SARASOTA -- Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman made an appearance in Sarasota on Saturday, saying the region is critical to anyone wishing to win the election.
Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and former U.S. ambassador to China, spoke to an audience of about 200 at the Knights of Columbus Hall. He was accompanied by his wife and one of his daughters.
“I appreciate being in Florida,” Huntsman said. “This is going to be a critically important state for us. We’re going to be spending a lot of time on the ground getting to know people.”
He started off his speech joking with the audience about his family ties to the state. His wife, Mary Kay Huntsman, is from Orlando and their new son-in-law is from Tampa.
“So they say if you own the I-4 corridor, you own Florida,” he said to smiles and cheers. “If you own Florida you own the nomination. You get the nomination in 2012, you are going to win the presidency. So it all starts here.”
He called the U.S. debt a “cancer” and unless we “cut it out it’s going to consume this young generation over here.”
The election has to be on expanding the economy and creating jobs, he said.
“We have no choice. The economy is stuck and the people want us to move in directions that are consistent with traditional American growth. We can do it,” Huntsman said.
He said if elected he would work to ensure the United States can compete in the global market.
“I want you to know that for me the priorities are doing to be debt and spending, because we have no choice. It is to- tally unsustainable the trajectory that we are on,” he said.
Jeanne Corbin of Venice asked the presidential hopeful what he plans on doing about undocumented people coming into the United States.
“I don’t think this country has any creditability at all on this subject, nor will anyone participate in the debate until we protect our border. That is the one thing we must do,” Huntsman said.
“Let’s do the funda- mentals first and let’s take care of the border.”
He said he supports E-Verify, an Internet- based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.
Corbin said she plans to look at other presidential hopefuls before she makes her choice on who to support in the election, but added that she liked what she saw of Huntsman.
“I did read his resumé and I am impressed that he knows Chinese. I want to know more about his business background,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want a career politician. “I want a candidate who says he is going to do something and then does it.”