Utah Republican Representative Chris Stewart is expected to announce plans to resign from Congress sometime on Wednesday. The cited reason is his wife’s health, though limited information is available on that. Stewart, a former Air Force pilot, has represented Utah’s Second District in Congress since 2013 and sits on the House Appropriations Committee and Intelligence Committee.
With the GOP holding a slim majority of five seats presently, this news also begs the question as to how Stewart’s departure may affect the power dynamics in the House.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will have even less room for error when whipping votes. Assuming united Democratic opposition, McCarthy can only afford to lose three Republican votes on any given legislation. Intra-party fighting between hard-line conservatives and moderates already threatened to tank a Republican border security bill this year, and current GOP disagreements on the debt ceiling deal demonstrate plenty of Republican lawmakers are willing to buck the party line.
Under Utah law, the governor will have to call a special election to replace Stewart.
Picking a replacement for the remainder of Stewart’s term will require a special election. Once Stewart officially announces he’s resigning, Gov. Spencer Cox has seven days to set the primary and special election schedule. Under state law, those dates will be the same as this year’s municipal primary and general elections, unless the Legislature appropriates money to hold an election on a different date.
Utah’s next municipal primary election is set for August 15, 2023 — which may explain, at least partially, the timing of Stewart’s announcement. Stewart’s district is fairly red, so presumably, his replacement will also be a Republican.
A Republican candidate is heavily favored to fill the vacancy. Stewart represents Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, a reliably GOP constituency in western Utah that stretches from the Salt Lake City metro area to St. George. In the 2022 midterm election, Stewart easily defeated Democratic challenger Nick Mitchell, winning re-election with a landslide 63.4% vote share.
The remaining question will simply be the timing and to what extent that may constrain McCarthy on critical votes.
One added wrinkle, though, is what impact this may have on Utah’s 2024 Senate race. Stewart was thought to be eyeing Mitt Romney’s seat. Given the stated reasons for his resignation, that obviously may be on hold as well.
During his tenure in the House, Stewart has been a fairly reliable conservative, with a few memorable moments:
With the rise of socialism in America thanks to the cheerleading of popular political figures like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Republicans have found it fit to create an anti-socialism caucus much to the dismay of those on the left.
According to Daily Wire, Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah put in a request to form the caucus and look to “defeat socialism once again.”
“Socialism is a folly,” Stewart said on his official government site. “Not only is it doomed to fail wherever it rears its head, it leaves a wake of destruction in lives and freedoms lost. So much time has passed from the fall of the Iron Curtain that many have internalized — or never experienced– [s]ocialism’s ultimate price. If we fail to recall those dangerous times, the primitive appeal of socialism will advance and infect our institutions.”
Then, too, there was this fascinating exchange with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman:
Stewart shared the following message on Twitter just as this article was set to publish:
It's been one of the great honors of my life to represent Utah in the People's House.
God bless you all, and God bless America. pic.twitter.com/rEeg6G2ry3
— Rep. Chris Stewart (@RepChrisStewart) May 31, 2023
It’s been one of the great honors of my life to represent Utah in the People’s House. God bless you all, and God bless America.