SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. officially ended speculation about whether or not he would run a write-in campaign to return to the governor's office on Friday night, saying “there won’t be a write-in effort on our part."
Huntsman’s statement was first posted on social media.
“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,” Huntsman wrote. “Our problem-solving void must be filled by free citizens who cherish the preservation of liberty and justice.”
The announcement came after about a month of discussion on whether Huntsman would become a write-in gubernatorial candidate.
On July 6 the former governor conceded the tight Republican primary race to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, saying he accepted "the will of the people" and would "find a way to continue to contribute to the good of our community."
The primary race was a close one with Cox winning a four-way Republican primary by 6,323 votes. Cox finished with 36.15% of the vote, narrowly ahead of Huntsman's 34.95%; former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes had 21.02% and businessman Thomas Wright got 7.88%.
“The primary voters have spoken," Huntsman's statement read Friday night.
Huntsman had already addressed rumors back on July 13 when he said he wouldn’t run as a write-in candidate in November’s election, but the conversation continued as supporters campaigned to get him on the ballot.
Friday’s statement comes just days before the write-in filing deadline on Aug. 31.
Huntsman said that while he isn’t continuing in the race, “we must be honest about concerns and challenges going forward.”
He continued to say that “possible irregularities” around the state’s COVID-19 Taskforce, which Cox is the head of, have “held my attention.”
“Because if there was corruption, it should never die in darkness, and power should never silence truth,” he wrote. “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.”
“May God bless the great state of Utah,” Huntsman's statement ends.
In response to Huntsman's news, Cox said he and his former opponent share a love of Utah and that he and his wife Abby Cox wish the Huntsman family the best.
“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," Cox said. "No election result will take away from their record of service, philanthropy and kindness."
"Despite the deep divides that exist in our nation, Utahns continue to rise above and find ways to unite," Cox continued. "We remain confident and optimistic that our best days are still to come.”
Cox is now a heavy favorite to become Utah's next governor in November's general election campaign against Democrat Chris Peterson. Utah has not elected a Democratic governor since 1980.
Alecia Williams, a Huntsman campaign volunteer and spokeswoman for the write-in effort, said that while the she and others are disappointed, the "group is proud of our efforts as we know the data we presented showed a clear and winnable path."
"Huntsman was torn by his love for this great state, his loyalty to his party and his respect for the people of Utah, but at the end of the day, Huntsman is a public servant and he was not interested in the divisiveness that this effort would ignite," Williams wrote in an email to KSL.com.
The group was "made up of a broad range of concerned Utah citizens that were frustrated by the outcome of the Republican Primary Election," Williams said. Members ranged from Huntsman supporters to those who supported gubernatorial candidates Hughes and Wright. Supporters of the cause differed in political parties, some Republicans, others unaffiliated voters or Democrats.
"We hope that our state leaders have taken note and will make the needed changes to our election system so that such a disappointing outcome will never repeat itself," Williams continued. "The voice and will of the people is something that our elections should boldly and proudly reflect — an outcome that this year’s primary failed to produce."
Huntsman's full statement is posted below:
Jon always speaks like a true statesman.
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.