22 candidates file to run for 3rd Congressional District seat vacated by Chaffetz

Posted at 5:40 PM, May 26, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY -- 15-4-2-1

Those aren't lucky lottery numbers, they are candidates for the Third Congressional District seat being vacated by Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

Fifteen Republicans, 4 Democrats, 2 Independent American and 1 Libertarian candidate have filed their papers to run for the vacancy.

On the last day of filing for party-affiliated candidates, the fireworks came with the man running as a member of a new political party.

As Jim Bennett tried to fill out paperwork Friday afternoon to file as a candidate under the newly announced United Utah Party, Bennett exchanged a tense back-and-forth with the Lieutenant Governor's Office.

"Jim, we`re not playing games," Mark Thomas, Director of Elections said to Bennett.

"I`m not trying to play games," Bennett fired back. "I`m trying to demonstrate that I`m trying to comply with the law."

Bennett is the son of late Senator Bob Bennett, and the Executive Director of the United Utah Party.

The party turned in signatures Thursday to be verified as an official party on the special election ballot. But those signatures weren't verified by the Lt. Governor's Elections office in time for the 5 p.m. filing deadline, leaving Bennett with the option of running as an unaffiliated candidate.

Still, Bennett continued filling out the forms.

"We`re just not going to accept it," Thomas said. "Are you going to withhold giving me the application?" Bennett asked.

He later told Fox 13 the party is prepared to take legal action, "if that's what it comes to," and as a last resort he will file as an unaffiliated candidate.

"The Elections Office of Utah just wasn't having it," he said. "They weren't letting it happen."

For those who did successfully file, the race is on. Newly elected Republican Party Chair Rob Anderson said Friday he was surprised to see how many Republican candidates filed.

"I heard rumors-- eight to ten, twelve later on today," he said, of how many people turned in paperwork. "Then to land and find out there were fifteen Republicans was quite a shock to me. So, there`s a lot of interest in this seat."

He said with no incumbent, the playing field is level which is likely why so many people have stepped in to run. The Republican Party is giving special "Republican Candidate Guide" packets to candidates, he said, to help them with the process.

"Everybody has something different to offer, and we’ll have to see which message resonates," he said.

Fox 13 reached out to a Democratic Party spokesperson but didn't hear back.

Among the candidates are current and former state legislators, a mayor, and a number of citizens who haven't held elective office before. For a list, click here or see the tweet below.

The roster of candidates could still grow. Unaffiliated candidates can turn in paperwork for another two weeks because they don't have to run in a convention or primary.

The Republican and Democratic parties will narrow down their candidates through the convention and primary processes.