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Jon Huntsman Jr. Announces Run For Governor

Man sitting at a table smiling.
Screenshot / Jon Huntsman campaign video
Jon Huntsman Jr. smiles in a video released Thursday morning announcing his run for governor of Utah.

Updated 4:00 p.m. MST 11/14/19

A decade after he last held the office, Jon Huntsman Jr. is running again for Utah governor.The former governor and U.S. ambassador made the announcement in a video Thursday morning before appearing later in the day at Southern Utah University for a campaign kick-off event.

In the video Huntsman points to the state’s population growth as an issue he would tackle if he wins a third term.

“We’re a hot state and people want to be here,” he said, but the population boom has brought its own challenges. 

“Some of it’s economic, some of it’s regarding education, some of it’s air quality, but that’s the big picture,” he said. “That’s what we must do.”

Huntsman returned from Moscow last month, where he spent two years serving as the U.S. ambassador to Russia. He previously left the governor’s mansion in 2009 — less than a year into his first term — to serve as ambassador to China under the Obama administration. He served in the previous three White House administrations as the ambassador to Singapore and as a deputy U.S. trade representative.

“A lot of people are asking why we would want to do this again. The answer is simple: We’re not done and the state of Utah is just getting started,” Huntsman said in a press release announcing his campaign. 

During his five years in office, Huntsman said his administration was “able to achieve incredible — even historic — things like tax reform, economic development and rebranding the state, just to name a few. That vision has truly brought us where we are today. But now it’s time for Utahns to set our eyes on even greater successes for our economy, our farmers, our students and our families.”

The Republican field in the governor’s race already includes Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, entrepreneur Jeff Burningham and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton.

At a campaign kick-off event at Southern Utah University on Thursday afternoon, Huntsman articulated that his campaign would primarily focus on engaging younger voters and growth.

“How we’re going to shoehorn another million people into this state without losing our quality of life, without it impacting air quality, water, our economic viability, our ability to deliver a quality education — this is all part of the conversation we have to have,” he said. “Growth isn’t going anywhere.”

Soon after Huntsman’s campaign announcement, Cox announced endorsements from 125 mayors across the state. 

“As a former mayor of a small town, I am proud to have earned the confidence of more than 100 mayors throughout our great state,” Cox said. “Not only is it critical for the governor to have a personal relationship with city leaders, but also a direct knowledge of the issues they face. My door will always be open to local government and I promise to work day and night to build thriving communities across Utah.”

Burningham and Winder Newton both welcomed Huntsman to the race Thursday. 

“We owe it to the voters to have a vigorous debate about the different candidates and

policy approaches for the Governor’s Office,” Winder Newton said in a statement. “I’m happy to welcome Ambassador Huntsman into the race and I look forward to contrasting my experience, and plans for Utah’s future, with his.”

“We need a smart plan for keeping our economy strong, modernizing our education system, and reclaiming our public lands for responsible use.I look forward to making my case for why Utah needs a job-creating, innovative outsider, instead of a career politician” Burningham said.

David Fuchs reported from Cedar City

Correction 10:45 a.m. MST 11/14/19: A previous version of this story stated that Huntsman left office less than a year into his first term. Huntsman left less than a year into his second term as governor.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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