Even though he’s planning to leave Congress, Rep. Chris Stewart says he may not head to the exits until September.
On Tuesday, The Salt Lake Tribune first reported Stewart’s plan to resign from Congress. The following day, Stewart confirmed his plan to give up the seat he’s held since 2013 on Wednesday.
The six-term Republican told Roll Call on Wednesday that he was delaying his departure due to impending votes in Congress.
“We’re trying to work out the best date for the state, and also, we want to help with appropriations bills and get some work finished here. But it’ll be in September,” Stewart told Roll Call.
Stewart’s decision to remain in Congress until this fall makes some sense, given the already slim GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, Congress does not meet for the entire month of August, meaning no votes or committee hearings that would require Stewart’s attention for the 31 days before his departure.
Stewart’s office did not answer questions about why he was hanging on to his seat through the August recess.
The timeline for picking Stewart’s replacement remains in the air, but the seat will likely remain vacant for several months after he leaves Congress, possibly until next year.
The special congressional election process officially begins when Stewart submits his resignation letter. Once that happens, Gov. Spencer Cox has seven days to issue a proclamation setting the primary and special elections dates. A primary election must be held at least 90 days after the governor’s order, with the special election 90 days after that.
Utah law says without action by the Legislature, a special congressional election can only be held in conjunction with four election dates: the municipal general election, the presidential primary, a regular primary election or a regular general election. This year’s municipal general election is scheduled for Nov. 7. Utah’s Democrats have scheduled a presidential primary election for Mar. 5, 2024.
Even if the Legislature votes to appropriate funds to hold the vote earlier, the 90-day requirements mean the primary could take place no earlier than September, with the special election in December.
Stewart’s impending departure could unleash a flood of candidates seeking to replace him. As of Thursday afternoon, there were 18 Republicans and three Democrats said to be mulling a bid to fill the upcoming vacancy.