
Next, he plans to fill a promise to his wife and kids for their patience with the campaign season: "Tomorrow, in the morning, I'm headed to Disneyland."
Being opposed by a Republican, running on the Democratic ticket, was unusual but not something that commandeered attention during the campaign.
"I never really ran against my opponent. I ran on my platform that I feel passionately in."
Hyer, in her first political campaign, said she would like to have had more time to build an effective campaign. She said she felt her campaign efforts resulted in a "decent showing."
"This was an uphill battle, I knew that when I got into it. But I wanted to change the dialogue," Hyer said. "And I think I accomplished that."
One scenario in the election cycle two years from now has Chaffetz challenging Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. Hyer has said she believes it would take two years to mount an effective campaign — time she did not have in this race — but she said it is too early to say whether she would run again for the 3rd District seat, even if she was not having to challenge an incumbent.
A big question among politicos now that the election is over is whether Chaffetz will focus his energy on a Senate seat two years from now. He and the staff for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, recently sparred over whether Chaffetz had agreed not to challenge Hatch in 2012.
The race also included three minor-party candidates. As of 10 p.m., Libertarian Party candidate Jake Shannon had claimed 1.6 percent of the ballots, Constitution Party candidate Douglas Sligting had 2.3 percent and independent candidate Joseph L. Puente held 1 percent.