Why a former Utah governor endorsed Mike Lee in a Club for Growth ad this week

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said he doesn’t always agree with Lee, but “principled leadership and fidelity to the Constitution are paramount in difficult times.”

(Screenshot from YouTube) A YouTube screenshot from a Club for Growth ad where former Utah Gov. John Huntsman Jr. endorses Utah U.S. Senator Mike Lee for reelection in the 2022 midterm elections. The ad first aired on YouTube on Oct. 26, 2022.

Utah U.S. Sen. Mike Lee can add a new name to his list of reelection endorsements — and it’s a former Beehive State governor.

Jon Huntsman Jr. endorsed Lee’s run for a third term in a new ad that aired on Wednesday by Club for Growth, a conservative group that has attacked Lee’s challenger, independent Evan McMullin.

During the ad, Huntsman says that he knows Lee’s heart and says that Lee has “unshakable integrity that is all too scarce in politics.”

“You might not always agree with Mike – I don’t – but we can all agree that principled leadership and fidelity to the Constitution are paramount in difficult times,” Huntsman says. “Let’s send Mike Lee back to the Senate.”

Huntsman served as Utah’s governor from 2005 to 2009. He later served as a U.S. ambassador to China under former President Barack Obama and as an ambassador to Russia during former President Donald Trump’s administration. Huntsman ran for the GOP nomination in the 2020 gubernatorial election, but lost to then-Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.

The Huntsman ad is the latest commercial made by Club for Growth in Utah’s increasingly contentious U.S. Senate race between Lee and McMullin.

Earlier this month, Club for Growth’s president David McIntosh said the group will continue to spend money on the race in support of Lee. McIntosh’s statement came a week after Evan McMullin sued Club for Growth and several Utah television stations over an ad the candidate claimed was deceptive.

Lee’s campaign has also received endorsements from former Vice President Mike Pence, as well as state politicians like Senate President Stuart Adams and dozens of other Utah Legislators. In April, former President Donald Trump offered his endorsement for Lee’s reelection.

McMullin was recently endorsed by actor Mark Hamill — best known for playing Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” movies. McMullin also held an event last week with Illinois U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger. The congressman first endorsed McMullin last November, and last week the Congressman joined McMullin for an event at the Salt Lake City library.

At this spring’s party convention, Utah Democratic delegates voted to back McMullin over nominating their own party candidate for the Senate race.

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