This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
He may be the most gifted Utah politician of his generation. He made a splash four years ago when set up a cot in his office, and he's still doing it this year with dual-district tours with Rep. Elijah Cummings, a liberal black congressman from Baltimore.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz is also an honest reflection of his district, which is dominated by Utah County and among the most conservative in the nation. That has helped make the former BYU placekicker a rising star among House Republicans, and with that comes more responsibility and power. While there are important areas where we disagree, Rep. Chaffetz gets The Salt Lake Tribune's endorsement to continue growing his and Utah's influence while representing the Third Congressional District.
To be clear, Chaffetz is a long way from that D.C. outsider on the cot. He's now insider through and through. When asked what his top priority is for the next two years, he immediately goes to his hopes for chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which handles high-profile, often politically charged investigations. That may boost his career and give Utah more visibility, but it's not at the front lines of helping the state get what it needs from Washington.
Chaffetz faces only a nominal challenge from the Democrats. Brian Wonnacott, a semi-retired software engineer, is smart and sincere, but even he is not sure if he's ready for Congress. He entered the race in the last week before the filing deadline, and he's been turning down donations because he believes the donors have better things to do with their money. He readily acknowledges he doesn't know much about specific legislation.
Still, there are a few things Wonnacott could teach the congressman. Namely, he wants to talk about repairing the Affordable Care Act instead of repealing it, which Rep. Chaffetz says he would do for the 41st time if given the chance, even though it's based on a Republican plan and now has the support of most of the nation. And Wonnacott can look beyond the limited scientific wisdom of the energy industry to accept that burning fossil fuels contributes to warming the Earth, which Chaffetz continues to deny.
If indeed Chaffetz wins the election and gets his coveted chairmanship, he pledges a more civil tone than it has under the divisive Rep. Darrell Issa's leadership. That would be a prime opportunity for Chaffetz to put his ample political skills to work in real governance for the nation, not publicity plays. He deserves the chance to show that Utah can produce a true statesman.