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Source: Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. not ruling out another run for Utah governor

By Lisa Riley Roche, KSL | Posted - Apr. 8, 2019 at 12:47 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor currently serving as President Donald Trump's ambassador to Russia, could be a candidate for governor in 2020.

A source told the Deseret News that Huntsman has not ruled out what would be his third run for Utah governor after winning the office in 2004 and being re-elected in 2008.

Huntsman, who will mark two years in Moscow this fall, had no comment about a possible run for governor, saying there is "nothing to consider until our current commitment is done."

He left a previous ambassador posting to China under President Barack Obama after less than two years in 2011 to run for president. Huntsman had resigned during his second term as governor to take the position with the Democratic administration.

When Huntsman stepped down as governor, then-Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert assumed the state's top elected office. Herbert has won elections for the remainder of Huntsman's term as well as two full four-year terms.

Herbert is not expected to run again next year and a number of Republicans are already eyeing what would be an open seat for the first time in 15 years, including Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes.

An entry into the race by Huntsman would shake up the GOP field.

"If Ambassador Huntsman decides to come back to Utah and run for governor, it will have an immediate and significant impact on this race and who decides to run," said Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Perry, who has been a chief of staff to Herbert, said Huntsman would be the front-runner in the race after leaving Utah "as a very popular governor. His experience has only increased since then."

Because of his experience in high-profile international positions under two administrations, Perry said Huntsman has something unique to offer voters in the upcoming election.

"What we know is he does love the state of Utah," Perry said. "If he did have an interest in getting in this race, it would be to promote the state of Utah. And he would take his world view into that office."

Since Huntsman became U.S. ambassador to Russia in 2017, he lost his father, billionaire businessman and philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. Last year, Huntsman Jr. revealed to the Deseret News he had been diagnosed with stage 1 skin cancer.

He was suspected of writing a September 2018 anonymous op-ed in the New York Times highly critical of Trump, something Huntsman officially denied in a statement from the embassy in Moscow.

Lisa Riley Roche

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