Rep. Chris Stewart confirmed Wednesday that he will retire from Congress midway through his sixth term in office serving Utah’s 2nd District, after “an orderly transition can be ensured.”

His full statement read: “It has been one of the great honors of my life to serve the good people of Utah in Congress. My wife and I have made so many dear friends and memories throughout our journey. I can say with pride that I have been an effective leader for my beloved home state, and I’m honored to have played an important role in guiding our nation through some troubled times. But my wife’s health concerns have made it necessary that I retire from Congress after an orderly transition can be ensured.

“My family and I have been very blessed by this experience. Thank you to all those who have supported and sacrificed to help us. The fight goes on. God bless all of you, and God bless our nation.”

Stewart has served Utah’s 2nd District since he first won election in 2012, making him the most senior member for Utah in the House. Before his election, he was an Air Force pilot, an author and small-business owner.

He currently serves on the House Intelligence Committee, the Appropriations Committee, and on the Judiciary Committee’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, where he has been a recent critic of the FBI and its handling of sensitive partisan investigations.

After Stewart officially resigns, Gov. Spencer Cox will have seven days to call for a special election. The parties will have a maximum of 28 days to select candidates.

What happens in Utah when a congressman resigns?

The seat will probably be captured by another Republican, and given the narrow margins in the House, where Republicans control 222 seats to Democrats’ 213, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R.-Calif, is likely hoping the seat isn’t left open long.

McCarthy spoke out about Stewart’s resignation Wednesday, according to CNN reporter Melanie Zanona.

“At this moment right now his spouse needs him. So he’s made that decision. It was not an easy decision for him,” McCarthy said. “But we will continue to hold that seat.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee also released a statement Wednesday, saying they were “praying for Congressman Chris Stewart, his wife and his family during this difficult time.”

“Congressman Stewart has faithfully served Utahns and we thank him for his years of public service. We look forward to keeping this seat in Republican hands with a representative who will continue fighting for Utah priorities in Congress,” committee spokesman Ben Petersen said.

Petersen pointed out Stewart was reelected by a 59%-34% margin in 2022, and the seat has a partisan voting index of R+11, according to the Cook Political Report.

Several Utah politicians posted tributes to the congressman after his announcement.

Sen. Mike Lee said: “With a heavy heart, I bid farewell to my esteemed colleague, Representative Chris Stewart. Representative Stewart is a true statesman who has consistently demonstrated dedication and integrity while tirelessly fighting for the interests and well-being of his constituents. His strong leadership on national security, energy policy and veteran affairs, no doubt informed by his own honorable military service, has earned him respect and admiration from colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

“Sharon and I wish Chris, his wife Evie, and their entire family all the best as they embark on this new chapter of their lives. He has left an indelible mark on the House of Representatives and his impact will be felt for generations. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his unwavering dedication, principled leadership, and tireless advocacy for the American people.”

Sen. Mitt Romney said, “Congressman Stewart has dutifully served our state and Utahns in the Second Congressional District for more than a decade. A former Air Force pilot, Chris has consistently worked to safeguard the role Utah plays in our country’s national defense. He has been a terrific partner on advancing Utah priorities — advocating for greater local input in public lands management and legislation to protect the Great Salt Lake. Ann and I are praying for Chris, Evie, and the Stewart family.”

State Attorney General Sean Reyes said Stewart was a “dear friend and patriot who has represented our state and served our nation honorably, passionately and effectively in Congress.”

Utah state Sen. Todd Weiler called Stewart an “American hero. My heart goes out to him and his lovely wife. I will forever appreciate his service and sacrifice for our county,” he wrote on Twitter.

Cox wrote: “Rep. Chris Stewart is an exceptional American, effective conservative voice and good friend. We’re grateful for his considerable leadership and his unwavering commitment to representing our state. We honor his service and wish him and his family all the best.”

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This is the second time in the last decade that a Utah congressman has resigned mid-term. Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz resigned in 2017 midway through his fifth term to take a job with Fox News.

On Wednesday, Chaffetz tweeted that Stewart was “one of the best to ever serve. Thank you for your service in the US Air Force and in the US Congress.”

Several candidates have been floated as potential replacements, and on Wednesday the race got its first official candidate when Becky Edwards, who ran in last year’s Republican primary against Lee, announced on KSL-TV she would run for the seat.

On the Democratic side, Kael Weston said on Twitter he’s mulling a run.

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