This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Washington • Former Utah governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. says he'll be voting for GOP nominee Donald Trump even though he disagrees with him on a "range of issues."
Huntsman, who said in April it was time to end the GOP infighting and rally around Trump, has been relatively quiet since Trump gained the nomination and hadn't weighed in as the race tightened with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, his one-time boss at the State Department. The former governor says a "perfect choice" doesn't exist, and he's motivated to back Trump because he will take on the Washington establishment.
"Notwithstanding our highly flawed presidential primary process, desperately in need of reform, we still have a choice Clinton/Trump," Huntsman said in an email. "No third-party option is remotely viable."
Voters have to "deal with the hand dealt us by history," Huntsman said, so he's voting for Trump. But he adds that this election has shown how badly reform is needed so that future races actually deal with America's problems instead of personality-driven fights.
"My biggest lament is the loss of any real debate on issues that matter most to people replaced altogether by cheap shots, insults and our new fact-free operating environment," Huntsman said. "One can only hope that this doesn't become our new normal in politics."
Huntsman's support for Trump surprises Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, a Democrat who is leading the Clinton campaign effort in Utah.
"I'm having a hard time understanding how my Republican friends can make this choice," Wilson said, adding that Trump's insults toward women and other groups have continued unabated in the general election. "I'm afraid of a Donald Trump presidency, and it just amazes me that somebody like Jon Huntsman, whom I respect deeply, who was willing to serve under a Democratic administration, it is beyond belief to me" that he would back Trump.
Huntsman, who served as U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton, says that while he has " fundamental philosophical differences on a range of issues" with Trump, he's better positioned than Clinton to fix the country's economic woes and tackle such issues as an outdated tax code and burdensome regulations.
Trump's message about reforming the campaign-finance system also resonates with Huntsman. He says shrinking the influence of big donors is vitally important.
"This issue is fundamental to the health of our democracy," Huntsman said. "No one else seems willing to address it."
For the past several years, Huntsman has been co-chairman of No Labels, a nonprofit group that aims to cut through the partisan fights and forge coalitions to solve the country's pressing issues. The other co-chairman is former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat who left the party to run as an independent.
Among other issues, Huntsman favors Trump's vision of future Supreme Court nominees and sees him as the best candidate to strike a balance between the states and the federal government on land use and education.
"I'm afraid Clinton is too prone to solve things first out of Washington," Huntsman added.
Huntsman's comments come as the election appears to be tightening in battleground states and nationally.
A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll earlier this month showed Trump leading Clinton in Utah by 9 percentage points, though neither was close to majority support.
Editor's note: The owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune is Paul Huntsman, who is the brother of Jon Huntsman Jr.