Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is holding campaign events outside of his 3rd Congressional District, heightening rumors that he will run for the U.S. Senate next year.
He’s calling the events town hall meetings, but they are not put on by his official U.S. House office, rather they are campaign events, Chaffetz told UtahPolicy on Friday.
All are further indication that Chaffetz will abandon his relatively safe GOP seat to challenge U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, next year.
Chaffetz cancelled a few of the events on Friday, leading to some online speculation that he was getting negative feedback by holding meetings outside of the 3rd district. But he said the cancellations were because of scheduling conflicts. He is now rescheduling those events, he said.
“The campaign is paying for them,” the money not coming from his House staff account, said Chaffetz.
Why call them “townhall meetings,” a term usually used when legislators meet with their constituents?
“You never know what your district will look like, and I’m also looking at the Senate race” – which of course is statewide, he said.
The Utah Legislature will vote in early October on congressional and legislative redistricting maps. But Chaffetz said not knowing where the 3rd District boundaries will be next year won’t play a significant role in his ultimate decision.
UtahPolicy.com posts town hall meetings on its web site for federal/legislative officeholders. And after being notified by Deidre Henderson, campaign manager for Friends of Jason Chaffetz, of those meetings on Aug. 11 at the Weber County Pleasant Valley Library branch and on Sept. 6 at the Tooele City Town Hall, those announcements were listed.
Then Henderson contacted the political web site informing us that those meetings had been cancelled.
But those meetings will now be held, said Chaffetz.
Several angry emails from various readers commented on why Chaffetz was calling meetings outside of his district.
But Chaffetz said these are campaign meetings, not U.S. House official business.
“I talk for about 15 minutes and then I answer questions for a hour or so. We’ve done several of them around the state and we’re doing more.”
Why meet with 2nd Congressional District GOP delegates and citizens – that district is represented by Jim Matheson, D-Utah?
“Some 2nd District residents haven’t had a town meeting in a decade. Maybe they feel left out,” Chaffetz joked.
For some time Matheson has held telephone townhall meetings. Those interested can call in at a certain number, certain time, and Matheson answers their questions.
Chaffetz said he would announce his 2012 plans “sooner rather than later. A number of (potential candidates) are waiting on me. When footballs fly, that would be about right.”
Chaffetz was a place-kicker for BYU football back in the day. If he announces at the start of the college football season that puts his statement only several weeks away.
He said he has a week’s vacation planned soon with his family, and “we’ll firm up some of our thoughts then” about his political future.