There’s increasing disagreement between Gov. Gary Herbert and fellow GOP legislative leaders over how to handle a special election to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz, if the Republican congressman steps down before his term ends. Chaffetz, who two weeks ago surprised Utahns by saying he would not seek re-election and may not serve out his full term, could announce around Memorial Day that he’s leaving Congress as early as June, sources told the Deseret News. Legislative leaders are pushing for the governor to call a special session of the Legislature to spell out how such an election should be conducted, although there’s been disagreement over that between the GOP majority in the House and Senate. But Herbert has said a special session isn’t necessary. Utah law says simply that when there’s a congressional vacancy, the governor issues a proclamation calling an election to fill it.
The 2017 Legislature looked at fleshing out the law when Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, was being considered for secretary of the Air Force, an appointment that would have created the state’s first congressional vacancy since 1929.
A Senate bill that called for holding a special election similar to the regular process was replaced in the House by a plan letting political parties nominate candidates and, in the final hours of the session, it failed to pass.
After a closed-door caucus Tuesday night that lasted almost three hours, Senate Republicans decided they may have more in common with the House GOP than they thought.