Former Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. Seeking Return as Utah Governor

Jon Huntsman Jr. is running for Utah governor.

The former governor confirmed to KSL NewsRadio Thursday morning he will seek a return to the state’s top office.

“This is the first time that we are here to say that we are so very honored and humbled to announce my candidacy for governor of the greatest state in America,” he told KSL’s Amanda Dickson and Tim Hughes on Thursday. “We hope those words resonate.”

Jon Huntsman Jr. formally announced he’s running for a third term as Utah’s governor, hoping to return to the office he left a decade ago to serve as U.S. ambassador to China, later running for president and eventually joining the Trump administration as the nation’s top diplomat in Russia.

“I think we left a legacy of strong growth, re-branding the state and getting us in a good direction,” Huntsman said, praising Gov. Gary Herbert, his former lieutenant governor who took over when he resigned in 2009 and is not seeking reelection, as “a great man and a great public servant.”

The 59-year-old Huntsman joins a so far solely Republican field of candidates in the 2020 race that already includes Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, businessman Jeff Burningham and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, with former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright, and retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop among those looking at a run.

Huntsman has had other federal posts, including as U.S. ambassador to Singapore, before first being elected governor in 2004. He easily won reelection in 2008 with nearly 78% of the vote, but stepped down less than a year into his second term after Democratic President Barack Obama named him U.S. ambassador to China.

After two years in Beijing, Huntsman returned to launch a short-lived 2012 bid for president that ended after a disappointing third-place finish in New Hampshire, behind now Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the eventual Republican nominee, and Ron Paul, then a Texas congressman.

He then held high-profile positions with the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C.-based foreign policy think tank along, with his stint at the No Labels organization and at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, founded by his late father.

After Trump won the White House in 2016, Huntsman, as well as Romney, was considered for secretary of state but the post went to oil company executive Rex Tillerson. Huntsman was selected ambassador to Russia, serving in Moscow during heightened tensions between the two nations over Russian interference in U.S. elections.