(CN) – Jon Huntsman, onetime governor of Utah and a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, announced Thursday he will seek a third term as the Beehive State’s governor.
“The most compelling issue for stepping up and running for governor is I believe the most important issue facing us: growth,” said Huntsman during a news conference at the Southern University of Utah.
“The decisions that will be made coming out of 2020 are going to affect us for the next 10, 15, 25 years, make no mistake about it. How do I know? Because I’ve been governor before,” Huntsman grinned.
Huntsman, 59, served two terms as governor of Utah in 2001 and in 2005. During Huntsman’s second term, current governor Gary Herbert served as his lieutenant governor. Huntsman previously served as U.S. ambassador to Singapore in 1992 under George H.W. Bush, and to China in 2009 under Obama.
Huntsman resigned from his position as U.S. ambassador to Russia in August amid rumors he was building a gubernatorial campaign.
“As governor you don’t work on short-term things, you work on long-term things. You plant seeds that may come to fruition in a few years, they may come to fruition generations removed,” Hunstman told university students. “Any governor, if they’re worth their salt, has the ability to look around the bend, pull together people with common sense, and to figure out a pathway going forward on how we face the big issues of the day.”
According to research from the University of Utah Gardner Policy Institute, the state is expected to add 5.8 million people by 2065, with a million of them likely to end up in Utah County.
Huntsman outlined support for immigrants and migrants from nearby states moving to the state in search of economic opportunity and stressed the challenge of maintaining air quality amid growth.
An October poll of 600 Utahans conducted by the Salt Lake City Chamber estimated Huntsman holds the support of 33% of voters, compared to 26% who are behind Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who is also running for the office.
Looking only at answers reported from Republicans, however, Cox led Hunstman by four points, with 34% of support.
Cox has been campaigning since May and responded to Huntsman’s announcement by releasing a list of 125 Utah mayors who endorsed him.
Salt Lake County councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton and businessman Jeff Burningham are also running for the Republican nomination.
Millennial entrepreneur Zachary Moses, who runs the gay travel website He Travels, is the only Democrat running for governor of Utah. His campaign hats promise Moses will “part the red sea.”
Two-term Gov. Gary Herbert’s office confirmed he is not seeking re-election in 2020.