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Rep. Jason Chaffetz's announcement Wednesday that he wouldn't seek re-election set off a mad scramble among potential candidates in Utah to fill an unexpectedly open seat in 2018.
An array of Republicans emerged to say they're looking at the 3rd Congressional District seat while others demurred at least for now about running in the heavily GOP district.
There was no shortage of speculation on who may enter the race.
"All the state lawmakers that live in the district, half the county commissioners and council members, some businesspeople and one gadfly in the name of Evan McMullin," joked longtime GOP consultant Dave Hansen. McMullin, who ran a long-shot, independent White House bid to deny Donald Trump the presidency, has been talked about as a candidate. He did not respond to a request for comment.
State Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, said he's looking at "the opportunity" of launching a bid."Chaffetz [is] stepping back and his timing is ideal," McCay said, noting that it allows ample time for a "full field" of candidates to file. "It's the way I think it ought to be done."
He called the move "one of the most laudable things I've seen a politician do in a long time."
McCay could potentially face competition from a Utah Capitol Hill colleague: Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, said she is also "seriously considering a run."
Provo Mayor John Curtis, whose name has surfaced as a possibility for the seat, was hesitant to say whether he'd join the race and instead noted that he'll "analyze the opportunity." He said Chaffetz exiting the post "definitely gives me pause."
"The earth shifted just a little bit when he made that announcement," Curtis said, "at least for me."
For now, he plans to focus on finishing his eighth year as mayor and will not seek re-election.
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, another possible contender, did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox thanked Chaffetz on Twitter, noting "I know the toll politics can take on families. I admire your decision to serve and step aside."
He said that despite "the encouragement of many," he will not be running for Chaffetz's seat as he does not live in the 3rd Congressional District, a Republican stronghold that stretches from Salt Lake County and through Provo to San Juan County.
Cox, a resident of the part of Sanpete County that falls in the 4th Congressional District, also declined to commit to a gubernatorial run a bid Chaffetz hasn't ruled out either.
"It is far too early to be speculating about a 2020 governor race," Cox added. "However, when the time is right, my family and I will decide together."
Chaffetz's decision didn't change things for candidates who have already declared they were running for the seat.
Democrat Kathryn Allen, a first-time candidate, was flooded with donations 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 said Wednesday that "nothing has changed" for her run with Chaffetz dropping out.
Her goal remains, she said, to "restore integrity" to the office.
When asked whether she thought Chaffetz leaving the race might help her bid, Allen answered: "I don't know yet."
"I think so," she added with a laugh. "I haven't had much time to absorb it."
Damian Kidd, an attorney from American Fork who planned to challenge the congressman for the Republican nod, has criticized Chaffetz for putting his own interests above constituents, but applauded him Wednesday "for his decision to not be a career politician."