Chaffetz replacement: Who are the Utah congressional candidates?

The Republican congressional candidates who hope to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz in Congress are facing off in a three-way primary Tuesday.

Chaffetz resigned from his congressional seat at the end of June – and the district did not lack people willing to replace him. Before the deadline to file, 22 people made their bids official.

Fifteen Republicans, four Democrats, two independents and one Libertarian made their political aspirations official. Republicans and Democrats selected their candidates at their respective conventions last month, but additional Republicans garnered enough signatures of support to force the primary schedule for Aug. 15. 

In Utah, a candidate must either be selected by party convention or get enough signatures to appear on a ballot. For this race, candidates needed to collect at least 7,000 viable signatures, a spokesperson for the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s office said.

As the GOP candidates battle each other out in the voting booths, here’s a look at all who want to replace Chaffetz. 

Tanner Ainge, Republican

Tanner Ainge, the son of Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge, is one of the remaining Republican candidates left. Ainge received enough signatures to qualify for the August primary.

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.


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.

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.

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, and she reportedly has more than $650,000 in campaign funds.

Allen, 64, was overwhelmingly chosen to be her party’s nominee at its June convention, Deseret News reported.

“I’m delighted. I’ve been working on this since February, and I think I have the right message for this district,” Allen said following her victory. “I have the right work ethic, and I’m ready to kick it up to the next level.”  

It only took one round of voting to secure Allen as the Democrats’ nominee; Allen won almost 76 percent of the vote, pushing her ahead of fellow Democrats Benjamin Frank and Carl Ingwell.

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 also wants to “bring back civil discourse.”

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 President 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.

John Curtis, Republican

Provo Mayor John Curtis, 57, announced his candidacy for Utah’s third congressional district at the end of May. He was able to get enough signatures to qualify for the Republican primary.

Curtis said on social media that his team was able to get more than 15,000 signatures to put him on the ballot.

“For the last two weeks, I’ve heard two things that could not be done,” Curtis told his volunteers on the day he turned in his signatures. “One is, you can’t get this many signatures in this amount of time, and the other is, you can’t make any difference in Washington. So I’m here to tell you, this is proof we can.”

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

“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.”

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.

Christopher Herrod, Republican

Former state Rep. Christopher Herrod was selected by the Utah Republican Party to be its nominee during the party’s convention over the weekend.

After five rounds of voting, Herrod defeated state Sen. Deidre Henderson.

“The Republicans have been given in congress a unique opportunity to have the presidency and the House and the Senate,” Herrod told KSTU. “I think they’re squandering that. I’ll go back and remind them they’ve got to get to work.”

Herrod also has the backing of former GOP presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

“We need real conservatives – we need conservatives who know what they believe, and who will do what they say they will do,” Cruz said on Facebook. 

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.”

Russell Paul Roesler, Write-in

Sean Whalen, Unaffiliated

Sean Whalen turned in at least 300 signatures needed to be on the general election ballot. The names have already been verified by county clerks, according to Deseret News.


Here are the people who have withdrawn their candidacy:

  • Jeremy Friedbaum, Republican
  • Faeiza Javed, Democrat

Here are the former candidates who were voted out in party conventions:

  • Debbie Aldrich, Republican
  • Brad Daw, Republican
  • Margaret Dayton, Republican
  • Paul David Fife, Republican
  • Benjamin Frank, Democrat
  • Aaron Heinemen, Independent American
  • Deidre Henderson, Republican
  • Carl Ingwell, Democrat
  • Damian Kidd, Republican
  • Keith Kuder, Republican
  • Mike Leavitt, Republican
  • Stewart O. Peay, Republican
  • Shayne Horton Row, Republican

Another Republican, Brigham Rhead Cottam, failed to collect the requisite number of signatures, according to the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s office.

An unsuccessful filing

One man who was unable to complete his filing filed a lawsuit against the state on June 21.

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. However, the United Utah party is not yet officially recognized as a legitimate political party in the state, KSTU reported.

“Not only has the Utah Elections Office refused to allow Bennett to file, it has also not yet certified the party itself, despite the fact that the United Utah party submitted the necessary documentation and signatures to become a qualified political party with the Utah Elections Office more than three weeks ago,” the party said in a statement.  

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.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.