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Jon Huntsman picks Florida for presidential campaign headquarters

May 18, 2011|By Aaron Deslatte, Orlando Sentinel

Reporting from Tallahassee — Although he hasn't officially jumped into the race, potential Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has decided to open his national headquarters in Orlando, his advisers confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel.

"This is not a Washington-based campaign and not a Washington-based candidate," Susie Wiles, a Florida political consultant who ran Rick Scott's successful gubernatorial campaign, said this morning.

The former Utah governor's exploratory committee also named Nikki Jerger Lowrey, a former aide to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, as its Florida director.

"I believe we have a unique opportunity with Gov. Huntsman – a fresh face with a strong record of conservative governance and job creation in Utah," said Lowrey in a statement sent to the Sentinel. "I will be honored to be a part of his team in my home state of Florida should he run."

Lowrey had been slated to be state director of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's presidential campaign before he decided not to run. Her 13 years in Florida politics and government includes work for Bush as his director of external affairs and also a post as deputy chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security's FEMA office in the state.

Wiles said the decision to set up in Florida was made easier by the outsized role the state will play in the Republican primary, its earlier-than-tradition election date and other geographic factors. The Republican nominating convention will be in Tampa, and Democrats have clearly signaled the state will play a greater role in deciding the election by tapping U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

"Florida made a lot of sense, and Orlando made sense within Florida," Wiles said.

Look for a flood of former aides to ex-Gov. Bush to join the team in the coming days.

Read more at the Orlando Sentinel.

adeslatte@tribune.com

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