Prominent Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz has announced that he won't be running for reelection:
After long consultation with my family and prayerful consideration, I have decided I will not be a candidate for any office in 2018.
Since late 2003 I have been fully engaged with politics as a campaign manager, a chief of staff, a candidate and as a Member of Congress. I have long advocated public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career. Many of you have heard me advocate, “Get in, serve, and get out.” After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time. I may run again for public office, but not in 2018.
For the time being, Chaffetz says, he will "return to the private sector." (He's worked in the past in marketing and PR.)
Chaffetz has served in the House since 2009 and, as the chair of the House Oversight Committee, is well-known for his involvement in the endless Benghazi-related investigation of Hillary Clinton. He has, in the past, been open about considering a 2020 run for governor in his home state. (Current Gov. Gary Herbert has said he will not run for another term.) The Atlantic's McKay Coppins, who's well-connected in Utah politics, says his sources are split as to whether Chaffetz's move today is preparation for 2020:
Getting some pushback from Utah sources on idea that Chaffetz is doing this to prepare for gubernatorial run. Some believe it, others don't.— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) April 19, 2017
As an ambitious Republican from Utah, Chaffetz is in a tricky position. The state is a GOP stronghold, but Trump is, for various reasons, unpopular there: Independent candidate Evan McMullin won 21 percent of the state's 2016 presidential vote. Chaffetz has lately suffered a drop in his local approval rating after taking grief for a number of high-profile incidents related to his support for Trump—most notably a rowdy town hall at which constituents berated him for not investigating administration corruption and a CNN appearance related to the Trump-Ryan health care bill in which he suggested that people who can't afford health insurance should just buy cheaper smartphones.
Which is to say: Giving himself an excuse not to have to figure out how to position himself relative to his party's nominal leader during what could be a hairy 2018-2020 period (and also giving himself freedom to defy party leadership until then because he no longer needs to maintain good standing going forward in the House Republican caucus) might not be the dumbest thing Chaffetz could do right now. In the meantime he can make $$$ rolling logs, prepare to maybe run for governor, and spend ye olde proverbial time with his family—a family which includes a tennage daughter who he cited as his reason for unendorsing Trump in 2016 after the "pussy" tape came out. (He then announced 19 days later that he would, in fact, vote for Trump. A profile in courage.)
Or maybe it's something that has nothing to do with any of that! Who knows? Politics!