It may only be April 2019, but over the last several weeks a number of rumors surfaced concerning the 2020 governor’s race. UtahPolicy.com is glad to bring those forward for your consideration:
Former GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., now the Trump administration’s ambassador to Russia, has been talking to a few Utahns about returning to his home state and running – if you can believe it – for governor once again.
Huntsman, the namesake of billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., was Utah governor from 2005 to 2009, when, soon after his easy re-election to a second term, he resigned to become ambassador to China for former Democratic President Barak Obama.
It’s no secret that Huntsman’s dream job is to be U.S. Secretary of State. Current Sec. Mike Pompeo is reportedly thinking about resigning to return to Kansas to run for the U.S. Senate next year. But whether Trump would tap Huntsman to be secretary of state is a whole other matter.
Obviously, if Huntsman decides to return to Utah and run for governor again it would throw the wrench into a number of other Republican hopefuls gubernatorial plans. SB54’s signature-gathering route allows Huntsman – seen as a moderate by the party’s right-wing – to bypass arch-conservative delegates in the 2020 GOP convention, and his personal wealth and good name I.D. ensures a strong Huntsman primary campaign.
Huntsman running for governor again has several Republicans UtahPolicy.com spoke to scratching their heads. It’s well known in Utah Republican circles that Huntsman wants to return to the states, but another run for governor has them perplexed.
Rumors are flying in the Utah politisphere that current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox wants to tap Josh Romney as his running mate when he launches his expected bid for governor.
“I have heard Spencer thinks this is a good idea,” said one source close to Romney. “I don’t think Josh has the appetite for this.”
Romney poured cold water on the idea Wednesday afternoon.
“The only office I’ve ever considered running for is the governor’s office,” said Romney. “If the timing is right for my family, then I would make that choice.”
“I have no idea where these rumors are coming from,” added Romney.
Cox,in an email statement, praised Romney and added he has not yet decided whether to run for governor in 2020.
“As Utahns, we’re extremely lucky to have Josh and Jen in our community and I appreciate their support of our administration. I would be the first to tell them being Lieutenant Governor is not nearly as exciting as it sounds. Abby and I continue to consider how we can best serve the people of Utah and will make a decision on the governor’s race at the appropriate time,“ said Cox.
“There are a lot of my friends running for office,” said Romney. “I’m certainly am not in a position to pick one over the other.”
Meanwhile, former Utah State House Speaker Greg Hughes is “very likely” to run for governor next year, UtahPolicy.com is told.
Hughes is close to Jon Huntsman Jr. and was a good friend of Huntsman Sr. before his passing months ago. That relationship is strong enough that one well-placed Utah Republican told UtahPolicy.com Hughes has said he would defer to Huntsman if he decided to jump into the 2020 race.
Earlier this week, the title of Hughes’ Facebook page was changed from Speaker Greg Hughes to Greg Hughes Utah, fueling speculation that an announcement of a gubernatorial run was imminent.
Hughes has been talking to top tier Utahns and out-of-staters about donating to a Hughes For Governor campaign. And, reportedly, you may start seeing some significant funds flowing into Hughes’ current PAC, Hughes Leadership PAC, within a few months.
The PAC as of the end of last year only had $7,315 in cash, after Hughes gave tens of thousands of dollars to House colleagues’ re-election campaigns in 2018.
Fundraising is always an early indication that a candidate has support and is going to make a race of it.
And the 2020 governor’s race will likely cost several million dollars.
Fox News personality Jason Chaffetz is still reportedly considering a run for governor in 2020, but his yearning to run may not be as strong as some think.
“Jason is kind of hard to read,” said one GOP insider who spoke to UtahPolicy.com. “I would put him under 25% of getting in if I were betting on it today.
UtahPolicy publisher LaVarr Webb wrote a column this week about current Utah GOP national committeeman Thomas Wright preparing for a possible gubernatorial run next year.
Wright is also a former state GOP chairman and was able to bring right-wing elements of the party together with mainstream Republicans – back in the day before SB54 and its dual pathway for candidates split the party and lingering lawsuits basically bankrupted it.