This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Two years ago, Utah's 3rd District congressman, Republican Jason Chaffetz, faced only token opposition in his quest for a fourth term and offered much promise as a skilled politician on the verge of taking the helm of the high-profile House Oversight Committee.
That was enough to not only earn him an overwhelming re-election in his heavily Republican district, but also the somewhat grudging endorsement of The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board in a year when it was favoring Democratic challengers in other congressional races.
Some of the hope we held out for Chaffetz to apply his considerable political skills in the service of the greater good was realized. He has somewhat moderated the atmosphere of the Oversight Committee, reaching out on occasion to the panel's Democrats and using the high-profile platform to go after such bipartisan targets as companies that have raised the price of lifesaving drugs to astronomical levels just because they could.
He also has a list of sound legislative proposals, including plans to preserve Social Security, a bill to resolve the vexing matter of how state and local governments can collect sales tax on online sales and a package of ideas that could add up to a reasonable compromise on the controversy over immigration, legal and otherwise.
On balance, though, Chaffetz has once again proven to be a huge disappointment, squandering his impressive political skills on partisan hit jobs.
Most of his energy at Oversight was poured into made-for-Fox-News confrontations. One of them, his error-filled numbers about what Planned Parenthood does, earned him widespread ridicule and a nomination for PolitiFact's non-coveted Lie of the Year award. (He lost. To Donald Trump.)
And Chaffetz's brazen partisanship has proven fatal to any hopes he and the rest of us might have had of actually passing any of his good ideas into law.
This year, our nod goes to a political newcomer named Stephen Tryon. Though the Democrat has not held elective office before, he served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years, then went on to help build the online behemoth that is Overstock.com.
Tryon, with degrees from West Point and Stanford, would be an improvement over Chaffetz for many reasons. He favors a pathway to citizenship as part of a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law.
His approach to fixing Social Security would recognize, as Chaffetz and other Republicans do not, that raising the retirement age would mean many people who have worked hard all their lives would not live to collect their benefits, and that taxing higher-earning incomes will solve most of the problem. He would stop trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and work to improve it, building on its successes and shifting the focus from the quantity of medical procedures to their quality.
And, as an accomplished military officer, Tryon would have the knowledge and the credibility to target waste and abuse at the Pentagon, something that Chaffetz's investigations seldom seem to find.
Jason Chaffetz has had his chance. And he has made a splash. But his ideas never seem to become law or do the people of Utah, or the United States, much good.
It's time to give someone like Stephen Tryon a try.