Jon Huntsman builds small lead for governor in new poll

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has pulled to a small lead in the four-way race for the Republican nomination in this year’s gubernatorial race, a poll released Monday evening shows.

He has 35% support of likely GOP primary voters, just ahead of 31% for Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. That is still within the margin of error of 3.77% in the poll of 676 likely voters for the Salt Lake Chamber conducted June 1 through June 10 by Dan Jones & Associates.

Trailing behind them at 10% was former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, and former Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright had 5%. Another 18% were undecided.

A Salt Lake Tribune/Suffolk University poll released last week, and conducted June 4 through June 7, had reversed the rolls of the leaders. It showed Cox with 32% support, Huntsman with 30%, Hughes with 14%, Wright with 8% and 17% were undecided.

Both polls show the leaders are neck and neck, and that the race is up for grabs.

Huntsman tweeted Monday, “This poll confirms the momentum we’ve felt building over the past weeks. Utahns are rightfully anxious about the economic challenges we face, and this is no time to think small. Our plan to double Utah’s economy is resonating, and we will continue to work for every vote.”

The new poll suggests that Huntsman may be helped by Democrats and unaffiliated voters who are registering as Republican just to vote in the primary.

The new poll found Huntsman led Cox by just a 35-33 percentage point margin among Republicans, but led 40-25 among Democrats and unaffiliated voters who plan to vote in the GOP primary. Huntsman has actively campaigned for the support of such voters.

That comes as former Democratic state senator Jim Dabakis has urged Democrats to switch affiliation to have a voice in the the many races here essentially decided in the GOP primary. Democratic leader Kem Gardner also wrote a Tribune op-ed urging the same, saying the real Utah governor’s race is in June, not November, given that a Democrat hasn’t been elected to the office in 40 years.

The new poll also asked those who reported they are undecided about to whom they are leaning. It found 11% said Huntsman, 4% said Cox — with none for Hughes or Wright. The rest said they are truly undecided.

It also asked who all voters in both the GOP and Democratic primaries whom they thought would best lead the state through the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis. It found that 37% said Huntsman, 24% said Cox, 6% said Hughes, 3% said Wright and 9% said Democratic nominee Chris Peterson.

Editor’s note: Jon Huntsman is the brother of Paul Huntsman, the chairman of The Salt Lake Tribune’s nonprofit board of directors.