Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Congressman Chris Stewart, R-Utah, right, poses during the ceremonial swearing-in Thursday with House Speaker John Boehner R-Ohio. Stewart's wife, Evie, stands between them.
Utah’s new, old guard vow to serve
The House » Rep. Chris Stewart, the newest Utahn in Congress, takes the oath.
First Published Jan 03 2013 04:53 pm • Last Updated May 05 2013 11:31 pm

Washington • Rep. Chris Stewart’s new congressional office has no art on the walls and no books on the shelves. His desk remains largely empty. And yet, on his first day in office, the place was alive.

His six children, their spouses and four little grandchildren crowded around in the moments before their slow march to the House chamber, where they would see Stewart raise his right hand and vow to serve the nation and protect its Constitution.

At a glance

2nd Congressional District

Utah’s newest Congress member represents the 2nd District, which has been represented for more than a decade by Rep. Jim Matheson. The district has been dramatically reshaped by redistricting and now includes all of Salt Lake City, dips north to pick up southern Davis County, heads west to take in Tooele County and then sweeps south to include all of western Utah, all the way to St. George. The district is solidly Republican with the exception of the capital, which leans left.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The oath reminded Utah’s fourth House member of the one he took years ago, when he became a U.S. Air Force officer — and that turned his thoughts to his late father.

Boyd Stewart was an Air Force pilot in World War II, and he was the one who administered the military oath to his son, one of four Stewart boys who joined the armed services. His father was a farmer and a man who taught his 10 children to serve their communities.

"Seven years ago today was my dad’s funeral," said Chris Stewart, R-Utah. "I was kind of thinking of him today."

He also reflected on the weight of his new responsibility. He is one of 84 freshmen who joined the House at a time of deep partisan divisions and intractable political challenges.

In coming months, Congress and President Barack Obama will attempt to reach an agreement on reducing spending, reforming the tax code and revamping the immigration laws. And Democrats are working on a gun-violence bill as well.

"This is a really important Congress. This is a really important time," Stewart said. "These few years are a tipping point for the nation. I think they will determine who we are as a people depending on what we do."

But those are votes for another day. On Thursday, Stewart supported House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for another term, which he won after a drawn-out vote that spoiled planned receptions throughout the Capitol. Stewart was still able to receive a warm welcome from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in the morning, while former Sen. Bob Bennett and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, stopped by in the afternoon.

Chaffetz’s chief of staff, Justin Harding, has known the Stewart clan for a dozen years. Harding and Stewart’s brother Tim both worked for former Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah. Tim Stewart is now a lobbyist in Bennett’s firm, and he also stopped by to wish his brother well.

story continues below
story continues below

"They are an extraordinary family," Harding said. "They are just very pragmatic, effective people in all that they do."

But that doesn’t mean he knows Chris Stewart well, at least not yet. While other family members, such as Utah federal Judge Ted Stewart, have deep political experience, Chris Stewart was a novice when he jumped into the 2nd Congressional District race. It ended up being an open seat when Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, elected to run in the state’s new 4th Congressional District, and his easy victory was overshadowed by Matheson’s close call against Republican Mia Love.

In a delegation led by heavyweight Sen. Orrin Hatch and headline grabbers such as Lee and Chaffetz, Stewart will have to continue to fight for the spotlight. As a new member, he seems intent on learning the process and acclimating to the world of national politics.

The nation will hit its debt limit in two months, marking the next round in the lengthy partisan fight over the nation’s fiscal health. Stewart said he wants to see how the debate takes shape before staking out a position, though, like most Republicans, he calls for spending less.

He talked politics as restless grandchildren played behind him in the halls of the Cannon Office Building, enduring a lengthy day made longer by speeches and votes setting up the 113th session of Congress.

Their day concluded with a ceremonial swearing-in with Boehner.

Stewart forgot the family Bible and his wife, Evie, joked that he should place his hand on his smartphone, since that’s where he generally accesses the Scriptures. The family ended up finding the traditional bound variety before gathering in front of eight American flags. The speaker nestled in the middle between one of Stewart’s sons and Evie Stewart.

The family was all smiles except for 16-month-old Chase, who fell asleep on his dad’s shoulder.

Before the family disperses on Saturday, Stewart’s wife plans to punctuate the occasion with a tour of the Capitol dome and a trip to the national Archives to see the document that Chris Stewart vowed to uphold.


Twitter: @mattcanham

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.