I’m very gratified of our Utah governor, Jon Huntsman.
I was rather skeptical about him when he first ran for office. Aside from his Republican membership, Huntsman Chemical is involved in a lawsuit concerning environmental pollution leading to cancer (the lawsuit is yet unresolved, and Huntsman Chemical has not been “convicted” of anything; nonetheless, if Huntsman Chemical has acted unethically, Huntsman jr would have been complicit in that action and defending that action rather than acknowledging and making restitution for their irresponsible behavior). Being a wealthy businessman, I was afraid he would be focused on supporting corporate interests. And one of his primary campaign planks was to institute a number of “tax holidays” and economic incentives to ostensibly entice corporate investment and growth (ie, corporate welfare). I supported Scott Matheson for governor, and was very disappointed when Huntsman won (if not particularly surprised).
Huntsman is far from perfect. I was disgusted he would be so petty as to fly in Sean Hannity to provide a “balance” to Michael Moore’s visit to Utah in 2004 (where is the balance to Hannity’s daily radio show broadcast in Utah?). I did not agree with his support for a constitutional marriage amendment at both a state and federal level. I do not agree with much of his economic agenda.
But Huntsman has very pleasantly surprised me. The Utah legislature, dominated as it is by very hard-line conservatives, was yet again determined to push through a pretty radical right-wing agenda. But Huntsman proved himself to be much more moderate and responsible than his predecessor and many other representatives of Utah’s majority party. He was instrumental in the bid to lower or eliminate the tax on food, a tax change which would most benefit the poor (a bid narrowly defeated by the more conservative elements of the legislature). While he is a proponent of a flatter tax, he did work reduce the more regressive nature of flat taxes and protect the poor. When Republican legislators were discussing meddling with the separation of Church and State by implementing “Intelligent Design” in science education, Huntsman stated very clearly his opposition, noting that we should not be mixing religion and science. He vetoed a bill aimed to prevent environmental groups from barring road construction, a petty attack on the groups which opposed the Legacy Highway. And now Huntsman is working furiously to ensure dental health care for disabled Utahns, an issue which the legislature refused to deal with.
It is interesting to compare Utah’s governor with our president. I was mildly skeptical about both when each first ran, feeling both were the less attractive of my options in both cases, but having no strong feelings about either. Bush betrayed all hope I had for him, revealing himself to be much worse than I could have anticipated, and doing damage in almost every action he took. Huntsman has proven to far exceed my expectations, being a reasonable and pretty compassionate person aside from his ideology, and on the whole advancing the cause of the people who accepted his offer to serve. He is one of the few Republicans whom I feel I can trust, and whom I would be willing to work with.