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Jason Chaffetz has spent months trying to round up potential voters for his challenge to Rep. Chris Cannon. But in an unusual twist, Chaffetz won't be able to vote for himself.

That's because the Republican candidate doesn't live in the congressional district he hopes to represent, a perfectly legal but politically problematic position for him.

Chaffetz says his heart, if not his home, is in the 3rd District where he has spent most of his life, and he doesn't expect it to be a liability as he campaigns for the House seat.

"I'm not a political opportunist. I've lived there for 20-plus years. It's hardly carpetbagging," said Chaffetz, who lives in Alpine, about two miles from the 3rd District's northern boundary.

David Leavitt, who is also challenging Cannon for the Republican nomination in the 3rd District, said he's not raising the issue, but he has been asked about it by delegates and "when people find out, it's a real turn-off."

"Really, the question is, does this signal a guy who wants to be in Congress for proper reasons or is this a guy who is an opportunist?" said Leavitt.

"If you're wanting to return Congress to traditional conservative values, he has an opportunity in the 2nd District to run against someone [Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson] who's a little more liberal than Chris Cannon," he said.

Cannon's spokesman, Joe Hunter, said Chaffetz's residency has come up in delegate meetings, but he declined to discuss the issue.

The Constitution sets the criteria for House members and only says that a member has to reside in the state, not district, he or she represents. Attempts by states to impose such a requirement have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Utah, former Rep. Merrill Cook ran against Cannon in 2006, even though he lived in the 2nd District. He lost.

Convincing voters to cast their ballots for someone from another House district can prove challenging.

Dave Lifferth, an uncommitted Republican delegate from Eagle Mountain, whose son plays soccer with Chaffetz's, said he was surprised to find out that Chaffetz doesn't live in the district.

"I think that would discourage me from supporting him," he said. "It just doesn't seem quite right. I think he's a nice guy. I like him. . . . But if he really wants to run for Congress, I think he should run in his own district. I would love for him to knock off Jim Matheson."

Kip Mecham, a Republican delegate from Orem, said Chaffetz raised the issue at a recent cottage meeting. He said the question is whether someone who lives in the district represents it better, which is essential to a representative democracy.

"I would have to say at the end of the day I think it's a strike against somebody to not reside in the district that you represent," said Mecham, who has not decided who he will support.

Chaffetz lived in the 3rd District for more than 20 years and graduated from Brigham Young University. Now he lives in Alpine, which was part of the 3rd District, along with Highland, American Fork and Lehi, until, he said, they were "gerrymandered" into the 2nd District.

He said a four-district map adopted by the Legislature would move Alpine, American Fork, Highland and Lehi back into the 3rd District. But that map was approved as part of an effort that Chaffetz opposed to give Washington, D.C., a vote in the House and offset that with a fourth seat for Utah.

As it stands, it is unlikely that Utah will get that seat and see any change to its congressional boundaries until the 2012 election.

"I do think delegates and voters, when they focus on it, are troubled when someone is not in their district, but I think that's a secondary, at best, concern for Chaffetz because he's running against an incumbent and against a well-funded challenger with a real strong Utah name," said Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

For now, Chaffetz says he'll keep campaigning and hopes to address the issues, not make his address the issue.

"It's politically convenient for Cannon and Leavitt to distract from the issues," he said. "They seem to want to challenge me on where I lay my head at night."

* THE CONSTITUTION sets the criteria for House members and says that a member has to reside in the state, not necessarily the district he or she represents.

* JASON CHAFFETZ, a Republican, is challenging Rep. Chris Cannon for the 3rd District House seat. Chaffetz, however, lives in the 2nd District.