Huntsman girls: Life on and off the campaign trail

Posted at 9:47 PM, Feb 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-08 01:46:52-05

SALT LAKE CITY - He is Utah’s favorite son, former Governor, U.S. Ambassador to China and most recently a Republican Presidential Candidate. Jon Huntsman was catapulted into the national spotlight last year and so were his daughters.

They call themselves the @Jon2012Girls on Twitter.

“The real successes in the family have emerged and it isn't Dad. It's the daughters,” said Jon Huntsman in an interview with Fox 13 in January. “The true weapon of mass destruction I've discovered is Twitter in the hands of my daughters. You don't know how it's going to play out, where it`s going to land, who it's going to impact and I keep my fingers crossed every day.”

Candidates’ kids have been active in the past. Mitt Romney even had a secret weapon with five sons representing him around the country, but the Huntsman girls strayed from the traditional script, combining love for their father with social media savvy.

“I'm so proud they've enhanced the dialogue politically, culturally with a little air of humor and a little disregard for convention from time to time, but they're great. I love them all,” Jon Huntsman said.

When we told Mary Kaye and Jon Huntsman about their daughters' upcoming interview with Fox 13, they jokingly said, “That’s trouble. Be careful.”

The interview is the first time Mary Anne, Abby and Elizabeth have seen each other since their father lost the Republican presidential nomination over a year ago.

They talked about life on the campaign trail, why they decided to take their journey public on Twitter, and how being thrown into the spotlight nearly destroyed them, but ultimately brought their family closer together.

The sisters are the granddaughters of billionaire businessman Jon Huntsman, Sr, and the daughters of a diplomat, the sixteenth governor of Utah, former U.S. Ambassador to Singapore, China, and a former Republican presidential candidate.

The Huntsman girls have been able to make a name for themselves, with a little help from social media too.

“It just kind of happened one night where Liddy (Elizabeth) said, 'You know we should create a twitter account,'” Abby says

That’s how @Jon2012Girls was born. Mary Anne, Abby and Elizabeth took to Twitter, not knowing what to expect.

“We had no idea we were going to do something with the three of us we wanted to and it just kind of all fell into place,” says Mary Anne.

“We didn't expect it to go viral,” Abby says.

The girls’ Twitter account did take off, with more than 25,000 followers.

The public got a glimpse of what life was like on the campaign trail for the trio and not everyone liked that.

"We were threatened a number of times in terms of our Twitter account and speaking out but we never stopped,” says Abby.

The Huntsmans say social media was a way for them to let loose in an environment where everything was anything but that.

“You have no control,” Elizabeth says.

“You feel trapped,” says Abby. “There are people that work for the campaign that are trying their best to get our dad out there but they didn't know him like we did and I think sometimes we felt like he wasn't being introduced to the country…"

”The right way,” Mary Anne finishes.

"It was an outlet, an emotional outlet," Elisabeth says.

At times, those emotions became too much to bear.

“Words cannot even describe the feelings that you go through in a campaign,” says Elizabeth.

“I think watching our dad go through it was a lot harder on us because we loved him so much,” says Abby. “We saw him in moments and situations that we've never seen our dad, where he started to doubt himself.”

“People from the outside would always say what a great a life have you have during the campaign, what a great time you are having," Mary Anne says.

“Little did you know what happened yesterday," Elizabeth says.

"People didn't realize the internal things we were facing and dealing with as a family that was truly emotional," added Mary Anne.

“I remember one instance where Liddy packed her bag and said I'm out of here," Abby says.

“She was moving to California; her suitcase out the door," Mary Anne added.

Elizabeth admits, “Yeah I was out. I was done. I quit. I was like this is, this is not for me.”

So when we asked whether they would support their father if he decided to make another run for President in 2016, there were some mixed feelings about the question.

Mary Anne says, “At the end of the day it really has to come from him and no pressure from anybody or anybody from the outside it really just has to come from him.”

Abby says, “I don't know that I'm there yet with the 2016 run, these things take time. I'm not really there yet.

Elizabeth says, “We don't think the country is ready for a leader like my Dad.”

The girls say 2016 hasn’t even come up at the dinner table yet, but a lot of other things do. From religion to politics, The Huntsman daughters dished about their personal lives too.

Mary Anne, Abby and Elizabeth Huntsman may be sisters but they will be the first to admit how different they are from each other.

Mary Anne is a spitting image of her mother, Mary Kaye. “I’m a concert pianist. I’m performing as much as I can.”

When she isn’t on stage, the 28-year-old is an ambassador for Malaria No More, an organization dedicated to ending death related to the disease.

Abby has also found her place, on screen. “I’m currently a host for Huffington Post's new channel called HuffPostLive, which I absolutely love."

The youngest of the three is Elizabeth, but most people who know her well call her Liddy. She works for Thomas Arts Agency which produces web stories for Zion's Bank.

“I’m writing, producing, hosting, directing. I'm kind of like a one-man team which is pretty cool.”

You’ll also hear her on Utah’s most liberal radio talk show with Democratic Party Chair and newly elected Senator Jim Dabakis.

Between their careers and their personal lives, the Huntsman daughters stay busy.

Mary Anne is making a move to the Big Apple soon. Abby is married and living in New York and Liddy recently came back to Utah.

“The three of us are all a different shade of color and we're all so different,” says Elizabeth.

The three sisters are alike in so many ways yet so different, especially when it comes to their political persuasion and their LDS faith.

“I actually was the first one to leave the church when I was 14 years old,” says Elizabeth.

"We've all been raised culturally as Mormons and half our family is. My mom's side of the family is Episcopalian," says Abby.

Mary Anne says, “We've kind of gone our own way; we really respect it more than anything and it's a huge part of us growing up.”

“I think we all have completely different religious views,” says Elizabeth.

Abby says, “My Dad always says it's all about believing in something bigger than yourself.”

Elizabeth adds, “Having faith and being spiritual…”

Although their father is a Republican, some of his daughters have strayed from the party line.

"I would consider myself a moderate a lot like my dad, well actually he probably might be more conservative than I am, but I believe in gay marriage and science," Mary Anne says.

Elizabeth says, “I feel like I'm heading more on the liberal side.”

Abby says, "I've been a lifelong Republican but I'm a lot like my dad. I'm moderate on a lot of the social issues I recognize…I'm for gay marriage, for example, but fiscally I believe in less government but that's really a party that doesn't exist.”

"We get into a lot of debates and that's the great thing about my dad because I will say dad what do you think about this issue and he always brings me back to his view because he's just ...he's just so right," Elisabeth says.

The girls say that’s much of what it’s like around the dinner table. Talking politics and somehow their father is always right, a father’s journey which brought them together as a family and friends.

“We’re best friends and we'll always be best friends,” says Elizabeth.

The Huntsmans have a big family, seven children including two adopted daughters from China and India.

To follow the daughters on Twitter, go to @Jon2012Girls Follow them individually at @HuntsmanMame @HuntsmanAbby @HuntsmanLiddy.