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Huntsman missing county GOP meetings

Published: Wednesday, May 6 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has been a no-show at all of the Republican county conventions so far this year.

And a few bets are being informally laid (after all, gambling is illegal in Utah) that the governor won't appear at the state GOP convention in the Davis County Convention Center June 13.

Huntsman was even a last-minute cancellation at an anti-pornography conference held in a hall next to the Salt Lake County GOP convention at the South Towne Expo Center several weeks ago — leading some to believe he didn't want to be even next-door to a group of conservative Republican delegates.

At issue, of course, are the governor's statements that he supports civil unions — while at the same time standing by his previous comments that marriage should only between a man and a woman.

His civil-union comment came as he supported the "Common Ground Initiative" — a series of bills, quickly killed in the 2009 Legislature, supported by civil libertarians and gay-rights advocates aimed at recognizing different types of family groups.

But Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley says the governor does plan to attend to the state GOP convention on June 13. She said that "mostly it was scheduling" that caused him to miss the county conventions.

The governor, who has term-limited himself and is in his second, and last, term, has taken a number of moderate stands recently that have gotten him in hot water with his party's right wing.

After Huntsman vetoed a bill by Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork, following the 2009 Legislature, that would have held retailers of adult-rated video games liable for truth in advertising misrepresentations, Morley said Huntsman was a "moderate" Republican, certainly not a conservative.

Ivan DuBois, executive director of the Utah Republican Party, said, "as far as the party is concerned, the governor is invited" to address the June 13 state party convention, "and we have a time slot for him."

However, Huntsman is chairman of the Western Governors' Association, and he is hosting the summer WGA conference in Park City that begins June 14. So he could have an excuse to miss the political convention, if he so wishes.

One Republican who attended most of the county conventions this spring, and who believes he knows the tenor of many party delegates, said that should Huntsman speak before the state GOP convention "he would be booed — which is unfortunate."

Should such a reception occur, it harks back to appearances by former GOP Govs. Norm Bangerter and Mike Leavitt, who both heard some boos from convention attendees during their time in office after those Republican governors got on the wrong side of some right-wing delegates.

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche

E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com

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