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The Salt Lake Tribune - Huntsman Hails Easy Re-Election as Mandate for His Agenda

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The Salt Lake Tribune - Huntsman Hails Easy Re-Election as Mandate for His Agenda

A second term as Utah's governor

Robert Gehrke

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who dominated Democrat Bob Springmeyer throughout the campaign, has governed from the center and said a decisive victory gives him a mandate to move ahead with his agenda for the next four years.

"I think most definitely we do [have a mandate] and more importantly we've got the will to succeed," he said Tuesday evening, describing his second term as his last.

Like the hundreds of thousands of Utahns who voted for him, Huntsman braved the weather and walked the block-and-a-half Tuesday from the Governor's Mansion to his polling place with his wife and children.

With nearly half the unofficial vote counted, Huntsman was leading Springmeyer with 75 percent of the vote. Before the end of the night, he could surpass a record set by former Gov. Mike Leavitt, who won 75 percent of the vote in 1996.

Springmeyer spent Tuesday morning shivering on a street corner in a cold, driving rain, waving to drivers that whizzed past. It was, Springmeyer said, one of the few low points in a campaign that he said he knew from the start was going to be difficult.

"For most of campaign we were far behind . . . but Utahns need change both up and down," Springmeyer said, and he believes Utah voters are beginning to seek a new direction. "There is something happening in Utah. . . . What we need in this state is a balanced and active two-party system."

It has been 28 years since Utah last elected a Democratic governor.

Throughout the campaign, Huntsman staked out middle ground, breaking with his party on issues like climate change, renewable energy, ethics reform and environmental protection, presenting Springmeyer with a very small target.

Huntsman's centrist nature has irritated some from his own party, particularly his strident advocacy for curbing greenhouse gas emissions and expanding renewable energy.

"Some people are going to say, 'That's not the conservative orthodoxy.' Well, that's not my style. That's not what I'm here to do," Huntsman said.

Over the next four years, Huntsman has said he plans to push aggressively to expand renewable energy and cap the state's carbon emissions. He hopes to continue increasing funding for education, expanding health care for the uninsured, and repealing the remainder of the state sales tax on food.

"There's some very exciting things we've got in the works," Huntsman said. "There's no reason why, over the next three to four years, we can't do something as dramatic as completely close the gap on the uninsured and achieve parity on teacher pay with the rest of the nation."

He has also said he will push for legislative ethics reform, and doing away with the state's membership requirement for bars and clubs.

"I'm 100 percent for Governor Huntsman. I think he should run for president. I'm a huge fan," said Crystal Spackman, a Murray High School teacher voting in Sandy. "He's got integrity and he's got a social conscience."

As his lieutenant governor, Springmeyer, a management consultant, picked Josie Valdez, the first ethnic minority in the state's history to be on a major party ticket.

"I thought the campaign went marvelously well. I think we accomplished all our goals," said Springmeyer. "We ran a good campaign, issues-based, honest and ethical."

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