With the news Monday that Abby Huntsman is quitting her gig on ABC’s “The View” to work on her father’s campaign for Utah governor, the effort has become a full-fledged family affair.
Abby Huntsman, 33, announced that she will be a senior adviser on Huntsman’s Republican primary campaign to retake the office he won in 2004 and 2008 before stepping down in 2009 to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.
“This is always such a hard thing to do,” Huntsman said on Monday’s edition of the show, which she called "the most iconic show I think on television and the smartest women that I’ve ever worked with. But today I’m saying goodbye.”
Jon Huntsman greeted the news on social media with a statement that the campaign “is thrilled Abby Huntsman has decided to join our campaign team full time as a senior advisor! Her years of experience on the national stage will be an enormous asset to our campaign. Excited to have her energy on the trail. Family is everything!”
Campaign spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley echoed that assessment.
“What the governor said today about ‘family is everything’ is true. The reality of [the Huntsmans] is that public service runs deep with all of them,” Roskelley said. The sense that there’s more family involvement in this campaign than most “may be because there’s more family than most.”
Former Utah first lady Mary Kaye Huntsman and all of the Huntsman children have been involved from the beginning and had input when Jon Huntsman was deciding whether or not to run again, she said.
“The governor doesn’t make many decisions of that life-changing magnitude without consulting all of his kids and his wife, for sure,” Roskelley said. “They were all very supportive of this move because they know what an incredible influence he has had on Utah’s current position and for sure where Utah needs to go.”
It’s a family effort in more ways than one.
Campaign contribution disclosures filed Friday show $50,000 donations each from Huntsman family matriarch Karen Huntsman; Peter Huntsman, Jon Huntsman’s brother and CEO and chairman of Huntsman Corp.; and brother-in-law Richard Durham. Also kicking in were Jon Huntsman’s daughter Mary Anne, $15,000, and brothers David and Paul, $5,000 each.
Mary Kaye Huntsman is a central player in the campaign — from appearing in the campaign launch video, to traveling with the candidate to appearances around the state and on social media.
Huntsman daughter Liddy is actively working on the campaign, according to her social media posts, participating in its launch in southern Utah in November, helping gather signatures to get on the ballot and describing the campaign as “our team.”
All three Huntsman daughters, Liddy, Mary Anne and Abby, participated in their father’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign, becoming surprise stars of the GOP primary with their “Jon1212Girls” social media postings that went viral with a parody spot of rival candidate Herman Cain.
Abby Huntsman joined “The View” as one of its regular panelists in September 2018. Her final appearance on the show will be Friday.
According to Abby Huntsman, her father asked her to help on his campaign before he announced his candidacy. She campaigned with her father in Utah over the weekend and finalized her decision to make the move.
“I couldn’t be more excited to help someone I love,” she said.
And she left open the possibility of one day returning to “The View.”
“I’ll be back at this seat, you never know,” Abby Huntsman said. “Life is funny that way.”
CNN Business on Monday reported that there may have been other reasons for her departure from the show. The news organization said it interviewed half a dozen people who anonymously said it was a “toxic work environment,” including a rocky relationship between Huntsman and co-host Meghan McCain.
Huntsman is running in a large field of Republican candidates for the first open governor’s seat since 1992. Other hopefuls include Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, former state Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright and businessman Jeff Burningham.
Editor’s note • Jon Huntsman’s brother Paul Huntsman is The Salt Lake Tribune’s publisher and owner.