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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's race for governor kicked off Wednesday.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Democratic rival Peter Corroon began campaigning to fill the state's top job for the next two years. Herbert and Corroon are vying to complete the remainder of former GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman's term, which expires in 2012.
Huntsman, who resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to China, was the most popular governor in the state's history. Democrats believe his resignation has created an opportunity for them to take back the governor's mansion for the first time since Scott Matheson left office in 1985.
Now both major party candidates say they're the ones ready to follow in Huntsman's footsteps.
Similar issues, different stances
Corroon and Herbert are both campaigning largely on the same three issues: economic development, energy development and improving education. So far, it's been difficult to distinguish many of their differences on those topics.
Both say the state should place a greater focus on providing tax incentives to businesses already located here, both say the state should develop its renewable energy resources while protecting traditional resources like coal and both have bemoaned low funding for public schools.
Both men stress fiscal responsibility and describe themselves as fiscal conservatives.
Current Mayor of Salt Lake County, the position he has held since 2005. Won reelection in 2008 with 66 percent of the vote over his republican challenger.
Incumbent Governor of Utah. Served as the Lieutenant Governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009, until assuming the governorship in August, 2009, following the resignation of Jon Huntsman.
A businessman and author from Provo. The millionaire financial broker has written 33 books. This is his first venture in politics.
A Utah business entrepreneur, who founded Totally Awesome Computers and was co-owner of Totally Awesome Guns and Range. Ran unsuccessfully for Utah Governor in 2008 and Mayor of Saratoga Springs in 2009.
Herbert points to one of his greatest achievements in the past legislative session as protecting public education from deep cuts in a tough budget year without raising income taxes. But Corroon contends that's not enough and says Republican leadership has harmed education in the state.
Republicans' initial plan to paint Corroon as a tax-and-spend Democrat for raising some public safety fees took a hit in the past two weeks when Herbert agreed to raise the tobacco tax by $1 for a pack of cigarettes.
For Corroon's part, he'll try to make Herbert look like someone who wastes taxpayer money defending unconstitutional legislation.
Job No. 1: supporting local economy
At the Woods Cross FrontRunner station, North Salt Lake residents Brett, Jennifer and Alexander Cook prepared to board the train and share what they see as job No. 1 for whomever wins the race for governor.
"I think priority should be with local economy, supporting local businesses," Brett said.
That message is not lost on Herbert -- or Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, his challenger, who traveled by plane, train and automobile Wednesday. Both stressing economic development.
"Clearly the economy is the important issue of the day," Herbert said. "But growth in the economy doesn't come from government, it comes from the private sector."
"Economic development is not about giving money to big corporations to come to Utah," Corroon argued. "It's about homegrown businesses and supporting them."
Candidates prepared to carry on Huntsman's legacy
Corroon -- the highly-popular mayor of Republican-leaning Salt Lake County -- says he, rather the Herbert, is best to follow Jon Huntsman's moderate footsteps.
"I think I represent more of what Governor Huntsman represented, which is a moderate common sense approach to leadership, bringing all parties together," Corroon said. "That's what I'd like to continue as governor."
Herbert disagrees. "Well interesting enough, Governor Huntsman didn't pick [Corroon] to be his lieutenant governor," Herbert said of Corroon. "So evidently Governor Huntsman didn't agree with that. I'm the one that's in the saddle right now. He's going to have to run against me. Clearly what we're doing in Utah is continuing it in the right direction."
Story compiled with contributions from John Daley and the Associated Press.