Former Gov. Jon Huntsman said Monday he would not be mounting a write-in campaign in November, but a group of supporters still hope they can change his mind.
"While we appreciate the continued enthusiasm from supporters throughout the state, especially after a very tight race, we won’t be pursuing any efforts for a write-in campaign," said Huntsman in a statement provided to UtahPolicy.com.
Huntsman lost a close GOP primary to Spencer Cox two weeks ago, and the current gap between the men is just over 6,000 votes.
While that may seem like the end of the story, there is still a group of supporters who say they aren’t giving up just yet.
As UtahPolicy.com first reported, a pro-Huntsman group launched an independent effort to determine whether a write-in campaign from Huntsman in the fall would be successful. That included public opinion polling and reaching out to potential campaign teams. One person involved with the group, who asked they not be identified, described the polling data as “very encouraging” and believes it may convince Huntsman to change his mind.
“He (Huntsman) has not seen data yet. We haven’t communicated with him yet. He hasn’t heard from supporters who want him to run yet,” they said.
They stress the group is continuing to pursue their effort to convince Huntsman to get into the race. They plan to continue the public opinion polling at least through next week and do a “deep dive” into the feasibility of a write-in effort. They plan to present the data to Huntsman sometime in the next week.
Huntsman has until August 31 to declare as a write-in candidate.
The backers of a write-in effort say they’re frustrated with Utah’s election process that allows a candidate to win a party’s nomination without securing a majority of the vote, believing that lawmakers should have been proactive and come up with a runoff process once SB54 created the possibility that more than two candidates could advance to a primary election. Lawmakers have discussed a runoff several times, but have been unable to find a solution.
Two Utah lawmakers are preparing legislation to use ranked-choice voting in primary elections with more than two candidates. If that proposal passes, it would go into effect during the 2021 municipal election cycle.
There is also the belief from those in the pro-Huntsman group that a larger swath of Utah voters should have their say in this election.
“Such a small segment of voters in the state have essentially chosen the state’s governor for the next 8-12 years. This should have been a runoff. This is the bus we saw coming five miles away,” they said.
If the difference between Huntsman and Cox had been larger, the write-in effort would probably have never gotten off the ground. But the final gap will likely be just over 1 percent, or a few thousand votes, which is why they believe they can convince Huntsman to reconsider.
“Why have a write-in process if it never gets put into play?” they added.
If Huntsman changes his mind, he will likely have to self-fund a large portion of the write-in effort. His family's wealth does give him the ability to do so, but it's not for certain he'll have the appetite to spend money on a long-shot campaign.