PROVO — Former U.S. Sen. Jake Garn endorses Jon Huntsman Jr. in Utah's governor's race.

"We do need to elect a man with his background and ability, which will have such a direct impact on the future economic development of this state," said Garn, who issued the endorsement Thursday while speaking to Provo's Rotary Club.

Huntsman's experience in the business and diplomatic fields — Huntsman was the U.S. ambassador to Singapore and also worked as the deputy assistant Secretary of Commerce for East Asian and Pacific Affairs — are needed in the governor's office, Garn said.

The GOP field is heavy with candidates.

The list includes former Utah House Speaker Nolan Karras; former 1st Congressional District Rep. Jim Hansen; Utah Sen. Parley Hellewell, R-Orem; Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert; current Utah House Speaker Marty Stephens, R-Farr West; and businessman Fred Lampropoulos.

Gov. Olene Walker has yet to announce whether she'll join the race.

David Magelby, a Brigham Young University political science professor, said Garn's endorsement is a coup for the Huntsman campaign. But it's not a guarantee of success with party delegates or voters, he said.