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RUMORS PROJECT HUNTSMAN INTO POSITION ON BUSH CABINET

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 16 1988 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utah industrialist Jon Huntsman could become the next U.S. Secretary of Commerce if George Bush is elected president, according to strong rumors at the Republican National Convention.

Huntsman's son, Jon Huntsman Jr., who is a Utah delegate at the convention, said Bush's campaign told his father that he is being considered for the job. "But I can't confirm or deny where that all stands now," he said."It's not something we're really counting on. But there was a little bit of talk about it. And it has been tossed around quite a bit by Bush's people," the younger Hunstman said.

Bud Scruggs, campaign manager for Sen. Orrin Hatch, said Republican Washington insiders have been saying they believe Huntsman would be the logical choice for the job because of his business experience, building Huntsman Chemical into one of the nation's largest privately held chemical companies.

The younger Huntsman said his father knows George Bush well through his work in campaigns for Ronald Reagan and his long involvement in the Republican Party. Also, Huntsman is friends with former Treasury Secretary Jim Baker, who is now chairman of Bush's campaign and a close adviser. Huntsman is also treasurer of Bush's Utah campaign.

News of the possible appointment caught some other high-profile delegates a bit by surprise.

Hatch said he had not heard the rumor. "But Huntsman would be an excellent choice. He is very qualified." But he added that Huntsman may be so busy with his business that he could not leave to take the cabinet position.

When Huntsman called off his short-lived candidacy for Utah governor earlier this year, he said he did so because he needed to devote more time to his business.

Former Education Secretary T.H. Bell, another Utah delegate, said he also had not heard the rumor.

Bush's campaign had no comment on the matter, which it said is the normal response about possible appointments. Huntsman himself was also out of town and unavailable for comment.

If Huntsman were appointed to the cabinet, it wouldn't be his first time in Washington or working for the White House. He was a special assistant to President Richard Nixon for a year.

But even if Bush loses, a Utahn may still be appointed to a cabinet post. Rumors at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta last month said former Utah Gov. Scott M. Matheson is under strong consideration for Secretary of Interior if Democrat Michael Dukakis wins. Matheson confirmed he is interested in the job.

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