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Jon Huntsman Jr. makes it official: no write-in campaign

Huntsman Jr.
Posted at 8:49 PM, Aug 28, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — Former U.S. Ambassador and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. ended speculation about a possible write-in bid for his old job on Friday night.

In a lengthy statement provided to FOX 13, Huntsman announced he was not going through with a write-in effort.

"While the most awkward political primary in Utah’s history is just that...history, we move on with a deep sense of gratitude for family, freedom and the most dedicated supporters imaginable. In fact it is these tireless, irrepressible champions for a better state that have advocated for a write-in campaign, feeling that such a pathetically broken electoral system shouldn’t be the last word," he wrote.

"While we respect the concerned voices of Utahns from every corner of the political spectrum, our earlier words also still hold true - - the primary voters have spoken. Even the closest of races like ours are subject to rules, and we respect that outcome. While proceeding with a write-in campaign makes for a great theoretical game, it also carries with it the harm of more division in our beloved state that needs to heal, on many fronts. This must come first."

Then Huntsman made it official.

"While there won’t be a write-in effort on our part, we must be honest about concerns and challenges going forward," he said.

Huntsman lost the June GOP primary by roughly 6,300 votes to Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. Then rumors began to swirl about a write-in campaign. He previously said he would not run a write-in campaign. A group of supporters mobilized to try to convince him to run. His wife, Mary Kaye, fueled the rumors with an Instagram post that teased that Huntsman was going to "think about it."

If he were to seek the post, he would have had to spend millions to get his name out and would not have had the backing of the powerful Utah Republican Party, which rallied around Cox.

In his statement, Huntsman appeared to level some criticism at Cox over his handling of the COVID-19 task force, as well as the LG's work on homelessness issues.

"It’s also clear that the most pressing issues confronting our state - including homelessness, mental health and education cannot be solved by politicians alone where words and tweets are confused with action and results. Our problem-solving void must be filled by free citizens who cherish the preservation of liberty and justice," Huntsman wrote.

In his own statement, Lt. Gov. Cox struck a different tone.

"As a family committed to others, Jon, Mary Kaye and the extended Huntsman family have dedicated countless chapters of their lives to our country and our state - and Utah is better for it. No election result will take away from their record of service, philanthropy and kindness. We share their love for Utah and its people, and Abby and I wish them the very best in their future endeavors," he said in a statement released Friday night through his campaign. "Despite the deep divides that exist in our nation, Utahns continue to rise above and find ways to unite. We remain confident and optimistic that our best days are still to come."

Huntsman served as Utah governor from 2005 to 2009, when he resigned to become President Obama's ambassador to China. He resigned from that post in 2012 for a brief run for President of the United States. In 2017, President Trump tapped him to serve as ambassador to Russia. He resigned in 2019 and returned to Utah, throwing his hat into the ring to reclaim the governor's office.

While Huntsman insisted he was here to stay, he faced questions about whether he would serve a full term in office. In his campaign, he ran ads seeking to reassure voters. Huntsman was eliminated early on in the GOP convention, but had gathered signatures to earn a spot on the primary against Cox, former House Speaker Greg Hughes and businessman Thomas Wright.

His campaign was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It made it difficult for him to gather signatures and Huntsman, family members and staffers contracted the virus and were forced to quarantine in the middle of his campaign.

Here is the statement in full:

Mary Kaye often speaks of life as a series of chapters. Each unique and many unpredictable. But we alone are the authors of them, even if some play out in surprising ways. We are fortunate to have had so many interesting chapters, none of which we would rewrite - all of which have taught us lessons in risk and resilience.

While the most awkward political primary in Utah’s history is just that...history, we move on with a deep sense of gratitude for family, freedom and the most dedicated supporters imaginable. In fact it is these tireless, irrepressible champions for a better state that have advocated for a write-in campaign, feeling that such a pathetically broken electoral system shouldn’t be the last word. State law even provides for such a remedy.

While we respect the concerned voices of Utahns from every corner of the political spectrum, our earlier words also still hold true - - the primary voters have spoken. Even the closest of races like ours are subject to rules, and we respect that outcome. While proceeding with a write-in campaign makes for a great theoretical game, it also carries with it the harm of more division in our beloved state that needs to heal, on many fronts. This must come first.

While there won’t be a write-in effort on our part, we must be honest about concerns and challenges going forward.

Possible irregularities around the Covid Taskforce more than any other factor have held my attention. Because if there was corruption, it should never die in darkness, and power should never silence truth. But mostly, the people of Utah deserve the highest of ethics in government, something we worked hard to maintain as governor, as I hope will be the case with future administrations.

It’s also clear that the most pressing issues confronting our state - including homelessness, mental health and education cannot be solved by politicians alone where words and tweets are confused with action and results. Our problem-solving void must be filled by free citizens who cherish the preservation of liberty and justice. When you have lived and served where we have, you understand how central they are to our continued prosperity, yet both must be vigilantly protected and nurtured with each generation. To that end, Utah is and should continue to be a standard bearer. And we all have roles to play - big and small - in repairing our fractured civilization and striving for a more perfect future. This is what free people do. We will continue to be numbered among you through our family’s service to community and country, ever grateful for the love of family and deeply committed supporters.

May God bless the great state of Utah.