SALT LAKE CITY — Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Monday he’s not running as a write-in candidate in November.
“While we appreciate the continued enthusiasm from supporters throughout the state, especially after a very tight race, we won’t be pursuing any efforts for a write-in campaign,” Huntsman said in statement. He declined to talk about his decision.
Huntsman’s daughter, Abby, told KSL her father “has always had respect for the primary process.”
The twice-elected governor’s statement comes after a group of supporters met last week to review poll results that reportedly showed Huntsman would have a slight edge in the general election over the winner of the June 30 GOP gubernatorial primary, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.
But backers of the effort to draft Huntsman into a write-in campaign said they still hope to change his mind and are moving forward, including with additional polling.
Alecia Williams, a volunteer on the Huntsman campaign and spokeswoman for the effort, said she hopes to have a presentation ready in the next week or two.
“We have not had contact with Gov. Huntsman and therefore, he has not seen the data or support that is building,” Williams said. “We are prepared to present it to him when we are ready and we are confident that once he sees it, he will be able to make an informed decision regarding a write-in campaign.”
She said they’re “confident that once he sees it, he will be able to fully evaluate the potential of a very winnable write-in campaign.”
Another backer, speaking on the condition of not being identified, said “we’re not giving up. We’re doing our due diligence. We want him to be fully informed of where voters sit across the spectrum.” The proponent added that because of the close race, giving Utahns another chance to vote for Huntsman “is the fair thing to do and the right thing to do.”
Neither Williams nor the backer would share specifics of the polling underway since before the close race was called a week ago, or name who is footing the bill.
The most recent results of the entirely by-mail primary election have Huntsman coming within just over 6,300 votes of Cox. The other two GOP gubernatorial candidates, former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright, have both conceded.
Utah law allows write-in candidates to file through Aug. 31. Only the candidate can file, and write-in votes are only counted for those who do so. Cox’s chief competition in the general election is now Democrat Chris Peterson, a University of Utah law professor.
Cox has not commented on the possibility of facing Huntsman again the general election.
Huntsman also was silent about whether he was considering a write-in campaign until the statement released Monday. On Friday, Abby Huntsman said the family “has been out of town and know nothing about these efforts. Anything being done would be by a third party.”
Elected governor in 2004 and again in 2008, Huntsman left office less than a year into his second term to become U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama. He later ran for president and, most recently, served as President Donald Trump’s U.S. ambassador to Russia.
Huntsman’s lieutenant governor, Gary Herbert, became governor when he stepped down. After more than a decade as governor, Herbert is not seeking reelection and has endorsed Cox. Eight Republicans were initially vying for the first open governor’s seat since 1992.