Jon Huntsman Jr. filed papers Wednesday with the state elections office setting up a campaign committee.

Such papers are required before a candidate can officially raise cash or make expenditures on a campaign.

The filing was expected. Huntsman, a 43-year-old Republican, resigned his post as a trade ambassador in the Bush administration last spring and returned to Utah to begin contacting GOP delegates and party faithful in a bid for the governorship.

At the time, Huntsman, oldest son of industrialist/philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman, said he would not challenge GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt, should Leavitt seek a fourth term.

Last month Bush tapped Leavitt to become the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Leavitt, anticipating Senate confirmation, said he would not run for re-election next year.

That cleared the way for Huntsman's official entry into the race, which could have a dozen Republican contenders before the candidate filing deadline passes in mid-March 2004.

Through a press release, Huntsman said: "The overriding need in Utah is creating high-paying and stable jobs for the prosperity of future generations. To accomplish that, our state's economy needs to be highly competitive in growth industries. And to be competitive, our children need — and deserve — a world-class education. This requires vision, experience and leadership."