SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said on Wednesday that the election to replace resigning U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart will take place in the fall, expediting the timeline prescribed by state law to ensure the six-term Republican’s seat doesn’t remain vacant for more than a few months.
Stewart informed Cox, also a Republican, that he plans to resign on Sept. 15. Cox issued a proclamation setting the primary election for Sept. 5 and the general election for Nov. 21.
“This timeline will ensure a smooth and efficient transition with minimal disruption to our electoral process,” the governor said in a statement.
Stewart, a U.S. Air Force veteran and author, was first elected in 2012. He was reelected in November and announced last week that he planned to resign to help care for his wife, who he said was ill. Though Stewart’s departure will mean one less Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, it is not expected to affect House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ability to steer a tight Republican majority. The district is reliably Republican and Stewart defeated a Democratic challenger by more than 30 percentage points in 2022.
The vacancy could set off a frenzy among Republicans in Utah, which wasn’t expected to have an empty congressional seat in next year’s election. Only one Republican candidate, former state Sen. Becky Edwards, has officially announced plans to vie for Stewart’s seat.
State officials said last week that, absent legislative intervention, state law required at least 90 days until a special election could be held. That’s likely to be revised when lawmakers convene for a special legislative session next Wednesday to allocate funding for the election. The expedited timeline will also affect local races, which will be moved to coincide with the race to represent Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, which spans from St. George to downtown Salt Lake City.
“We cannot afford to go without a quarter of our representation for a prolonged period of time,” House Speaker Brad Wilson said, referring to Utah’s four congressional seats. “The proposed schedule will allow for a seamless transition and only a brief period without representation.”