Former Gov. Jon Huntsman met in person with a group of supporters hoping to convince him to launch a write-in campaign last week UtahPolicy.com has learned. The Friday afternoon meeting lasted almost four hours, but Huntsman has not yet made a final decision.
The independent group pushing for Huntsman to launch another candidacy shared polling and other data they believe shows a path for him to succeed in what is undoubtedly a longshot effort.
Spencer Cox narrowly defeated Huntsman by a little more than 6,000 votes in the hotly contested four-way primary. Huntsman has until Aug. 31 to declare as a write-in candidate.
A final decision from Huntsman on the write-in effort is expected sometime this week.
“Our data shows us the majority of Utahns feel their voice was not heard and these same voters want and will support a write-in effort,” said one source present in the meeting who spoke to UtahPolicy.com on the condition of anonymity.
Successful write-in candidacies are exceedingly rare, but supporters believe Utah’s mail-in election, coupled with expected high turnout in November and the elimination of the straight-party voting option on ballots will make such an effort easier.
If Huntsman does decide to jump into the race, he could have a potent digital army ready to rally behind him.
Judy Weeks Rohner, who was one of the leaders of the successful referendum effort to overturn the tax reform bill passed by lawmakers late last year, says she would be “100 percent on board” with a Huntsman write-in effort and she suspects many of those who worked on the referendum feel the same way.
“He was the one who originally lowered the food tax and was a supporter of the referendum effort,” says Weeks Rohner. “If there is a possibility he will run, people will support him.”
This wouldn’t be the first political campaign the group would wade into. Weeks Rohner says some of those who worked on the referendum effort helped Republican Chris Wilson unseat longtime Sen. Lyle Hillyard in the June primary election. Those efforts were centered mostly around contacting voters through social media.
If Huntsman does declare as a write-in candidate, the leaders of the referendum group plan to hold a vote on whether to back his effort sometime next week.
Supporters say, despite their optimism about his prospects, they know there is no guarantee that Huntsman will take the leap and realize his decision will ultimately come down to more than just their sales pitch.