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GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz Announces He Won't Run for Re-Election in 2018

The Utah Republican is head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Image: Chaffetz listens to testimony during a House committee hearing
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server in September 2016.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, announced Wednesday that will not run for re-election in 2018, a surprise decision from the congressman who raised his profile investigating the administration of President Barack Obama.

"After long consultation with my family and prayerful consideration, I have decided I will not be a candidate for any office in 2018," he wrote on Facebook. "I have long advocated public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career. Many of you have heard me advocate, 'Get in, serve, and get out.' After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time. I may run again for public office, but not in 2018."

Chaffetz is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the panel tasked with oversight of the executive branch. He launched investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and he also led the probe into then-IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner.

Chaffetz has come under pressure, mostly from Democrats, to investigate the Trump administration, including Russia's involvement in the presidential election. But Chaffetz has declined, saying the intelligence committees are better equipped. He has also been reluctant to look into Trump's potential conflicts of interest pertaining to his businesses.

Chaffetz had been discussed as a possible candidate for Utah's Senate seat in 2018 if Sen. Orrin Hatch decides to retire. But his statement Wednesday ruled that out.

He didn't, however, rule out a run for governor in 2020. "Who knows after 2018?" he told NBC News of his political future.

"I may very well come into politics once more," Chaffetz said on MSNBC's "For the Record With Greta Van Susteren." But he said: "I've got to find the right balance in my life. That balance has gotten somewhat out of whack."

He said that on March 26, his 50th birthday, he realized that "I'm sleeping on a cot in my office" and that "I spent about 1,500-plus nights away from my family."

"You know, I've got a wife I love and kids I adore," he said. "I really, really like the work in Congress, I really do, but I love my family more."

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who often clashed with Chaffetz as ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, praised his colleague Wednesday for having "fundamentally changed the culture on our committee so members, as he says, can disagree without being disagreeable."

"It is an honor to serve with Jason on the Oversight Committee, and I wish him and his family all the best in the next chapter of their lives," Cummings said.

Chaffetz first won election in 2008, and he has easily won re-election since then. In 2016, he won his district with nearly 74 percent support. Trump won his district with only 47 percent.

Chaffetz said he was making the announcement now to give potential successors plenty of time to launch their campaigns.

Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he was confident that the seat would stay in Republican hands.

"Republicans have a deep bench of talented candidates in Utah who are more than up to this challenge. The NRCC is very confident in our ability to keep this seat red in November 2018," Stivers said.

Among Republicans who are being discussed as potential candidates are Provo Mayor John Curtis; state Sen. Deidre Henderson, Chaffetz' former campaign manager; and Evan McMullin, a former congressional staffer who ran for president in 2016. McMullin's presidential strategy was largely built on winning the state of Utah, where he collected 21 percent of the vote.

Kathryn Allen, who is already running as a Democrat, raised about $560,000 from January through March, according to Federal Election Commission filings. In the same time, Chaffetz had raised only about $170,000.