WASHINGTON – Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican who doggedly investigated Hillary Clinton before the 2016 presidential election but declined to investigate President Donald Trump, announced Wednesday that he won't run for re-election.
Chaffetz, who has been rumored as a possible candidate for Senate or governor, said that after consulting with his family and “prayerful consideration, I have decided I will not be a candidate for any office in 2018.”
The 50-year-old strolled to four easy re-elections in his Republican-friendly congressional district. But he was facing a surprising challenge from a Democratic newcomer who raised more than a half-million dollars by tapping into anger over Chaffetz's recent comment suggesting people should spend their money on health insurance instead of iPhones.
Political unknown Dr. Kathryn Allen has been transformed into a liberal hero for calling out Chaffetz on Twitter, gaining an early boost in name recognition.
Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also drew fire from Democrats after saying he would not investigate Trump's business empire, given that he had promised before the election that he would investigate Clinton “for years” if she was elected.
“It's a tough decision. I love serving in Congress, but I love my family more,” Chaffetz said in an interview Wednesday with KSL Newsradio in Salt Lake City. Running for Utah governor in 2020 is a possibility, Chaffetz said, but he's not willing to commit one way or another.
“I'm trying to leave the door open for possibilities down the road,” he said.
Chaffetz led a nearly two-year probe into Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, continuing the inquiry even after the 2016 election. And he and other Republicans asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Clinton lied to Congress during her 2015 testimony to House Benghazi panel.
Chaffetz has run into political turbulence. He was met by frequent, deafening boos at a February town hall as constituents grilled him on everything from investigating Trump's tax returns to Planned Parenthood.
In a CNN interview in March, Chaffetz was asked how lower-income Americans would get access to health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed by congressional Republicans.
“Americans have choices,” he responded. “Maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love, and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”
The remarks triggered a firestorm of criticism on social media. Chaffetz later conceded on Fox News that his point about people being self-reliant didn't come out as smoothly as it could have.