Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman recently visited Utah where he met with political allies and advisers to discuss a possible run for governor in 2020 according to multiple sources.
Huntsman, the Ambassador to Russia, and his wife, Mary Kaye, flew back to the Beehive State for the birth of their twin grandchildren this week. During the under-the-radar visit, he also took time to discuss a possible campaign to return to the Utah governorship, a position he held from 2004 until he resigned to become the Ambassador to China in 2009.
Sources with knowledge of the meetings describe the discussions as “testing the waters” for a potential run in 2020. If he does decide to mount a campaign, Huntsman would immediately vault into the top tier of candidates. A 2017 UtahPolicy.com survey showed 64% of Utahns had a favorable view of Huntsman, while 25% disapproved. Shortly before he left office, Huntsman enjoyed a 90% approval rating.
UtahPolicy.com first reported Huntsman was considering returning to Utah to run for governor again in April. At the time many political observers knocked down the idea, but the meetings this week with potential allies suggests that he may be more serious about another run than previously thought.
Huntsman would likely be able to self-fund his campaign, giving him a leg up on several of the other candidates who may enter the race.
The 2020 GOP gubernatorial field is expected to be a crowded one. Already Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is campaigning across the state in his bid for the Republican nomination. Former House Speaker Greg Hughes is expected to launch his candidacy later this summer. Others who are considering a run include Attorney General Sean Reyes, 1st District Congressman Rob Bishop, former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, former Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller and businessman Jeff Burningham.
Josh Romney, the son of Senator Mitt Romney, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for 2020. Romney has not yet made a decision whether to run, but earlier this year he shot down rumors that he was considering joining Cox’s ticket as a Lt. Gov. candidate.
Earlier this week, former Utah Congressman and current Fox News personality Jason Chaffetz confirmed he would not seek the GOP nomination for governor, but would not rule out a future run for office.
If Huntsman does run, he would potentially be the first governor to serve non-consecutive terms in Utah history. Utah is one of five states that has never had a governor return to office after leaving it.