The old joke is the most dangerous place in the world is between Rep. Jason Chaffetz and a television camera. That could be truer than you could imagine.
While many say Chaffetz is getting ready to run for governor in 2020, some well-placed Republicans in Utah are speculating Chaffetz could be readying a move to a broadcasting career with Fox News Channel.
The timing is certainly curious. Chaffetz announced his decision not to run for another term in 2018 on Wednesday morning. Just a few hours later Fox News Channel and star host Bill O'Reilly parted ways following a string of sexual harassment allegations.
On some level, the speculation makes sense. Fox News Channel now has a hole in their programming lineup, and Chaffetz has long been a darling of the Fox News set, especially given his focus on the Benghazi scandal. Chaffetz may be looking for a friendlier environment. Our most recent poll showed his favorability ratings had dipped significantly after his November re-election.
It wouldn't be unprecedented. Florida Republican Joe Scarborough resigned from office four months into his fourth term for personal reasons, then launched a successful TV career on MSNBC.
If Chaffetz were to move to TV land, his resignation could cause chaos across the Utah political landscape. Right now, if there's a congressional vacancy, state law only says that the governor "shall issue a proclamation calling an election to fill the vacancy." There's no provision for the timing of that election, or how it should be handled. Lawmakers attempted to address that problem during the 2017 session when the possibility that Rep. Chris Stewart might be named President Donald Trump's Secretary of the Air Force. That appointment never materialized, and the legislation went nowhere.
Here's how that could be a problem. If Chaffetz were to step down before the 2018 election, potentially you could have a landslide of Republicans who want to replace him. There would not be a primary election, so it's entirely possible Chaffetz's replacement could win with less than 50% of the vote. Democrats would also be allowed to compete for the empty seat.