Freshman Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, announced Tuesday that he will seek reelection to Congress, saying his conservative stances are needed to counterbalance the Democratic-controlled White House and Senate.
"We want to go back and represent conservative values," Stewart told The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board shortly before publicly announcing he reelection bid.
He said his constituents feel "the nation’s not on the right track yet," and that "Republicans in the [GOP-controlled] House have this responsibility to be the counterweight to the Senate and White House."
Stewart, a former U.S. Air Force pilot who has written 17 books, is the only freshman on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which divides federal funds and oversees government spending. He is the first Utahn to serve on that committee since 1981.
Before he was named to the committee last month, he had been serving as a member of the Natural Resources Committee and had been chairman of a subcommittee that deals with climate-change issues — a controversial spot for the Utahn who has said he isn’t convinced of the threat behind global warming.
Stewart said he feels he had "a really remarkable first year in Congress as a subcommittee chairman as a freshman … and being on the Appropriations Committee," but feels voters want to know what he’s doing to fight for conservative principles — and he will focus his message on that.
Those conservative principles, he said, "are key to reinvigorating our nation and our economy in particular. You can’t look at the job growth over the past five years and defend that," and he blames slow growth on policies of Democrats led by President Barack Obama.
"The president wants to talk about redistributing wealth, and I think Republicans want to talk about pro-growth strategy, a true job strategy, an energy strategy," he said.
That includes pushing for debt reduction, and pushing to cut taxes on corporations. "You can’t have the highest tax rates in the industrial world and not realize that’s going to have an impact on corporate growth and job creation," he said.
Democratic state Sen. Luz Robles has already announced that she is running against Stewart. She is perhaps best known for pushing for compromise on immigration legislation, and Stewart has an interesting stand on immigration, at least for a conservative Republican.
He favors granting permanent legal status to adults who immigrated illegally, but not allowing them to have a path to full citizenship — meaning they would not be able to do such things as vote. He says that position is the only one that has a political chance of passage in the divided Congress, noting most conservatives oppose a pathway to citizenship and will block it.
"If you have entered the country illegally, have worked here illegally, probably stolen someone’s identity to do that, there should be some price to pay for that. On the other hand, you can’t round up 11 million or 12 million people and ship them out," he said.
He does, however, favor allowing a pathway to citizenship for children brought into the country without papers by their parents. "How do you hold the children accountable for the actions of their parents?" he said.
Stewart also said he is working hard to prepare in case he is also challenged by other Republicans.
"You’ve got to be ready for the other team to rise up. We’ve worked as hard as we can to raise money. We’ve worked as hard as we can in the district," including holding 27 town meetings last year, he said.
The most recent financial disclosure forms filed show he has $97,169 in cash on hand, compared to $43,451 by Robles. The 2nd Congressional District is heavily Republican, with an 18-percentage point tilt toward GOP voters, according to an analysis by the Cook Political Report.
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