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Washington • U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. and his wife, Mary Kaye, have plopped down $3.6 million to buy a home in the nation's capital, raising the specter of what Utah's former governor may do after his diplomatic deployment.

The three-story home, in the swanky Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, might be familiar to culinary fans as the house where the contestants in Bravo's "Top Chef: Washington, D.C.," stayed earlier this year during the show's filming.

The Huntsmans bought the five-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath Federal-style brick home in June, property records show, and paid substantially less than the $5.2 million the home sold for in 2006. The 5,500-square-foot home features expansive rooms with hardwood floors and a large outside patio, according to Washingtonian magazine, which first reported the sale in its October issue.

The Huntsmans could not be reached for comment Friday. But Neil Ashdown, the ambassador's chief of staff, told The Tribune the Huntsmans were looking for a handy location for their family — for business and pleasure trips.

"D.C. made sense since that is where he spends most of his time when he is in the U.S. on State Department business," Ashdown said."Plus, they were looking for a central gathering place for their family, who are mostly now on the East Coast."

Then-Gov. Huntsman sold his home in Salt Lake City's Federal Heights neighborhood in 2005 after moving into the Governor's Mansion. Huntsman was re-elected to a second term in 2008, but resigned after President Barack Obama tapped him to be the nation's envoy to China.

The move may indicate that Jon Huntsman Jr. plans to resettle in the nation's capital.

"I certainly think it is suggestive, because to buy a home in Washington is to make some commitment to live there or to want to live there and given his current location [in Beijing] and his former location, there's really no other reason to buy a home in Washington," says University of Utah political scientist Matthew Burbank. In many ways, he adds, it makes sense for Huntsman, who has already attained the highest elected position in the state; the only other spot that may be desirable could be a Senate seat, he adds, but leaving a high-level ambassadorship for that seems unlikely.