COLUMBIA, S.C. — In his first trip to early-voting South Carolina since launching his presidential campaign, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. did the governor's bidding and demanded Wednesday that President Barack Obama end a lawsuit by a federal labor agency in a dispute over a Boeing plant being built in South Carolina.
"Absolutely the president should step in," Huntsman said during a stop in Columbia. "Sixteen or 18 months after the deal was struck and the plant was up, the lawsuit came in. ... If you can't bank on that initial negotiation done by a company in a state, then it's going to scare a lot of companies away from this business environment."
Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has asked all GOP presidential hopefuls to weigh in on the National Labor Relations Board's lawsuit, which claims Boeing decided to build its new 787 jet assembly line in South Carolina to retaliate against union workers in Washington state who went on strike in 2008. South Carolina is a right-to-work state.
After touring an infrared grill manufacturer's facilities, Huntsman said Obama should quash the lawsuit, which he said creates uncertainty in economic development.
"If I were governor of a labor state, the kind of action that we've seen would concern me," Huntsman said.
A reporter asked Huntsman about his Mormon faith, which he shares with fellow candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Huntsman said he would not back away from his origins.
"I believe in God," he said. "I'm a proud Christian, and I'm very proud of my Mormon roots.
Visiting South Carolina a day after formally announcing his campaign in New Jersey with the Statue of Liberty as the backdrop, Huntsman also paid his $35,000 filing fee to appear on the ballot on South Carolina's first-in-the-South Republican primary. Surrounded by his wife and five of their seven children at the state Republican Party's headquarters, Huntsman said he looked forward to competing in the state, where, since 1980, the primary winner has emerged with the conservative seal of approval and eventually clinched the party's presidential nomination.