Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart said he will likely step down in September, setting off a special election process that could leave Republicans, who hold a narrow majority in the House, down a vote for months.
“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,” Stewart told CQ Roll Call Wednesday following a floor vote. “But it’ll be in September.”
The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday first reported Stewart’s plans to resign, citing his wife’s health as the reason. The staunch conservative and ally of former President Donald Trump officially announced his plans on Wednesday, but did not specify when he’d leave office, saying only it would occur “after an orderly transition can be ensured.”
Stewart had been weighing a potential challenge to Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, in 2024, according to the Tribune. He’s a former Air Force pilot and sits on the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees, as well as the Judiciary Committee’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
“Rep. Chris Stewart is an exceptional American, effective conservative voice and good friend,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted this week. “We’re grateful for his considerable leadership and his unwavering commitment to representing our state. We honor his service and wish him and his family all the best.”
It remained unclear Thursday when Stewart’s seat could be filled, though it could take months according to Utah special election law.
Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said Tuesday on Twitter that the state’s special election statute requires the governor to issue a proclamation identifying the special primary and general election dates within seven days of a vacancy or letter of resignation.
Without additional legislative approval, primary and general special election dates can only be held in conjunction with a municipal general election, a presidential primary election, a regular primary election or a regular general election. Any primary must be held at least 90 days after the governor’s proclamation and any general election must be held at least 90 days after that primary, according to Henderson.
Utah has a general municipal election scheduled for Nov. 7 and a presidential primary scheduled for March 5, 2024.
“If Congressman Stewart doesn’t submit a formal letter of resignation until September … without legislative action, the 90-day period would preclude November,” said Jackson Murphy, communications specialist for Henderson. The governor can set the dates for a special election outside of existing election dates if the legislature approves and appropriates the needed funds, Murphy confirmed.
Utah’s 2nd District, which Stewart has represented since 2013, is a Republican stronghold and backed Trump by more than 17 percentage points in 2020.
Daniela Altimari contributed to this report.