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.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. Herbert helped Huntsman with the rural community. Huntsman campaigned on eliminating the sales tax on food 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. 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 schoolScott 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." He criticized Huntsman for supporting school choice reform.
In a March Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll, Matheson was leading all the Republicans running for the nomination except for Huntsman and Walker. An early September Jones poll showed Huntsman leading 49%-39%. An October 6 Salt Lake Tribune poll showed Huntsman leading 49%-33%. An October 7 Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll showed Huntsman only leading 49%-40%. An October 29 Salt Lake Tribune poll showed Huntsman leading 50%-36%.
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.