Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R)
Utah 3rd District
Part of the heartland of the Mormon Church in America is in a geographically isolated valley between 11,000-foot peaks of the Wasatch Range and the shores of Utah Lake. It is Provo, the home of Brigham Young University, an institution long known for the conservative views of its faculty, the old-fashioned moral standards it encourages and its welcoming of technological innovation. The Mormon commonwealth, after all, started off with a huge shortage of both labor and water, and its inhabitants were eager to use technology to compensate and prosper in this fearsome terrain. Provo produced Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television, and Harvey Fletcher, inventor of the hearing aid. It has become one of America’s high-tech centers, the home of Novell and hundreds of other computer-related firms. Overseas missionary work has bequeathed the area with unusual resources in foreign languages.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of Utah includes all or part of seven counties in central and western Utah. Many of them are remote. During World War II, Japanese-Americans were interned near Topaz in Millard County. The vast majority of its people live in Utah or Salt Lake counties. The 3rd includes the west side of Salt Lake City and the suburbs south of the city, including West Valley City (the state’s second-largest city, home to many recent Mormon converts from Polynesia), West Jordan, South Jordan and Riverton. Kennecott, the old mining conglomerate that owns 90,000 acres in Salt Lake and Tooele counties, unloaded some of its landholdings to real estate developers, who have built many subdivisions and the unique Sunrise, a “walkable” community of 30,000 in South Jordan. The district includes almost all of Utah County, with Provo and the string of counties between high-jutting mountains and Utah Lake. Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs were created in the early 1990s and have grown rapidly. From 2000 to 2008, the youthful Provo was the third fastest-growing metro area in the nation. Politically, Utah County is heavily Republican; a 2005 study by the nonpartisan Bay Area Center for Voting Research rated Provo as the most conservative city in the United States. Republican President George W. Bush carried the district with 77% in 2004. Republican presidential nominee John McCain won the district with 67% of the vote in 2008.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: March 26, 1967, Los Gatos, CA .
Education: Brigham Young U., B.A. 1989.
Family: Married (Julie); 3 children.
Professional Career: Spokesman & public relations, Nu Skin International; Chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman, 2005-08.
The new congressman from the 3rd District is Jason Chaffetz, a Republican elected in 2008. Born in Los Gatos, Calif., Chaffetz grew up in Arizona and attended his senior year of high school in Colorado. His family’s politics were Democratic, and they boasted one notable tie to the party: His father’s first wife, Katharine Dickson, would later enter the national consciousness as “Kitty” while she stumped for votes with her second husband, 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. During college, Chaffetz was named an honorary co-chairman of the Dukakis campaign in Utah in 1988. Growing up, Chaffetz had a passion for soccer, but he switched to football when his high school discovered that he made a decent placekicker. He won an athletics scholarship to Brigham Young University, where he converted to Mormonism and began what he views in hindsight as a natural gravitation toward the political right. The lure of the GOP intensified when Chaffetz learned that Jon Huntsman, a prominent Republican businessman from Utah, had given millions of his fortune to cancer research; Chaffetz’s mother died of cancer in 1995.
|Jason Chaffetz (R)||187,035||(66%)||($409,628)|
|Bennion Spencer (D)||80,626||(28%)||($41,601)|
|Jim Noorlander (CNP)||17,408||(6%)||($6,160)|
|Jason Chaffetz (R)||28,618||(60%)|
|Chris Cannon (R)||19,255||(40%)|
After college, Chaffetz worked in public relations, first as an executive for NuSkin Enterprises, a company selling skin care products, and then at a firm he started with his brother. In 2003, Chaffetz took a brief hiatus from work to volunteer for Republican Jon Huntsman Jr.’s gubernatorial campaign. When his campaign manager abruptly resigned, Huntsman asked Chaffetz, who had barely any political experience, to replace him. After the election, Chaffetz served for one year as the new governor’s chief of staff.
Although his residence in Alpine sits just outside the 3rd District, Chaffetz sensed an opportunity in early 2007 as perennial discontent with incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Cannon simmered within the Republican ranks. (The Constitution requires only that House members live in the state they represent, not the district.) Chaffetz entered the race in October, at a steep disadvantage in both cash and name recognition. Chaffetz criticized Cannon’s support of President Bush’s proposal for a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, both deeply unpopular in this conservative district. He called for immediate deportation of all illegal immigrants and the construction of tent cities, ringed by barbed-wire fences, to detain those who had committed crimes while in the United States. Chaffetz also attacked the six-term incumbent’s record, faulting Cannon for earmarking funds for special projects in the district and casting him as symptomatic of why Republicans lost their House majority in 2006. His staunchly conservative platform played well at the state Republican convention in May, where he came 10 votes short of the 60% needed to win the GOP nomination outright.
Bush and most of the state’s Republican establishment endorsed Cannon, although Huntsman stayed neutral. Cannon attacked Chaffetz as an opportunist and raised more than $840,000 for the race. Chaffetz, by contrast, spent less than $200,000. In the low-turnout June contest, he stacked up big margins in the district’s population centers in Salt Lake and Utah counties to win by a whopping 20 percentage points. Although Chaffetz came under fire nationally from some Japanese American interest groups for his advocacy of tent cities, the outcome of the general election in this crimson segment of Utah was never truly in doubt after the primary. Chaffetz won with 66%.
Chaffetz has no plans to relocate into the district he will represent, noting that Utah is on track to pick up another House seat after the 2010 census, and preliminary redistricting plans drawn up by the state Legislature would move Alpine into the 3rd District. But in early 2009, Chaffetz called a bill to give Utah a new fourth House seat unconstitutional on the grounds that it contained a provision to give the District of Columbia a voting House member.
In his first term, Chaffetz said that he would not seek or accept spending earmarks for his district, saying the practice encourages lawmakers to cut backroom deals to benefit their biggest political supporters.