Herbert: Huntsman leaving big shoes to fill

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SALT LAKE CITY -- As Gov. Jon Huntsman prepares to exit, Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert is getting ready to enter a new chapter in his political career, one with significantly enhanced responsibilities.

Herbert, a former Utah County Commissioner and one-time candidate for governor, calls this moment both daunting and exciting. He likened it to the time he flew in an F-16, which left him a little bit wobbly.

He says he has "big shoes to fill," but his priorities will be growing the economy, creating jobs and being a consensus builder.

"There's not going to be any big shakeup, any big changes. We're not going to veer to the left or to the right. We're going to continuing doing what we've done in the past that's got us to be number one in virtually every category that you can measure," Herbert said.

Huntsman has been known as a consummate diplomat, willing to listen to many voices. It's something Herbert says he'll do too.

"It's my nature to be consensus, to bring people together, to find solutions that we all can agree upon," Herbert said.

On some issues, social and environmental issues for example, Herbert has already staked out more conservative positions than Huntsman. But on Monday he stressed their similarities rather than differences.

"Obviously, there's a bit of apprehension in understanding what will be their priorities and how inclusive they will be. I do take him at his word that he wants to hear from diverse voices and they will be part of his discussions," said Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City.

Sen. Pete Knudson, R-Brigham City, said, "I suspect there will be a lot of pressure on him from the more conservative aspects of the party to be less progressive, so to speak. But I'm not sure how he'll respond. He said today, ‘Don't expect any changes.'"

Herbert says he has not decided on who he will chose to become his lieutenant governor, other than it will be a fellow Republican.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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