The effort to convince former Gov. Jon Huntsman to mount a write-in campaign for November’s election is picking up steam, and a final decision may be coming soon.
Sources close to the effort, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, tell UtahPolicy.com a large planning meeting took place earlier this week on Wednesday evening. The session lasted approximately three hours with at least 20 people in attendance. Attendees discussed the strategy and logistics of a possible write-in bid. Huntsman was not in attendance.
Organizers of the write-in campaign acknowledge they have been in contact with Huntsman and his family about their plan, but have not yet met with him in person. UtahPolicy.com is told that meeting will likely happen sometime in the next two weeks. The deadline for Huntsman to declare as a write-in candidate is August 31.
UtahPolicy.com first reported that a group of Huntsman’s supporters were independently exploring whether he could or even should try a write-in campaign shortly after his narrow loss in the GOP primary to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. Cox won the four-way contest by a little more than 6,300 votes out of more than 500,000 ballots cast. Those supporters have conducted multiple rounds of public opinion polling to test a Huntsman write-in against Cox and Democratic nominee Chris Peterson.
Supporters of the write-in effort have said if the final tally between Cox and Huntsman was greater than just over 1 percent, they would not have a case. But, now that the dust has settled on the election, they believe they can convince Huntsman to reconsider.
Last month Huntsman publicly said he would not be pursuing a write-in campaign, but he has not put the brakes on the independent effort to convince him to run again.
“Neither he nor the family has told us to stop,” said a source who is involved in planning a possible write-in strategy. “They know we are working hard on this effort and want to see what it would take to run.”
Huntsman certainly seems open to the possibility. Huntsman’s wife, Mary Kaye, posted a picture on Instagram of Jon and his granddaughter with the caption, “Isabel trying to convince her Bapa to do a write-in campaign for Utah Governor. He told her he’d think about it…”
Huntsman’s daughter, Abby, replied to the post with the hashtag #allinforHuntsman.
The group of Huntsman supporters behind the initial write-in effort was caught off guard last month when a second group calling themselves “Draft Jon” popped up on Facebook.
“That completely caught us by surprise,” said one of Huntsman’s supporters.
The two groups have since merged.
On Friday, Jamie Renda, one of the organizers of the pro-Huntsman Facebook Group, caused a stir in some Republican circles when she sent out an email proclaiming that Huntsman was about to announce his write-in candidacy.
“Although it’s not quite official, I am confident to announce that Jon Huntsman will be declaring that he is a write-in candidate for governor,” she wrote in the email.
A source with the write-in effort said Renda’s email was premature, and she was asked to issue a retraction.
Those hoping that Huntsman will embrace the write-in effort say the lack of a runoff election following the close result in the GOP primary allowed Cox to grab the nomination without securing a majority of Republican support. They also believe that a larger group of Utah voters should have a say in the state’s next governor.
If Huntsman does decide to pursue the write-in path, he will likely have to self-fund much of the effort.