Videos Appear to Show Huntsman Campaign Gathering Signatures Door-to-Door, Campaign Denies Knowledge
Videos of a man wearing a “Huntsman 2020” shirt appearing to go door-to-door collecting signatures surfaced Tuesday night, but former Gov. Jon Huntsman’s gubernatorial campaign said it had suspended door-to-door activities.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross who’s running for re-election, posted the videos on Twitter, and said a friend of his had taken them late Tuesday afternoon in Saratoga Springs, about 25 miles north of Provo. In order to slow the spread of coronavirus, local, state, and federal officials have asked residents to engage in “social distancing” whenever possible. The virus can be spread if people come within six feet of each other.
“I can understand, you know, the campaign's desire to get their signatures finished,” Weiler said. “But it just seems like, you know, when we're all trying to take precautions to do the social distancing and trying to slow down the spread of this virus, it just struck me as a little bit … self-interested.”
Of the signatures Huntsman’s campaign has gathered, Utah elections officials have verified just over 9,000 of the 28,000 signatures required to get on the primary ballot in June.
Lisa Rosskelley, a spokeswoman for Huntsman’s campaign, said they had asked all volunteers and paid signature gatherers to stop going door-to-door. However, the campaign is still contacting people virtually, she said, and sending signature gatherers to the homes of those who want them.
“We're reaching out to people to make sure that they have that opportunity to use their voice, and doing it in the best way that we can in this environment,” Rosskelley said.
Signature gatherers who go to households leave an envelope by the front door, step back while the person signs, and then retrieve the envelope once the door is shut again, while frequently using hand sanitizer, Rosskelley said.
She added that the deadline to gather signatures - April 13 - should be extended. “When you're extending everything else, it would make sense,” Rosskelley said.
She said the campaign would look into the videos posted Tuesday.
The Lt. Gov.’s office, which runs the state’s elections, said in a statement Tuesday night it was not planning to push back the election timeline.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who is leading the state’s coronavirus Community Task Force and running for governor, submitted signatures in early February. However, the elections office was only able to verify roughly 26,000 of them.
Republican gubernatorial candidate and businessman Jeff Burningham posted screenshots on Twitter Tuesday of Facebook posts accusing Cox’s campaign of gathering signatures.
“Here is Spencer Cox collecting signatures after he closed all public schools in Utah for two weeks,” Burningham’s campaign wrote on Twitter. “It looks like Spencer has one set of rules for himself and another set for the rest of us. That’s not leadership.”
Although Cox is leading the state’s coronavirus response, Gov. Gary Herbert issued the order Friday for the “soft-closure” of schools.
Cox’s campaign has denied continuing to gather signatures.
“No staff members are gathering and volunteers have been instructed to stop gathering,” Cox’s campaign wrote on Twitter. “The health and well being of Utahns is the Lt. Governor’s number one priority.”
Burningham announced Friday that his campaign would suspend signature gathering to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I just can’t in good conscience send my team and volunteers out there potentially spreading the virus, potentially harming someone else,” Burningham said.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson