Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is resigning as America’s ambassador to Russia.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported Huntsman’s resignation is effective Oct. 3 and suggested Huntsman could be laying the groundwork for a 2020 campaign to serve as Utah’s governor again.
Huntsman was first elected governor in 2004 and re-elected in 2008. In 2009 and 2010, he served as America’s ambassador to China.
President Donald Trump named Huntsman as his envoy to Russia in 2017.
The New York Times also speculated Huntsman’s return is linked to plans to run for governor.
“I think he’s looking at it very closely,” Salt Lake City Chamber president Derek Miller told The Times.
In reporting on Huntsman’s possible political prospects should the 59-year-old seek election next year, The Tribune noted that current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is among the candidates seeking the post.
“If he decides to run for governor again, it would make me a better candidate,” Cox said. “I have no doubt that he would run a positive campaign and that voters will benefit as we share our ideas for the future of Utah.”
Current Gov. Gary Herbert, who served as Huntsman’s lieutenant governor and does not plan to seek re-election, cited Huntsman’s “good example” in public service.
“His resume is long and lengthy, particularly when it comes to working with the State Department, whether it be in Singapore, China or in Russia,” Herbert told The Tribune.
Herbert said he and his wife, Jeanette, “thank Ambassador Huntsman for two years of service in Russia on a very difficult assignment. We look forward to welcoming him home, and are sure his family will be happy to have him home as well.”
Reports that Jon Huntsman Jr resigned as ambassador to Russia, now has some talking about what this means for the governor’s race. But @GovHerbert just told @kslnewsradio: “I’ve already made it known that I’m supporting Lt Gov. Spencer Cox.” #utpol
— Mary Richards (@kslmrichards) August 6, 2019
In CNN’s reporting on Huntsman’s resignation, the outlet cited a source it did not identify as indicating Huntsman’s political plans were still uncertain.
Huntsman’s letter of resignation thanks Trump for the opportunity to serve.
“American citizenship is a privilege and I believe the most basic responsibility in return is service to country. To that end, I am honored by the trust you have placed in me as the United States ambassador to Russia during this historically difficult period in bilateral relations,” he wrote.
Huntsman also shared his thoughts on how to deal with Russia after he returns to the U.S.
“Going forward, we must continue to hold Russia accountable when its behavior threatens us and our allies,” he wrote.
“While much of what divides us is irreconcilable, there are common interests we cannot ignore. No reset or restart is going to help, just a clear understanding of our interests and values — and a practical framework for sustained dialogue.”
“Through our diplomacy, we have worked to stabilize years of acrimony and incertitude with the hope of a better relationship. Failure is not an option, and the people on both sides deserve better,” he wrote.
Speaking to Russia’s state-run Tass news agency, an anonymous source noted Huntsman’s departure by calling him a professional, but also said “the domestic political state of affairs in the U.S.” made relations between the two nations difficult, The Times reported.
Huntsman has said Russia needs to make the first move to achieve full collaboration.
“The bonds between our people remain strong,” Huntsman said last year.
“The United States is ready to cooperate and forge a better relationship between our two countries. But that will only be possible when Russia chooses to become a more responsible partner.”
No announcement has been made regarding Huntsman’s replacement.
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