SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, is planning to leave Congress by the end of this year due to his wife’s illness, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The six-term Utah Republican will announce on Wednesday that he will likely leave office by the end of the year, leaving an open Republican seat on the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees. The person familiar with the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly prior to the planned announcement.
Under Utah law, Gov. Spencer Cox is tasked with calling a special election to fill a vacancy in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses much of western Utah, spanning from the Salt Lake City metro to St. George.
His departure is not expected to affect House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ability to steer a tight Republican majority. The district is reliably Republican and Stewart defeated a Democratic challenger by more than 30 percentage points in 2022.
Stewart, a U.S. Air Force veteran and author, was first elected in 2012 and collaborated with Utah’s Elizabeth Smart on a memoir about her kidnapping. The 62-year-old Stewart was raised as a potential nominee for U.S. director of national intelligence during former President Donald Trump’s administration. Little is known about Stewart’s wife’s health.
Last year, in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, Stewart demurred when asked about his future political plans, specifically whether he would challenge U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney or Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, both moderates.
His resignation would immediately upend Utah’s political landscape ahead of next year’s election, creating a rare federal opening for ambitious Republicans.
The Salt Lake Tribune first announced Stewart’s plans to resign. His resignation would mark the second time a Utah congressman has left office early in the past six years. Former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz resigned from office in 2017, stepping away from his role as chairman of the House Oversight Committee and prompting a special election.