Go for It, Jon | Opinion | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Go for It, Jon 

Taking a Gander: A write-in would be right on.

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My heart sank when Jon Huntsman Jr. lost the Utah's GOP primary race to state Lieutenant Gov. Spencer Cox.

Just like me, thousands of Utahns joined the Republican Party to cast a vote for him in the primary election. Sadly, the inclusion of Republicans Thomas Wright and Greg Hughes onto the ballot took a heavy toll; they took almost 30% of the vote. It was the kind of vote dilution that skews the results. Without that complication, Huntsman would likely have won. What a shame.

Viewing the outcome, it would have made sense to have a runoff, allowing the Hughes and Wright votes to be reallocated. Yet, as a reminder of his impeccable manners, Huntsman graciously conceded to his defeat, noting that the voice of the people had been heard. "Today the race was called, and we accept the will of the people, as is our tradition as Americans," he tweeted. "The visions put forward for Utah were very different, and regret that I will not be leading the efforts in moving us towards a new horizon." Polite as it was, it was also a subtle poke at what Huntsman considers weak state leadership.

My immediate thought, like those of many other Utahns, was that we could just write Huntsman in, and his broad popularity would make him governor. I was sad when he announced that he would not seek a write-in campaign. Reflecting on Huntsman's first two terms, there was a reason why Utah was named the best-managed state under his leadership. Utahns loved him; his popularity was validated by receiving almost 80% of the votes in the 2008 election.

Huntsman still has broad support, and he towers above Cox on all fronts. Cox, as lieutenant governor, has been, essentially, Herbert's aide-de-camp—a gopher, personal assistant and boy Friday. Like the man he's served, he's a nice guy who falls short of being a leader, both in experience and personality. If he becomes our next governor, Utahns will have more of the same—a spineless, milquetoast figurehead who's most interested in keeping the status quo and avoiding making waves. On the other hand, Huntsman has led our state before, and he's served in every administration since Ronald Reagan.

So, what are we left with? While Gary Herbert may have been a satisfactory lieutenant governor to Huntsman, he was never made of the same mettle. All he has to show for his two terms at the Capitol is the lingering evidence that he tried to be popular at the expense of leadership. Namby-pamby is the word that comes to mind: letting others dictate his conscience in an effort to avoid making enemies. But that's not what real leaders do.

In the past few days, the notion of a write-in Huntsman campaign has resurfaced. Might we get another chance to choose the right man for the job?

In recent years, Huntsman stands out as the one governor who was progressive enough to help Utah emerge from the dark ages. While he did show respect for his heritage and for the local religious majority, he also had the guts to move our state forward. Under his leadership, Utah became a kinder place for outsiders, a more acceptable home for dozens of large companies, and a more inclusive community for its diverse population.

Gov. Huntsman, please, pretty please, go for it. It's your chance to make a real difference, and Utahns need you.

The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog.

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