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Huntsman will leave legacy of diplomacy



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Political pundits tell KSL Governor Jon Huntsman would certainly be considered among the most outstanding governors Utah has seen in recent decades. He is known as a popular moderate with extraordinary diplomatic skills.

Utah has been blessed with a series of strong and competent governors. Huntsman continued that tradition, but with a conciliatory style that made him popular both inside and beyond the political world.

Huntsman's legacy as governor must surely include bringing various sides together to find a solution. He did it in forging a deal to bring the controversial Real Salt Lake soccer stadium to Sandy. He did it again earlier this year in resolving the even thornier issue of reforming the state's liquor laws.

"We're moving toward much greater normalization today of our alcohol policy," he said at the time.

Huntsman also had the political courage to challenge those in his own party, leading the way in particular on environmental issues, helping to craft a groundbreaking regional climate deal.

"Climate change: one of the most compelling issues of our time. Dealing with it, in my opinion, is not a choice but rather an imperative," he said.

Perhaps the biggest test of his time in office was the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster, when he spoke out and pushed for tougher regulations and pointedly criticized mine ownership.

"I'm not going to get into the mine owner other than to say I thought the way the families were treated was unconscionable and they deserved better," he said.

At times he was no stranger to controversy, like just a few weeks ago when he spoke out in favor of civil unions for gays, calling it a human rights issue and inspiring the wrath of some conservatives. His lasting legacy may be his ability to reach out.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said, "On listening well to people and finding a middle ground."

It seems likely Gov. Huntsman will be considered a reformer with both a heart and a great ability to connect with people, who tried and succeeded, in places, in pushing Utah in a more progressive direction.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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John Daley

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