Chaffetz: Second leadership bid possible

Greg Nash

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzHouse Republicans press case for impeaching IRS commissioner GOP chairman: Time to remove IRS chief IRS head: Impeachment resolution 'without merit' MORE (R-Utah), who launched a long-shot bid for Speaker last fall, told The Hill Monday he could make another run for leadership down the road.

“My focus is on the House. I'm invested in the House, and that's where my attention is,” Chaffetz said in a brief phone interview. “Would I maybe run for leadership positions in the future? Maybe.”

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A run for the Utah governor’s mansion in 2020 may be a more likely scenario.

Chaffetz told the Deseret News over the weekend that he’s not really interested in fellow Utah Republican Orrin HatchOrrin HatchSenate GOP gears up for fight over Guantanamo transfers House Republicans press case for impeaching IRS commissioner GOP seeks to remove funding to design Gitmo alternative MORE’s Senate seat but is eyeing a possible bid for governor.

In 2020, Chaffetz will have to relinquish his Oversight gavel due to term limits, leaving him searching for another political opportunity.

“I'm not going to be here forever. I would take a serious, serious look at running for governor,” Chaffetz, who previously served as chief of staff to then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R-Utah), told the local newspaper. “I want to go as hard and fast as I can in the House and then go home.”

Chaffetz, 48, considered challenging then-Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) in 2010 and Hatch in 2012, but he never pulled the trigger. Now, he says he has little interest in crossing the Capitol and becoming a Senate backbencher with little influence.

“The more I'm here, the more I'm convinced I don't want to be in the United States Senate,” Chaffetz told the Deseret News. “I've already invested years in the House and it's essentially the same job, just more people over here and more competition.”

One of the most ambitious politicians in Washington, Chaffetz, a former kicker for the Brigham Young University football team, has had a rapid ascent. In late 2014, he leapfrogged several more senior colleagues to win the Oversight and Government Reform Committee gavel after serving just three terms in the House.

Less than a year later, former Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse GOP changes rules to thwart Dems Ryan secures big win with bipartisan Puerto Rico deal John Feehery: GOP: Listen to Reince MORE (R-Utah) suddenly announced he was resigning in the middle of his term. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Boehner’s top deputy, was largely seen as the heir apparent. But when McCarthy made a major gaffe on TV, Chaffetz sensed an opportunity. He took to cable TV, repeating the line that Republicans needed a “Speaker who speaks” and can articulate the party’s message.

Then, Chaffetz announced he was challenging his one-time ally McCarthy for the Speaker’s gavel. On the day of the internal GOP vote, McCarthy stunned his colleagues by dropping out, throwing the race into chaos.

It wasn’t until popular Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanReid defends embattled VA secretary House panel advances transpo bill with trucking riders House GOP changes rules to thwart Dems MORE (R-Wis.) agreed to run for Speaker that Chaffetz threw in the towel. In late October, all but nine Republicans voted to elect Ryan the next Speaker.

Chaffetz’s tactics, however, infuriated McCarthy loyalists. They dismissed the chairman’s quixotic bid as a publicity stunt designed to raise his profile ahead of a possible gubernatorial run.

“I think Jason Chaffetz saw a press opportunity, a press opening, and jumped on it. He has certainly never been one to shy away from the press,” one source close to McCarthy said at the time.

The next House GOP leadership election will take place behind closed doors just days after the November general election. It’s unclear exactly how those races will shake out. Ryan likely would win another term as Speaker but recently said there are no guarantees he’ll run again.