By Jim Ellis
April 21, 2017 — Five-term Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) announced Wednesday that he will surprisingly retire from the House at the end of the current term. Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, says he wants to return to the private sector and devote the rest of this time in Congress to completing his open investigations. The congressman said he may well run for public office again, but not in 2018. When asked about him entering the impending open 2020 gubernatorial race, Chaffetz joked that he is a “definite maybe.”
Rep. Chaffetz becomes the 14th House incumbent who will not be on the ballot for the next election, including the four remaining special congressional elections. At least another 15 members are reportedly considering seeking a different elective office, or outright retirement. Nine of the previously mentioned 14 are Republicans.
Utah’s 3rd Congressional District is safely Republican. President Trump took the district with 47.2 percent of the vote, while Hillary Clinton actually placed third, just behind Independent Evan McMullin at 23.3 percent. The 3rd was one of Mitt Romney’s strongest districts in the entire country. In 2012, he defeated President Obama, 78-19 percent, in this CD. Reviewing the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain won here with a 68-30 percent margin.
Reportedly, McMullin is beginning to weigh his congressional chances now that the seat will be open. He won’t be alone. We can expect a long list of Republicans vying for the seat. The 2018 Utah State Republican convention will likely winnow the field to two, which will lead to a primary election.
Stretching from the south Salt Lake City suburbs, the seat zigzags southeast all the way to the Four Corners region where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico all meet. UT-3 contains the cities of Sandy, Orem, Provo, Moab, and the Monument Valley region.
A newly released Texas poll provides what appears to be bad news for first-term Sen. Ted Cruz (R). A closer looks portends a different conclusion, however.
The Texas Lyceum leadership organization released its annual poll regarding issues and attitudes (mostly about immigration) of the Lone Star State population and found the incumbent trailing one potential Democratic challenger, while being locked in a tie with his announced opponent.
According to this survey (April 3-9; 1,000 Texas adults; conducted by University of Texas professors), San Antonio Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) leads Sen. Cruz, 35-31 percent, in a hypothetical 2018 general election pairing. Against announced Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso Democratic congressman, Cruz and he tie at 30 percent preference.
But, this is not a poll of likely, or even registered, voters. The 1,000 sample is a microcosm of the entire Texas population, a complexion far different from its registered voter base. Using the Census estimates as a basis, the minority population dominates the survey’s sampling group. Capturing the weighted racial segmentation, 57 percent of the grouping is Hispanic, African American, or a member of another racial sector. The remaining 43 percent is non-Hispanic white, or Anglo.
Such a sample, while being wholly representative of the Texas population, is far from accurately depicting how the state’s voter base — an electorate that last elected a Democrat to any statewide office in 1990 — projects to vote in next year’s election.
While Rep. O’Rourke is an announced candidate, and will likely construct a viable campaign, Rep. Castro is unlikely to run despite him saying he will decide in the next several weeks. At this point, irrespective of the conclusions derived from this non-political poll briefly venturing into a partisan campaign, Sen. Cruz remains a decided favorite for re-election.