Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meet the candidates: Jon Huntsman

Ambassador_Jon_HuntsmanJon Huntsman was born in California, but grew up in Utah. His father is the founder of Huntsman Corp., a global chemical company.

Huntsman dropped out of high school in his senior year in order to pursue a music career as keyboard player for his band, “Wizards.” His website notes that with “priorities adjusted,” he earned a G.E.D. and entered the University of Utah the next fall. After taking two years to serve as a Mormon missionary to Taiwan, Huntsman returned to enroll at the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in International Politics.

His political career began almost immediately, first as an intern for Senator Orrin Hatch and then as a staff assistant to President Reagan. Huntsman has served in a variety of appointed diplomatic positions beginning with the first Bush administration. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Development, and Ambassador to Singapore for President George H. W. Bush. In the administration of George W. Bush, he was a Deputy Trade Representative and a Trade Ambassador. He also served as President Obama’s Ambassador to China until he resigned to run for president. While in China, Huntsman’s name was censored from internet searches by the Chinese government after he was captured on video at a Jasmine Revolution protest.

Huntsman has also held elected office, serving two terms as governor of Utah. He was a very popular governor, winning re-election with more than 70 percent of the vote. According to the Deseret News, his approval ratings were as high as 90 percent.

Huntsman’s tenure as governor was marked by business-friendly policies and tax cuts. He introduced an optional flat tax with a lower rate and cut the state sales tax on food according to the Cato Institute. The institute also notes that spending increased 10 percent annually during his tenure, however.

Huntsman also has a business experience with the family firm. According to Project Vote Smart, he has served as CEO of the Huntsman Family Holdings Company and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation as well as Chairman of Huntsman Corp. He has also served as a board member for numerous charitable organizations.

Huntsman has a strong record on diplomacy and economic policy, but his record on social issues will cause problems with many Republican voters. He is a supporter of civil unions for homosexual couples, although he does believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. He has also stated in a tweet that he believes in evolution and global warming. In a 2007 video clip, Huntsman also said that he was “comfortable” with a “requirement” for health insurance.

Huntsman does have a conservative position when it comes to abortion. He supports a right-to-life amendment according to the Salt Lake Tribune. As governor, he signed several bills that limited abortions including a parental notification law and a law that required that women be informed that a fetus can feel pain.

In the most recent Real Clear Politics average of polls, Huntsman placed second to last with 2.2 percent of respondents supporting him. The only candidate to fare worse was former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. In an Insider Advantage poll of Georgia voters, Huntsman received only one percent. He may boost his numbers in Georgia when he comes to Atlanta this week. He will attend fundraisers on August 23 and meet with Georgia Republican leaders on August 24.

Jon Huntsman has a strong economic and foreign policy background, but his moderately liberal stance on social issues is troubling for conservatives. He would likely appeal to libertarian-leaning Republicans if Ron Paul were not already in the race and more well known. Nevertheless, his deep pockets make it possible for him to continue the race even with little support.


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