SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Stephen Christiansen, who pushed for an audit of the 2020 election in a state that went to President Donald Trump, has suddenly quit the Utah State Legislature.
"It is with very mixed emotions that I announce my resignation from the Utah House of Representatives. The past two years have been tremendously enlightening and educational," he said in a letter sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Brad Wilson.
Rep. Christiansen, R-West Jordan, cited attacks on his family as a reason for his resignation, defending his conservative political views.
"My time in the legislature has increasingly been spent pushing back against government overreach, excessive spending growth, policies that limit freedoms and liberty, and anything that weakens faith, families, the sanctity of life, and the sacred rights with which we have been blessed. I have tried to do that in a respectful, professional, factual, yet clear and passionate way. While I expected, unfortunately, to be personally maligned and ridiculed as a public servant, I did not expect to see individuals attack my wife as they have, nor to see the significance of the impact of those attacks on her and our family. Primarily for that reason, it has become necessary to 'pause,'" he wrote.
"We are in the midst of a Constitutional crisis of epic proportions and there is much to be done! The day may come when I re-enter the public arena. In the meantime, however, I plan to maintain a strong voice for freedom and liberty and remain engaged in the battle to ensure election integrity, medical freedom, and the protection of families. I will also continue teaching the importance of our Constitution and the need to uphold constitutional principles through inperson [sic] presentations throughout the state, as I have done for the last six months."
He also announced his retirement from his employment at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, saying "I do not wish to infer that my views represent those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
"I therefore believe it is best to retire from Church employment to avoid potential misunderstandings. I believe this will help the Church preserve its long-held position of political neutrality in matters of party politics," he wrote. "The decision to leave Church employment is mine alone. I appreciate the support I have felt for my desire to serve as an elected official. Never have I been pressured to vote one way or another. "
Rep. Christiansen sparked controversy recently when he pushed for an audit of the 2020 election, acknowledging to the Utah State Legislature's Judiciary Interim Committee that he had no proof of any fraud. He recently suggested he would run legislation to make changes to Utah's successful vote-by-mail system and has also faced pushback on Capitol Hill for anti-abortion bills he has run and pending legislation against critical race theory in education.
In a statement, the House Majority Caucus said "we wish him the best in his future endeavors." A spokesperson for Speaker Wilson said he had no further comment on Rep. Christiansen's resignation.
Governor Spencer Cox also offered his regards in a tweet Friday morning.
We thank Rep. Christiansen for his service and wish him well. https://t.co/bavCHDAU0x— Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox (@GovCox) October 29, 2021
The conservative Utah Eagle Forum also reacted, saying the representative was "bullied."
If bullies always win, then bullies will always bully. This is so sad! https://t.co/c271PlGSeb— Maryann Christensen, Ex. Dir. - Utah Eagle Forum (@UT_Eagle_Forum) October 29, 2021
The Utah Democratic Party condemned attacks on Rep. Christiansen's family, but said it was glad he was gone.
"Utah Democrats unequivocally condemn attacks on the families of elected officials. However, Rep. Christiansen made a name for himself in our state and nationally as a peddler of dangerous conspiracy theories. By aligning himself closely with insurrectionists who sought to destroy our system of government and way of life, Rep. Christiansen put our state, nation, and democratic ideals in jeopardy," the party said in a statement late Thursday.
"His loss from the legislature is a win and gain for democracy, our shared sense of patriotism, and for our nation as a whole. The fewer elected officials like Christiansen in legislatures nationwide, the safer our children are from a future of authoritarianism."
The Salt Lake County Republican Party will choose a replacement for Rep. Christiansen's West Jordan district.
Rep. Christiansen is the second lawmaker to quit this week. House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, announced his resignation citing work pressures and the desire to spend more time with his family.
Read Rep. Christiansen's full resignation letter here: