Meet Jason Chaffetz: The congressman who wants to be House speaker

Rep. Jason Chaffetz pauses during a hearing on Capitol Hill last month. The Utah Republican is making a long-shot bid for speaker of the House.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz pauses during a hearing on Capitol Hill last month. The Utah Republican is making a long-shot bid for speaker of the House.

(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

The Republican congressman challenging Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House is a familiar face on cable television and to his 93,600 Twitter followers.

But who exactly is Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah? Here are five things to know about the man who would be House speaker:

He was tea party before the tea party

Elected to Congress in 2008 when Barack Obama won the presidency, Chaffetz was a conservative upstart challenger to a sitting GOP congressman -- a tea party-like figure before the tea party wave of 2010. He easily made inroads in the ruby-red Utah congressional district south and east of Salt Lake City, especially with his strong views against illegal immigration. He proposed not only deportation of immigrants in the United States illegally, but also barbed-wire tent cities to house those who had committed crimes, according to the Almanac of American politics. He has won reelection ever since.


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He’s had a swift rise

The 48-year-old has enjoyed a high profile within the House Republican conference, taking over for another leader, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) as chairman of the powerful Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He quickly became a regular on the talk shows and is a critic of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks. He tweets profusely at @jasoninthehouse.

But Chaffetz earned the ire of the conservative House Republicans after he ousted one of their own from the committee as punishment for a vote. After conservatives protested, Chaffetz quickly reversed course and reinstated Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). He says he learned “an important lesson” from the incident that his punishment was “too harsh.”


He was born to California Democrats, converted to Mormonism

Born in Las Gatos, Calif., to a primarily Democratic family -- his father’s first wife later became Michael Dukakis’ wife, Kitty -- Chaffetz moved around as a child. He earned a football scholarship as a placekicker to Brigham Young University, where he joined the Mormon church. He once wanted to join the Secret Service. Staying in Utah after college, he married and worked in public relations, before joining Republican Jon Huntsman’s campaign for governor -- eventually becoming his chief of staff in the governor’s office. Apparently, it did not end well. Huntsman tweeted Monday: “McCarthy just got #Chaffetzed. Something I know a little something about. #selfpromoter #powerhungry.”

If he had a car, he’d take Nancy Pelosi out for burgers

Chaffetz shares a birthday with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat, and said he has repeatedly invited her out to lunch at Five Guys, a popular D.C. burger spot. He said she never responded, but Pelosi’s office said they never received any invite. He’s hopeful the dynamic might change if he becomes speaker. “With this new gig, I get a new car,” he said earlier this week about the job that comes with a round-the-clock Capitol Police driver. “Maybe I can pick her up.”


For now, though, the father of three who sleeps in his office, said he only has a bicycle.

For the latest from Congress and 2016 campaign, follow @LisaMascaro on Twitter.

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