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Race to replace Chaffetz down to 20 candidates

FILE"” Rep. Jason Chaffetz talks about his resignation at home in Alpine on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
FILE"” Rep. Jason Chaffetz talks about his resignation at home in Alpine on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There are 20 candidates still vying to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, in Congress after Provo Republican Jeremy Friedbaum said Wednesday he is withdrawing from the race.

"It's not like there's not enough candidates if I'm not in the race," Friedbaum said.

He said he will back another Republican, former state lawmaker Chris Herrod, rather than "split the vote among candidates who are loyal to constitutional principles."

Friedbaum, who tunes and repairs pianos, is the second candidate to drop out of the race. Last week, Democrat Faeiza Javed, vice chairwoman of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party, withdrew her candidacy.

There are now 14 Republicans, three Democrats, two Independent American Party members and one Libertarian running for the 3rd District seat that includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties, as well as Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan and Wasatch counties.

Both the Republican and the Democratic parties will hold delegate votes on June 17 to choose nominees for an expected August primary ballot. Candidates from both parties are also gathering voter signatures for a place on that ballot.

There could be additional contenders for the seat held by Chaffetz since 2008. Candidates not affiliated with a political party have until Monday to file with the lieutenant governor's office.

One of those candidates could be former Republican Jim Bennett, co-founder of the new United Utah Party with Richard Davis, a former Utah County Democratic Party chairman.

Bennett's filing on the May 26 deadline for partisan candidates to get in the race was rejected by the lieutenant governor's office because the party has yet to be recognized by the state.

State Elections Director Mark Thomas said Wednesday the review of the materials submitted May 25 for recognition of the party, including more than 2,000 voter signatures, should be completed by the end of the week.

Thomas said while there appears to be no problems with the submission, because the party was not recognized before the filing deadline, Bennett will have to run as a candidate unaffiliated with any political party.

He said the new party's plans to hold a convention on June 17 won't affect this election, even though party leaders said it's being held to nominate Bennett, the son of the late Sen. Bob Bennett, for the 3rd District seat.

Chaffetz announced in April he would not seek a sixth term in 2018 and a month later confirmed he would leave office June 30 for a position in the private sector, believed to be with Fox News.

The election for the remainder of Chaffetz's two-year term will be held Nov. 7.