Chaffetz replacement: Who are the Utah congressional candidates?

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, will resign from his congressional seat at the end of June — and the district is not lacking people willing to replace him.

Chaffetz had previously proclaimed that he would not run for reelection in 2018, but by the middle of May, the 50-year-old lawmaker announced his decision to cut his time in the House short.

“My life has undergone some big changes over the last 18 months. Those changes have been good,” Chaffetz said in a letter to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announcing his decision. “But as I celebrated my 50th birthday in March, the reality of spending more than 1,500 nights away from my family over eight years hit me harder than it had before.”

“Though the time away and the travel have been a sacrifice, our family has always been united that public service was the right thing to do,” he continued.

With Chaffetz’s resignation nearing, the deadline to file to replace Chaffetz in Utah’s third congressional district fell on May 26 — and 22 people made their bids official.

Fifteen Republicans, four Democrats, two independents and one Libertarian filed. One Republican and one Democrat have since dropped out, winnowing the field to 20 candidates.

Here’s a look at the candidates vying to replace Chaffetz in the Aug. 15 special election primary.

Tanner Ainge, Republican

Tanner Ainge, the son of Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge, is running for Congress in Utah as a Republican.

Ainge, an investment advisor, has worked for the firm HGGC, as an executive in the health care industry and as a lawyer for Kirkland & Ellis LLP, according to his campaign website. He graduated from Brigham Young University, studied Mandarin Chinese at Cornell and received his J.D. from Northwestern University’s school of law, the campaign website states.

But Ainge’s political career is fairly limited, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. He volunteered for former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who also lives in Utah, for one year.

What he lacks in his political resume, he can make up for by name recognition, David Magleby, a political science professor at BYU, told the Tribune.

Ainge, 33, has the advantage of “being the son of a highly recognized and highly regarded local favorite,” he said.

Danny Ainge tweeted on May 18 that he was “encouraging” his son to run for Congress. Less than a week later, the younger Ainge had filed the necessary paperwork and updated his social media accounts to promote his candidacy.

With vacancy created in the house, I’m encouraging my son Tanner to run. He has the integrity, edu, exp, to rep UT in DC. #AingeforCongress?

— Danny Ainge (@danielrainge) May 18, 2017

Ainge’s Twitter account is filled with photos of him meeting with voters in the district, pictures of local restaurants and trivia about Utah’s third district.

Ainge and his wife Heidi have five children.

Debbie Aldrich, Republican

Debbie Aldrich, 60, is no stranger to conservatism. She co-hosts a podcast called “Freedom Voice Radio” that focuses on “politics, policies, empowering women, millennials and your opinion,” according to its website.

Aldrich’s campaign website echoes promises made by President Donald Trump, including a pledge to “put America first.”

Aldrich, a businesswoman and political activist, said she doesn’t plan to be a career politician. Instead, she is “going to get in, fix the problems plaguing both Utah and the United States, and get out,” Aldrich said on her website.

Aldrich’s focus is on ethics reform, empowering women, national security and repealing ObamaCare.

She also said that she has lived in the Middle East and Europe.

Kathie Allen, Democrat

Allen, a Utah physician, already broke fundraising records with her underdog campaign — thanks in part to Chaffetz.

After Chaffetz said during a March television interview that Americans should choose between buying health care or the latest iPhone, Allen’s fundraising website saw a massive spike in donations, Mic reported.

In just one day, Allen raked in more than $40,000, breaking a Crowdpac record for fundraising.

To date, Allen has raised more than $522,000 on her Crowdpac page.

In a piece for the liberal Daily Kos site, Allen wrote that she planned to run for Chaffetz’s seat in order to take on insurance companies and health care corporations “to insure that our patients are treated with dignity and fairness.”

She said she wants to “bring back civil discourse” as a lawmaker as well.

Allen worked as a congressional aide for former Rep. Shirley N. Pettis, R-Calif., for three years. As a physician, she now works for a privately run clinic for Utah’s transit workers and their families, according to her campaign website.

She is an ardent critic of Trump and blames “extensive red-state gerrymandering around the country” for “directly [leading] to the Trump administration,” her campaign website states.

The issues she is focused on includes: climate change, equal pay, education, election financing and LGBT rights.

On Twitter, Allen says she is “a different kind of Democrat.”

“I’m a healer, which this [government] sorely needs,” she said. “I’m a truth teller.”

Joe Buchman, Libertarian

Joe Buchman, 59, is a lifelong libertarian, according to his campaign website. He is the current chair of the Libertarian Party of Utah and has also served as the party’s national platform committee chair.

A retired full-time professor, Buchman has authored multiple textbook chapters. He has also served as a volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America, Sundance Film Festival, Sonoma International Film Festival and Landmark Worldwide, his campaign website states.

“Where the two old parties offer fear, mutual slander and individual self-destruction, Libertarians share our commitment to rigorous financial integrity, peaceful social acceptance and individual personal liberty,” Buchman said on his website. “Now is the time to vote out of love for the principles you know to be true: free agency, self-ownership, non-initiation of aggression and not in reaction to what you fear.”

Buchman unsuccessfully ran for state Senate in 2016.

Buchman and his wife Cindy have four children.

Jason Christensen, Independent American

Jason Christensen is self-employed and works with consumer electronics and audio systems, according to Deseret News.

This isn’t the first time the 37-year-old has campaigned for office; Christensen unsuccessfully ran for Utah state Senate in 2016 and Utah state House in 2014.

Christensen is not planning on actively campaigning for the seat, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Instead, he said he “just wanted [his] name out there as an option against” Republicans and Democrats.

While he was a candidate for state Senate, Christensen had to apologize after he made offensive comments online regarding a teenager’s suicide.

At the time, Christensen commented on a Facebook post about a young gay man who had committed suicide. He said he hoped “God will have mercy on both sins that this boy committed” and listed homosexuality and murder as those sins.

Later in the thread, Christensen argued that suicide is murder.

Brigham Rhead Cottam, Republican

A freelance executive producer for the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic, Brigham Cottam is in the center of the political spectrum, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

In fact, he called himself an “extreme moderate” and wants the Republican Party to advocate more for limited government and improvements with the American health care system.

“I’m running because there is a far right and a far left, and the middle of the country does not get a voice,” he told Deseret News.

John Curtis, Republican

Provo Mayor John Curtis, 57, announced his candidacy for Utah’s third congressional district at the end of May.

“Those of you who know me well know that I spent a long time trying to decide if this was the right thing to do,” Curtis said when he announced his candidacy at an event in Provo. “I had to know in my heart that this was the right thing for me, for my family and for the district. I’m here to tell you that I bring experience, engagement and effectiveness that nobody else can.”

Curtis had previously announced that he would not seek a third term as mayor of Provo and wanted to leave politics altogether.

As mayor, Curtis cut $5.5 million in the city’s budget within his first year. He also brought Google Fiber to Provo and is known to be transparent through the use of social media and his blog, Utah Valley 360 reported.

Should he be elected to take over Chaffetz’s seat, Curtis says he will focus on health care reform, tax reform, balancing the budget and national security, according to his campaign website. He is also an advocate for states’ rights and stronger borders.

Curtis graduated from Brigham Young University with a business management degree; he can also speak Mandarin Chinese.

Curtis and his wife Sue have six children.

Brad Daw, Republican

Adobe software engineer Brad Daw loves the outdoors and has a background in farming — potato farming in Idaho, to be exact.

Daw, 54, has also served five terms in the Utah state House, according to Deseret News.

Daw told KTSU-TV that he did not plan to run for federal office as he did not want to challenge Chaffetz.

“I thought he did a good job,” Daw said. “But with this opening, I thought I’m going to throw my hat in the ring.”

Daw’s campaign website includes fighting against prescription drug use, opposing Medicaid expansion, advocating for health care reform and pushing for clean air policies as some of the key issues he supports.

Margaret Dayton, Republican

Margaret Dayton is the longest serving woman in the Utah Legislature, according to her campaign website. She began her career as a lawmaker in 1996 when she accepted an appointment as a state representative.

Now a state senator, Dayton says that she “has never been forced to a primary or run-off election” in her political career. In the Senate, she is chair of the Natural Resources Committee and co-chair of the Water Development Commission.

If elected, Dayton plans to work to fully replace ObamaCare, eliminate Common Core and support Second Amendment gun rights.

Dayton boasts on her campaign website that she is a “proud Republican” but a “conservative first.”

Dayton grew up in a military family, her campaign website states, and her husband, father and other members of her extended family have served in the Air Force. She is a retired nurse.

Paul David Fife, Republican

Paul David Fife (R) declared candidacy for the 3rd Congressional District. That makes 9 Republicans in the running so far. #utpol

— Vote Utah (@ElectionsUtah) May 25, 2017

Paul Fife, 29, is a defense contractor who is running for the open seat in order to refine education, immigration and taxes, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

“There are a lot of policies the U.S. government has implemented with the intent to help those in need and with the intent to assist those who are often overlooked, but the policies themselves aren’t accomplishing those purposes,” Fife said, according to Deseret News.

Fife studied economics at BYU.

Benjamin Frank, Democrat

Ben Frank is running as a progressive — criticizing fellow Democrat Kathie Allen for being a “well-funded Democratic opponent.”

Frank, 29, volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid and has been a progressive political activist for many years, according to his campaign website.

Frank is also a fierce advocate for people with mental illnesses and disabilities, according to his campaign. His volunteer experience includes serving in the Utah State Prison and the University Neuropsychiatric Institute. He’s also managed group homes and worked as a psych tech at the institute.

“[Frank] decided to run for Congress because he believes that Congress needs to truly represent working people, the disabled, veterans, farmers and consumers,” his website states.

Big cheers from the crowd for Ben Frank, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago and is running for Chaffetz’s seat.

— Tiff Frandsen (@tiffany_mf) May 5, 2017

The issues Frank is focused on include: criminal justice reform, free college tuition and student loan debt forgiveness, strengthening of mental health resources, LGBT rights and climate change.

In a recent interview with the Sun Advocate, Frank speculated that Chaffetz was resigning from office early to avoid being tied too closely to Trump.

“He knows that the Trump legacy, the Trump era, is going to be a sinking ship, and it would destroy his reputation if he’s tied in with it,” Frank said.

Frank has said on Twitter that he has multiple sclerosis.

Aaron Heineman, Independent American

Aaron Heineman filed his declaration of candidacy on May 26. He is from Provo, Utah.

Deidre Henderson, Republican

Deidre Henderson is hoping to replace her former boss.

Henderson, a Utah state senator, volunteered for Chaffetz in 2008, and then went on to become his political director and campaign manager.

“I’m really excited about the momentum that we feel, the organization we have. It’s kind of been a snowball effect,” Henderson told KTSU-TV when she officially announced her candidacy.

Henderson supports reducing the size of the Education Department, opposes federal funding of abortion providers and wants ObamaCare repealed, according to her website.

Christopher Herrod, Republican

Former state Rep. Christopher Herrod is an outspoken candidate, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

While in the state legislature, Herrod was known for his criticism of illegal immigration. And in a recent interview during which he discussed his candidacy to replace Chaffetz, Herrod reportedly denounced Islam and criticized Republican Sen. John McCain.

Herrod has the backing of Jeremy Friedbaum, who withdrew from the race on June 7. Friedbaum said he would rather support Herrod than “split the vote among candidates who are loyal to constitutional principles.”

Herrod unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Orrin Hatch’s seat in 2012. The Republican has held the Senate seat since 1977.

Herrod spent some time teaching at Kharkov State University in the Ukraine. It was there that he met his wife Alia. They have five children.

The former Utah lawmaker writes for a blog called the “UnConventional Conservative.”

Carl Adam Ingwell, Democrat

As a community organizer, environmental lobbyist and environment and social justice advocate, Carl Ingwell has been greatly involved in Utah politics over the past 10 years, according to his campaign website.

Ingwell’s website boasts of multiple conservation organizations that he started in Utah — including Utah’s largest online birding network and a community-based air quality group.

Aside from environmental projects, Ingwell has also volunteered for Salt Lake City’s Showing Up for Racial Justice group and worked with Utah Against Police Brutality.

Damian Kidd, Republican

Damian Kidd is “very conservative” when it comes to economics and tends to be more libertarian on social issues, he told the Daily Herald when he announced his candidacy.

An attorney, Kidd said he was disappointed in Chaffetz and how he handled his duties as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“He is not operating the committee in a non-partisan way,” Kidd told the Daily Herald. “I’m a conservative Republican, and I hope Donald Trump succeeds, but the House Oversight Committee shouldn’t be protecting Trump from common sense oversight standard review.”

“Yet, it sounds like he’ll continue to investigate Hillary [Clinton],” Kidd added.

Kidd and his wife Jenifer have three children. While they live in Utah now, Kidd grew up in Idaho.

Kidd was adopted and told the Daily Herald that his birth mother had him when she was only 15 years old.

Kidd has worked at his law firm for the past 10 years and has helped “injured clients stand up to insurance companies,” his campaign website states.

Keith Kuder, Republican

Keith Kuder worked on campaigns for Chaffetz and Republican Sen. Mike Lee, according to his congressional campaign website.

He grew up in California and spent some time serving a Spanish-speaking LDS Mormon Mission in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“I come from a proud family that has been involved in public service for as long as I can remember,” Kuder said on his website. “I want to work for you. With nearly a decade of political experience, I know what it takes to find solutions, navigate complicated governmental agencies, and get things done.”

His campaign website also includes more than one hour of educational videos that he encourages Utahns to watch and take notes.

“We are in a perfect storm in America where we can all do ‘our part’ to Take Back our Country!” he said.

Mike Leavitt, Republican

Mike Leavitt, 64, is a laborer in forestry, Deseret News reported.

“I am running for the POWs in Vietnam and Cambodia,” Leavitt said.

Stewart O. Peay, Republican

While the Salt Lake Tribune called Stewart Peay a “little-known candidate,” Peay had some help at a recent meet-and-greet from a bigger name — Ann Romney.

Romney, wife of former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is the aunt of Peay’s wife, Misha.

“He’s special. He’s extraordinarily bright and capable. And I love him,” Romney said. “We just need people like Stewart running all the time, everywhere. As we know, our country is in great need of good leadership and strong values.”

Peay is a lawyer and National Guard veteran who served in Iraq. His law focus is in general commercial litigation, which includes construction, real estate and fraud. He also focuses on toxic tort defense and state procurement issues.

Shayne Row, Republican

Shayne Row, 48, has worked as an IRS tax assessment agent and part-time Uber driver, according to Deseret News. He doesn’t have any political experience.

“I am running as a Republican mainly for the blind and the deaf community, mainly to help support their needs, for education accessibility, job accessibility, anybody,” Row said.


Here are the people who have withdrawn their candidacy:

Jeremy Friedbaum, Republican

Faeiza Javed, Democrat

An unsuccessful filing

One man was unable to complete his filing and said he could end up taking legal action against the Elections Office of Utah should it come to that.

Jim Bennett, son of the former Republican Sen. Bob Bennett, attempted to file as a member of the United Utah Party, of which he is the executive director, according to KSTU-TV.

Bennett’s new party turned in the requisite signatures to become an official party on the special election ballot the day before the candidates’ filing deadline. As the signatures could not be verified by the Lt. Governor’s Elections office before the filing deadline was up, it was not recognized as an official party.

Still, Bennett tried unsuccessfully to file with the new party.

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