Republicans are on edge.
On Wednesday, Representative Chris Stewart, a Republican from Utah, announced his intention to step down from Congress as soon as a smooth and well-organized transition can be ensured.
If Stewart were to leave the House, Republicans would find themselves with a slim majority of just four seats.
According to Fox, after serving six terms as a lawmaker, Stewart made the announcement on Wednesday that he plans to resign from the House of Representatives. His decision is driven by his wife’s illness. Consequently, his departure would result in a vacant Republican seat on both the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees, further diminishing the already narrow majority of the GOP to only four seats.
Reflecting on his tenure, Stewart expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to serve the people of Utah in Congress, considering it one of the greatest honors of his life. However, he revealed that his wife’s health issues necessitate his retirement from Congress, but only once a smooth transition can be ensured.
According to Utah law, in the event of a vacancy in the House of Representatives, the governor is obligated to call for a special election. Once Stewart formally resigns, the responsibility falls to Republican Governor Spencer Cox, who has a period of seven days to determine the timing of the primary and special election. The law stipulates that these dates should coincide with the municipal primary and general elections scheduled for the current year, unless the state legislature allocates funds for a separate election.
The Republican Party is anticipated to have a significant advantage in filling the vacancy left by Stewart. Representing Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, Stewart’s constituency in western Utah is traditionally Republican-leaning, encompassing areas from the Salt Lake City metropolitan region to St. George. In the 2022 midterm election, Stewart secured a comfortable victory over his Democratic opponent, Nick Mitchell, by capturing an overwhelming 63.4% of the vote share, reaffirming the district’s conservative inclination.
During the interim period before the special election takes place, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, will face additional challenges in ensuring party unity when it comes to vote-whipping. With the assumption of united Democratic opposition, McCarthy will have a slim margin of error, allowing for a maximum of only three Republican votes to be lost on any legislative matter. This tight margin becomes particularly significant given the existing internal disagreements between hard-line conservatives and moderates within the party. Earlier this year, such infighting jeopardized a Republican border security bill, and the ongoing disagreements among GOP lawmakers regarding the debt ceiling deal further highlight the willingness of some Republican representatives to deviate from the party line.