SALT LAKE CITY – Former governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. has ended speculation that he would attempt to reclaim the governor’s mansion as a write-in candidate.
“The primary voters have spoken,” Huntsman said in an Instagram message posted late Friday, referring to his loss to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox by slightly more than one percent of the half-million votes cast in the June 30 balloting.
“Even the closest of races like ours are subject to rules and we respect that outcome,” Huntsman wrote. “While proceeding with a write-in campaign makes for a great theoretical game, it also carries with it the harm of more division in our beloved state that needs to heal on many fronts.”
The Cox campaign responded to Huntsman’s decision with a statement praising the former governor and the extended Huntsman family for their dedication to America and to Utah.
The speculation about Huntsman’s viability as a write-in candidate in the upcoming general election was largely fueled by the fact no candidate in the four-way gubernatorial race received a majority of votes in the GOP primary.
Cox won the GOP gubernatorial nomination with just 36.15 percent of the primary vote, compared to 34.95 percent of votes for Huntsman.
Recent polling by the Hinckley Institute of Politics for the Deseret News revealed that nearly half of Utah voters believe that state law should be changed to provide a run-off election if no candidate receives a majority of ballots in a statewide primary.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 registered voters during the period of July 27 to Aug.1. A total of 49 percent of survey respondents favored a run-off election if primary results did not give any candidate a clear majority.
Although Huntsman had publicly stated previously that he would not pursue his former office as a write-in candidate, his die-hard supporters continued to promote that possibility via social media and some exploratory statewide polling.
The real beneficiary of a Huntsman write-in candidacy would likely have been the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Chris Peterson of Salt Lake City. With the possibility of Cox and Huntsman splitting the statewide Republican vote in the general election, political observers had suggested that Peterson would have had a real chance of securing an upset victory with a ballot plurality composed of Democrats and independent voters.
Huntsman’s decision to forego a write-in candidacy seems final at this point. Under Utah election laws, write-in votes can only be counted for candidates who have officially filed to run that way.
The filing deadline for the November general election is Monday.