Jason Chaffetz says he will not run for Utah governor next year

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, with his wife, Julie, at his side, speaks at the Utah Republican Convention, Saturday, May 19, 2017.

Jason Chaffetz will not run for Utah governor in 2020, the former Republican congressman confirmed Monday.

Chaffetz said he was strongly considering a run but made a decision based in part on his work for Fox News and his books, including a release last year about the so-called “deep state” and an upcoming follow-up.

“I am not going to be a candidate for governor in the 2020 Utah race,” Chaffetz said. “I think at some point I may have another run or two in me, but it won’t be for governor in Utah [next year].”

Polling by The Salt Lake Tribune had consistently shown Chaffetz in prime position for a run, finishing either first or second in a list of likely and rumored Republican candidates. In the most recent poll, conducted in January, Chaffetz narrowly trailed Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who formally announced his candidacy last month.

But those polls also showed that while Cox was the preferred candidate among more moderate Republicans, Chaffetz carried the self-described “very conservative” voters whose support could prove decisive in a primary election.

Austin Cox, spokesman for the Cox campaign said: “We wish Congressmen Chaffetz and his wife Julie nothing but the best. And we will continue our traveling across all 248 cities and towns, competing for every vote and working hard to gain the support of Utahns.”

Chaffetz said Monday he was not yet prepared to endorse a candidate for governor. In addition to Cox, several Republicans are rumored to be considering a run for governor, including former governor and now-Ambassador Jon Huntsman; former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes; Attorney General Sean Reyes; Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton; Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah; Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute Director Natalie Gochnour; and former Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller.

“I’m sure there will be a number of people running,” Chaffetz said, “and I hope we make the right choice.”

Chaffetz was first elected to the U.S. House in 2008 and chaired the powerful Committee on Oversight and Government Reform between 2015 and 2017, when he resigned from Congress seven months after winning reelection to Utah’s 3rd Congressional District.

After leaving Congress, he became a contributor for Fox News, regularly offering commentary on the outlet’s programming.

“Fox [News] has afforded me a voice on the national stage,” Chaffetz said. “I enjoy the fight, but my life is in a better balance now.”

Editor’s note: Ambassador Jon Huntsman is the brother of Tribune owner and publisher Paul Huntsman.