Lt. Governor sets Nov. 7 special election to replace Chaffetz in Congress

Posted at 2:05 PM, May 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-19 23:31:17-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox set the timeline for a special election to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who announced he's quitting effective June 30.

"This is the first time the history of our state we’ve had a member of Congress quit their job or leave their job in the middle of a session," Cox told reporters at a news conference Friday.

Congressman Chaffetz announced Thursday he was resigning from office, telling reporters he was having "a bit of a mid-life crisis." Fatigued with being on the road, missing his family in Utah, and turning 50, he said he decided to step down -- seven months after winning re-election.

Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox announces the special election to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Governor Gary Herbert signed the official proclamation calling for a special election. The Lt. Governor set a Nov. 7 election for the Third Congressional District seat, which coincides with municipal elections across the state. Seven counties and 54 municipalities are part of the Third District.

On Friday, the state elections office opened up the filing period for candidates. They have until May 26 to declare. If candidates wish to gather signatures to get on the ballot, they must get at least 7,000. Republican candidates can only get signatures of registered GOP voters. Democrats can obtain both parties, but people who sign can only for one candidate, regardless of party.

Here's the timeline for the special election:

The special election comes with a lot of feuding between the Utah State Legislature and the governor. Lawmakers wanted to be called into special session to establish a more clear process for a special election.

The governor refused, believing the process is fine as is.

"It is clearly the role of the Legislature to establish election procedures and ;prescribe them by law.' Nowhere is the executive branch given the authority to establish these procedures; the governor’s legal role is to issue a formal writ declaring that an election will take place," read a joint op-ed by House Speaker Greg Hughes, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, House Minority Leader Brian King, and Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, published on the political website

"The separation of powers is one of the most fundamental principles of our government, and protects all of us from abuses inherent in concentrations of power."

However, threats of litigation appeared to be fading by Friday as the special election process got underway. The Utah State Senate told FOX 13 it was not planning to file a lawsuit challenging the governor. The Utah House of Representatives was keeping options open, but had not signaled it would be planning to sue alone.

"In this job we get sued a lot, it turns out," Cox said. "We understand those threats of litigation are out there. Our job is to run an election and the attorneys will deal with anything that comes together."