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Plans in place for upcoming gubernatorial transition



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah is getting ready to say goodbye to one governor and hello to another.

Assuming Gov. Jon Huntsman's Senate confirmation process goes smoothly, and everyone assumes it will, the formal transition from Gov. Huntsman to Gov. Herbert is expected to unfold in the next few weeks.

A preview of sorts played out in 2003 when then-Gov. Mike Leavitt resigned his office with the stroke of a pen to become director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. His lieutenant governor, Olene Walker, then took over. Soon, the Huntsman-to-Herbert handoff happens.

On July 23, the Senate will hold a confirmation hearing for Huntsman, who the president picked as ambassador to China. Later, the committee, and then the Senate, will vote.

If confirmed, as sure a bet as there is in politics these days, an inauguration for Utah's next governor will take place. The main question is when.

"It's all very fluid, depending on what the Senate does with Governor Huntsman's confirmation hearins. It's expected, as has been all along, sometime at the end of this month or the beginning of August," said Angie Welling, spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert.

By tradition, the Utah National Guard will oversee the event, likely to take place somewhere on the Capitol grounds. It will provide the master of ceremonies, the band and the 19-gun salute.

Herbert will give a speech, as will Huntsman.

"It really is a tribute to his service to the state, in addition to Lieutenant Governor Herbert's inauguration," Welling said.

Herbert will be both running the state and running for office, in what may be a crowded field in 2010. University of Utah Professor of Political Science Tim Chambless says with his party's convention less than 10 months away, Herbert will have to hit the ground running.

"He has to do that, otherwise he's going to be challenged by members of his own Republican Party," Chambless said.

Herbert's spokeswoman says he has narrowed his pick for lieutenant governor down to a handful of names and is expected to announce that choice within the next month.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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John Daley

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