As Chaffetz steps away from his post June 30, what's at stake in the truncated special election is not just the remainder of the congressman's term, but the chance to run in the 2018 election with the advantage as the incumbent. In the clawing for the seat, that's "very appealing," Perry said.
To win in such a congested field, Perry noted, candidates will need to start taking positions on health care, tax reform and investigations into President Donald Trump's administration. They'll need to raise funds. And for those opting to collect the 7,000 signatures to get on the ballot, "they're going to be spending a lot of time knocking on doors."
"There's no real boot camp for these candidates," Perry said. "They will be put in the trenches immediately."
Right now, he said, Provo Mayor John Curtis and state Sen. Deidre Henderson stand out as strong candidates with name recognition and platforms that could bring a win. Democrat Kathie Allen could also be a contender, he acknowledged.
Utah Elections Director Mark Thomas has seen elections in the past with 12, 15 and 17 candidates. So is 21 bidders unusual? "Certainly," he said. And more would-be representatives can file as unaffiliated candidates until June 12 and as write-in candidates until September.
Here are brief biographies, listed by party and in alphabetical order, of the candidates seeking office. The asterisk indicates those intending to gather signatures.
Tanner Ainge* • The 33-year-old Alpine resident is an investment adviser and a son of Danny Ainge, the general manager of the NBA's Boston Celtics; his political experience is limited to a one-year stint volunteering in the campaign finance arm of Mitt Romney's 2008 president bid. He's running on a platform of "fiscal responsibility and principled conservatism."
Debbie Aldrich • With her podcast "Freedom Voice Radio," Aldrich aims to talk about her conservative message and empower women to run for office; she looks to do the same with her bid for Chaffetz's seat. The Murray resident wants to "see our country on Trump's agenda be more secure" on its borders and immigration policies.
Brigham Cottam* • Billing himself as an "extreme moderate," Cottam looks to bring the Republican party toward the center of the political spectrum with health care improvements and limited government. He works as a freelance executive producer for the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic.
Provo Mayor John Curtis* • An early favorite among Republicans, Curtis plans to campaign while finishing his eighth year as mayor of the state's third largest city. During that tenure, he's worked to improve Provo's economic development and downtown vibrancy, and launched clean air and recreation initiatives.
State Rep. Brad Daw • The software-engineer-turned-lawmaker is eager to run on a platform that includes more individual choice in health care and more state control in Utah's public lands. He was the first Republican to file in the special election.
State Sen. Margaret Dayton • The Orem homemaker plots a "conservative first" platform, pushing for "family values" and a full repeal of Obamacare. She served in the Utah House for 10 years and started in the Senate in 2007.
Paul Fife • Having studied economics at Brigham Young University, Fife says the incentives laid out by government policies often have opposite and unintended effects, such as creating student loan debt. The 29-year-old Provo resident and defense contractor hopes to refine federal programs for education, immigration and taxes.
Jeremy Friedbaum • As a concert piano technician who considers himself Jewish and Mormon, Friedbaum brings an unusual perspective to the race. He proposes health care reform in which doctors would set prices for procedures that would apply to all patients, regardless of insurance coverage.
State Sen. Deidre Henderson • Among the favored Republicans to join the race, Henderson previously worked for Chaffetz when he was first elected in 2008; she's also a friend of Rep. Mia Love. Henderson, a five-year Senate veteran and small-business owner, supports economic opportunity and mobility, tax reform and returning power to the states.
Former state Rep. Chris Herrod • Now a real estate agent in Provo, Herrod served for five years in Utah's House of Representatives, where he made his mark as an outspoken critic of illegal immigration. He launched and lost subsequent attempts to unseat U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and, later, state Sen. Curt Bramble.
Damian Kidd • The American Fork lawyer launched his bid in January with the intention of running in 2018 against Chaffetz, whom he's called "a D.C. insider [and] a career politician." Kidd joins the special election without having run for office, though he interned in Washington, D.C., for then-Rep. (and now Sen.) Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
Keith Kuder • The 33-year-old Vineyard resident looks to "make Congress great again" by rebuilding trust in the federal government and committing to a balanced budget. He works as an emergency roadside assistant and a political consultant.
Mike Leavitt • The Orem resident could not be reached for comment Friday. His phone number, the only contact information listed on his application, was disconnected. He is not the former governor of Utah by the same name.
Stewart Peay • During his 13 years with the Utah National Guard, Peay served as a captain and was deployed to Iraq. He now works as an attorney at Snell and Wilmer, a commercial law firm in Salt Lake City.
Shayne Row* • Having grown up deaf, Row launched his campaign on a platform of providing video phones, equipment and technology for people who are blind or hard of hearing. "This is a good challenge for me," the Salt Lake City resident said through an American Sign Language translator.
Kathie Allen • The first-time candidate has raised a surprising haul of donations for her bid: more than $550,000 in four months. Word of the 63-year-old physician's campaign spread nationally in March after Chaffetz appeared on national television and remarked that, "rather than get that new iPhone," low-income Americans may have to prioritize spending on health care. She condemns the GOP overhaul of Obamacare and looks to "restore faith in Congress."
Ben Frank* • Because of multiple sclerosis, Frank walks with a cane and his progressive platform stems largely from that experience; he advocates for single-payer health care, a system in which the government covers medical bills but the private sector is responsible for care. Frank has worked at the University of Utah's Neuropsychiatric Institute and volunteered at the Utah State Prison with a focus on mental health and disabilities.
Carl Ingwell* • As an activist, Ingwell has focused much of his organizing and lobbying on climate issues, including clean air and cleaner fuels. He's also the co-founder of Utah Birders, the state's largest online birding community.
Joe Buchman • As a Libertarian, Buchman is running on three "L" issues: life, liberty and legalization of medical marijuana (and anything else "efficacious," he added). The 59-year-old Alpine resident is a retired professor of marketing and media; Buchman previously lived in Park City and lost a bid for Rep. Rob Bishop's seat in 2008.
Jason Christensen • The 36-year-old independent candidate from Provo is not planning to campaign. He says he "just wanted my name there as an option against the R's and the D's."
Aaron Heineman • Declining to comment further, Heineman said only that his bid is "a friendly challenge to offer the people the diverse choice rather than unilateral."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect one candidate dropping out of the race.