Political experts talk about potential race between Sen. Mike Lee and former Utah Gov. Jon Hunstman Jr.

Posted at 9:32 PM, Feb 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-17 09:29:02-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A potential showdown in the Utah political landscape could have national implications.

There were reports Monday that former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. could be a candidate for State Senate in 2016, running against incumbent Sen. Mike Lee.

Political experts at the Hinkley Institute of Politics say if this campaign with both Huntsman and Lee happens, it could be one of the biggest, most watched, closely followed races in the country both locally and nationally.

Lee is an outspoken conservative Republican and advocate for the Tea party, versus Huntsman, who is a former presidential candidate with an international profile as an ambassador to China and Singapore -- if these two men face off for the senate seat in 2016, local political experts say it would be an “epic” senate race.

Kirk Jowers is the director of the Hinkley Institute of Politics.

“I think it would be the single most intriguing and most covered race in the country,” Jowers said. “It really does bring out a lot of the different tensions in the Republican party both locally and nationally.”

According to a CNN report by John King, Utah business leaders and political heavyweights in Washington, D.C. hope to lure Huntsman back to Utah as Lee’s challenger.

“Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee put the Tea Party on the map back in 2010 when he defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Robert Bennet. Now the establishment is trying to get revenge, you might say trying to return the favor," King reported.

Tim Chambless with the Hinkley Institute of Politics said a legislative position would be new for Huntsman.

“To serve as a U.S. senator would be in a different branch of government and that’s something he’s going to have to ask himself, ‘is this the best way that he can serve the country?’” Chambless said.

Jowers told FOX 13 Huntsman is highly regarded among members on both sides of the political aisle and favored within the Utah business community.

FOX 13 reached out to Lee’s press secretary. She responded via email stating, “We don’t have anything to add at this time.”

FOX 13 also tried to get in touch with Huntsman but nothing from that side either.