2004 Utah gubernatorial election

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2004 Utah gubernatorial election

← 2000 November 2, 2004 2008 →
  Jon Huntsman.jpg Scott Matheson (cropped).jpg
Nominee Jon Huntsman Jr. Scott Matheson Jr.
Party Republican Democratic
Running mate Gary Herbert Karen Hale
Popular vote 531,190 380,359
Percentage 57.7% 41.4%

Utah Governor Election Results by County 2004.svg
County results
Huntsman:      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%
Matheson:      50–60%      60–70%

Governor before election

Olene Walker

Elected Governor

Jon Huntsman, Jr.

The 2004 Utah gubernatorial election took place on November 2, 2004. The incumbent governor was Republican Olene S. Walker, who had become governor following Mike Leavitt's resignation to join the George W. Bush administration. However, Walker placed fourth in the Republican primary, far behind Jon Huntsman Jr. Huntsman won the nomination and went on to win the general election, carrying 25 of the 29 counties and winning 57.7% of the overall vote. As of 2019, this was the last time that a Democratic nominee for any statewide office has received forty percent or more of the popular vote, and the most recent election in which a Democratic nominee carried more than three counties in the state.


In March 2003, Huntsman resigned his post in the Bush administration. In mid-August, three term incumbent Governor Mike Leavitt, whom Huntsman strongly supported, decided not to run for re-election to a fourth term, in order to become the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Bush administration.[1][2][3] Shortly thereafter, Huntsman filed papers to run for Governor of Utah.[4] In November 2003, Lieutenant Governor Olene S. Walker became the Utah's first female governor as Leavitt was confirmed to become EPA Administrator.[5]

Democratic nomination[edit]

Scott Matheson, Jr. entered the race on March 27, 2004.[6] He won the May Democratic nomination unopposed.[7]

Republican primary[edit]


Results, first round
Republican Convention results[8]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jon Huntsman Jr. 959 27.98
Republican Nolan Karras 607 17.71
Republican Fred Lampropoulos 584 17.04
Republican Olene Walker (incumbent) 495 14.44
Republican Marty Stephens 380 11.09
Republican James Hansen 278 8.11
Republican Parley Hellewell 121 3.53
Republican Gary Benson 4 0.12
Results, final round, instant-runoff
Republican Convention Results: Candidates Reduced to Two with Instant Runoff[9],[10]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jon Huntsman Jr. 1,707 51.28
Republican Nolan Karras 1,622 48.72



Huntsman gained the endorsements from U.S. Senator Jake Garn[11] and former U.S. President George H. W. Bush.[12] Polls showed he was the front-runner.

Republican primary results[13]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jon Huntsman Jr. 102,955 66.4
Republican Nolan Karras 52,048 33.6
Total votes 155,003 100

General election[edit]



Jon Huntsman Jr., a former advisor for U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush and son of industrialist Jon Huntsman, Sr.—the founder of Huntsman Chemical Corporation—filed papers to run for governor in September 2003.[14] Jason Chaffetz was his campaign manager. In April 2004, Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert decided to drop out of the Republican nomination and become Huntsman's running mate.[15] Herbert helped Huntsman with the rural community.[16] Huntsman campaigned on eliminating the sales tax on food[17] and on ethics reform. He proposed that lawmakers have to disclose all their gifts, they have to report monthly their campaign contributions, and they can't work as lobbyists immediately after leaving state government.[18] Huntsman opposed President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. He said he would leave a label on the door of the governor's office "Economic Development Czar" if he's elected.

U.S. Attorney, former Harvard University professor, and dean of the University of Utah law school Scott Matheson, Jr. won the Democratic nomination unopposed. He is the son of former Utah Governor Scott Matheson who was also the last Democrat to be elected governor of the red state of Utah. He made education the number one priority. He explained how better schools would attract new business. In one television ad, he called himself "Utah's Education Governor."[19] He criticized Huntsman for supporting school choice reform.[20]


In a March Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll, Matheson was leading all the Republicans running for the nomination except for Huntsman and Walker.[6] An early September Jones poll showed Huntsman leading 49%-39%.[21] An October 6 Salt Lake Tribune poll showed Huntsman leading 49%-33%.[22] An October 7 Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll showed Huntsman only leading 49%-40%.[23] An October 29 Salt Lake Tribune poll showed Huntsman leading 50%-36%.[24]


Huntsman raised a little over $3.5 million. Nearly $950,000 of the money raised was from his own personal loans and from family donations. He also raised 100,000 from the Republican Governors Association. Matheson raised almost $2.0 million. About one-fourth of Matheson's funds came from political committees, including $325,000 from the Democratic Governors Association.[25]


2004 Utah gubernatorial election[26]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Jon Huntsman Jr. 531,190 57.74% +1.97%
Democratic Scott Matheson Jr. 380,359 41.35% -0.92%
Personal Choice Ken Larsen 8,399 0.91%
Write-ins 12 0.00%
Majority 150,831 16.40% +2.89%
Turnout 919,960
Republican hold Swing


  1. ^ Swisher, Larry. "Bush picks Utah governor for EPA".
  2. ^ Harrie, Dan (August 18, 2003). "Leavitt's move is a gamble". Salt Lake Tribune, The.
  3. ^ "NewsLibrary". March 30, 2003.
  4. ^ "Huntsman Jr. files campaign papers". Deseret News. 2003-09-11. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  5. ^ "Walker sworn in as Utah's first female governor". 2003-11-05.
  6. ^ a b "Scott Matheson enters race for governor". 2004-03-28.
  7. ^ "No Demo runoffs; protest targets Rep. Matheson". 2004-05-09.
  8. ^ "Our Campaigns - UT Governor - R Convention Race - May 08, 2004".
  9. ^ "GOP selects Huntsman, Karras". 2004-05-09.
  10. ^ "May 8, 2004 Utah GOP convention Gubernatorial, US Congressional, and National Committeeman/Comitteewoman race results".
  11. ^ "Garn endorsing Jon Huntsman Jr". 2004-02-13.
  12. ^ "Bush Sr. Backs Huntsman". 2004-06-15.
  13. ^ "Our Campaigns - UT Governor - R Primary Race - Jun 22, 2004".
  14. ^ "Huntsman Jr. Files campaign papers". 2003-09-11.
  15. ^ "Huntsman, Herbert join forces". 2004-04-21.
  16. ^ Harrie, Dan (April 21, 2004). "Herbert's rural ties bolster Huntsman ticket". Salt Lake Tribune, The.
  17. ^ Harrie, Dan (January 27, 2004). "Huntsman would end sales tax on groceries". Salt Lake Tribune, The.
  18. ^ "NewsBank". January 14, 2004.
  19. ^ "Huntsman and Matheson target education". 2004-09-12.
  20. ^ "Rhetoric growing sharper in gubernatorial campaign". 2004-10-20.
  21. ^ "Mathesons on the march". 2004-09-12.
  22. ^ Harrie, Dan (October 6, 2004). "Huntsman has a double-digit lead in new poll". Salt Lake Tribune, The.
  23. ^ "Matheson inches closer". 2004-10-07.
  24. ^ Harrie, Dan (October 29, 2004). "Matheson needs a big finish". Salt Lake Tribune, The.
  25. ^ "Matheson 'mild attack ad' criticized". 2004-10-27.
  26. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 12, 2008. Retrieved May 1, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

See also[edit]

Election Results – Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office