One year after retiring from Congress, former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz says he’s a “definite maybe” on running for governor in 2020.
And a new poll, commissioned by The Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics, suggests Chaffetz could be an early frontrunner if that “maybe” switches to a “yes.”
“I’m truly humbled by the trust people continue to put in me,” Chaffetz, a Fox News contributor, said of the poll results. “We’ll wake up a year and a half from now and see where we’re at.”
Out of 510 Republican and unaffiliated voters, 25 percent indicated they would mostly likely support Chaffetz out of a list of five presumed and potential 2020 Republican candidates.
Chaffetz was followed by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (with 16 percent), Attorney General Sean Reyes and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah (both with 9 percent), and Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper (3 percent). All of these men have been rumored to consider a run. The poll focused on Republican candidates, as the state skews conservative and no high-profile Democrat has yet hinted at a run.
“Those are all good names on the list and inevitably there’s somebody that hasn’t let their name surface,” Chaffetz said. “There are a number of people who could do this.”
An additional 37 percent of poll participants indicated either “don’t know” or “other” when asked about the candidate list.
The poll was conducted by the Hinckley Institute between June 11 and June 18. This question has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
Cox said “it seems crazy” to talk about 2020 in the middle of the 2018 election cycle.
“The governor and I are focused on serving as we were elected to do,” he said. “But it’s safe to say that a farmer from Sanpete County would enter any statewide race as an underdog.”
Gov. Gary Herbert has stated that he will not seek re-election in 2020, when his current term ends.
Hughes is in his final year as a member of the Utah House. And Bishop, a member of the U.S. House since 2003, has said that November’s election will be his last for that office.
Kyle Palmer, Bishop’s campaign manager, said the only election on Bishop’s mind is his current congressional race.
“He hopes to represent the 1st District of Utah and is also working to help re-elect conservatives across the country so Republicans can maintain control of the House,” Palmer said.
Alan Crooks, a campaign advisor for Reyes, said “we don’t give a flip about a Salt Lake Tribune poll.”
Hinckley Institute Director Jason Perry said the poll suggests more about name recognition than potential campaign success. Between now and 2020, he said, candidates should watch for how their numbers increase or decrease on this type of polling.
“At this point in the cycle, those are really numbers that reflect whether their names are known in the community,” Perry said. “That can be instructive in lots of ways.”
Chaffetz was preferred by both men and women, and across all age groups sampled by the poll. But unaffiliated voters preferred Cox — 17 percent to 14 percent — while 30 percent of Republican voters supported Chaffetz compared with 16 percent for the lieutenant governor.
Hughes did not respond to a request for a comment.
The results are similar to those of an October 2017 poll, conducted for The Tribune by Dan Jones and Associates. At the time, Chaffetz was supported by 24 percent of participants out of a list of seven candidates that included Democrat Ben McAdams, who is currently running for Utah’s 4th Congressional District against Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah.
The earlier poll also included responses from registered Democrats, compared with the focus on Republican and unaffiliated sample in the latest results.
Clarification: This article has been updated to include a quote from a campaign advisor to Attorney General Sean Reyes.