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Jon Huntsman to resign as US Ambassador to Russia

Ambassador Jon M. Huntsman Jr. talks with his wife Mary Kaye during a Trade Talks forum at the Spaso House in Moscow, Russia on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News)

MOSCOW — US Ambassador to Russia and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., plans to resign his position and return to Utah, the Deseret News reports.

Huntsman sent his letter of resignation to President Donald Trump on Tuesday, effective Oct. 3.

Earlier this year, a source told the Deseret News Huntsman had not ruled out a run for Utah governor, sparking rumors about his political ambitions. This weekend, CNN reported that President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about finding a replacement for Huntsman in Moscow.

The letter does not mention political plans for Jon Huntsman, Jr., but instead focuses on his gratitude to his fellow public servants in Russia and personal life events.

“During my tenure, I have had the high honor of leading hundreds of talented, patriotic public servants who are themselves laboring under extremely difficult circumstances to promote and protect America’s interests. They have endured unprecedented expulsions, forced departures and enormous professional disruptions. Though largely anonymous, your team in Mission Russia is first-rate and every American would be proud of their work,” Huntsman wrote.

“Yet, as I have shared with you and Secretary Pompeo,” the letter continues, “our desire is to return to the United States after two years to reconnect with our growing family and responsibilities at home.”

Gov. Gary Herbert, who is not seeking re-election, became governor when Huntsman, a Republican, resigned as governor to serve as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China in 2009. However, Herbert indicated he plans to endorse his own lieutenant governor in the coming election.

“I’ve already made it known that I’m supporting Lt Gov. Spencer Cox,” said Governor Gary Herbert in a live interview on KSL NewsRadio Tuesday.  “I think he’s certainly demonstrated his ability and his talent. He’s been through all the chairs from local government, city, county, legislature, and lieutenant governor.”

“We can speculate until the cows come home about these folks or whoever else out there might be considering. I know there’s a lot of people who want to BE governor; not everyone wants to DO governor — it’s not an easy job, I can tell ya,” said Herbert.

Huntsman left the ambassadorship in China to run for president against President Obama, a Democrat, in 2012. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox reacted to the news that Huntsman would be returning to the state this fall.

“If he had not gone to China, I would not be here as lieutenant governor. I’m glad he’s coming back to Utah, he didn’t do that in between his stays in China and then in Russia as the ambassador. Utah is home, and the Huntsman family is a critical part of who we are in Utah,” he told KSL NewsRadio.

He was then asked about what this would mean for the governor’s race.

“I’m not one of the three elite families in Utah. Certainly [my time] has come at this service a different way. But however you come about public service, it is to be commended. I’m grateful for his service. if he decides to run, I welcome him to the race. He would make me a better candidate,” said Cox.

So far, Cox, a Republican, is the only declared candidate so far for governor in 2020. The deadline for candidates of any party to file to run is March 19, with primary elections scheduled for June and the general election on November 3, 2020.