Mendenhall leads Anderson in early election results for Salt Lake City mayor | News | Salt Lake City Weekly

Mendenhall leads Anderson in early election results for Salt Lake City mayor 

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click to enlarge Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall all but claimed victory in her reelection fight on Tuesday, as early returns showed her with a 24-percentage-point lead—or roughly 10,000 votes—over her closest challenger, former mayor Rocky Anderson.

Describing the race as something of a contrast between optimism and pessimism, Mendenhall said that voters had repudiated cynicism and rejected the politics of fear. Anger, Mendenhall said, is not a strategy for getting results.

"The election ends with voters saying loudly and clearly that they want Salt Lake City to keep moving forward together," Mendenhall said. "Salt Lakers aren’t afraid of our incredible future—we’re excited by it."

Anderson, who served as city mayor between 2000 and 2008, was trailing with 34% of the vote on Wednesday, far behind the 58% of ballots claimed by Mendenhall. While those numbers are not yet final and Anderson has not conceded the election, he reportedly described his early results as needing a "minor miracle" to overcome.

click to enlarge Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

Anderson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from City Weekly, but this report will be updated if he does so.

Community activist Michael Valentine, the third candidate in the mayoral race, was sitting at a relatively strong 7% of the vote on Wednesday, earning the support of more than 2,500 voters. As Mendenhall appears to have claimed an outright majority, Valentine's votes will not be redistributed to the other candidates under the election's ranked-choice structure.

In a prepared statement, Valentine said that he intends to run again, adding that the "corruption, lies and fraud" exposed by his campaign do not end with Mendenhall's reelection. Valentine rose to prominence with his fierce—but ultimately unsuccessful—objection to the sale and demolition of the historic Pantages Theatre on Main Street, and has dogged the mayor over her administration's strategies around housing and homelessness and her family's private property investments.

"Our people's campaign started as the resistance and we will continue as the resistance, now even stronger in opposition," Valentine said. "Erin Mendenhall is in for a rough second term if she thinks a $1 million dollar campaign and the entire establishment and press ignoring the truth to rally around her in desperation is enough to keep justice from finding her. There is more than one way to bring light, accountability, and transparency back to the people. We will not rest."

Anderson's campaign was almost singularly focused on the issue of homelessness, with the former mayor frequently describing a city—and downtown in particular—overrun with illegal camping, drug use and other aberrant behavior. He attacked Mendenhall from both the left and right, alternately promising to eradicate homeless encampments from public spaces while also promising to end the practice of abatement, in which the county Health Department orders the forced removal of the unsheltered and their belongings.

"Police raids and destruction of unsheltered people's property, when no alternatives are available, must end," Anderson told City Weekly in September. "I'd eliminate unsanctioned encampments, benefiting residents and businesses, too, by providing a remote, sanctioned place with toilets, showers and meals, where people can find stability and work with case managers toward jobs, treatment and housing."

The Mendenhall campaign tended to describe a city in transition to a more vibrant, urbanized future and one whose challenges were exacerbated by a statewide housing shortage, localized earthquakes and extreme weather events, and a global pandemic. She and her supporters frequently touted an ability to work collaboratively with the state's Republican supermajority, a claim bolstered by the endorsements of Gov. Spencer Cox and his predecessor, former Gov. Gary Herbert.

In her election night remarks, Mendenhall listed off the "opportunities" she intends to pursue in a second term, including the construction of a "Green Loop" linear park circling downtown, the conversion of Main Street into a pedestrian promenade, the creation of new tiny home communities, expansion of city-funded affordable housing, the creation of an entertainment district anchored by the Utah Jazz and Delta Center, the transition to 100% renewable energy and the pursuit of a second Olympic Winter Games and new professional sports teams in the city.

Salt Lake CIty is a blue island in a sea of red, but it doesn’t mean we have to be alone all the time," Mendenhall said Tuesday. "This election is proof that voters want a city government that allies with its partners instead of fighting with them; a city government that prioritizes results over politics; that trades ideas instead of insults."

Among the year's City Council races, incumbent council member Alejandro Puy was unopposed in the west side's District 2, while incumbents Dan Dugan and Sarah Young held majority leads on Wednesday in Districts 6 and 7, respectively. In District 4, which includes downtown, challenger Eva Lopez Chavez was leading incumbent Ana Valdemoros by 5 percentage points, a margin that grew to 6 points after the ranked-choice elimination of third-place candidate Clayton Scrivner.

Because council races include smaller portions of the city, those races were separated by only a few hundred votes, at most, and could shift in the final tallies.

"We eagerly await the counting of all the ballots," Valdemoros said Wednesday.

Chavez was similarly awaiting a final determination in the race, but said her team was heartened by the early results.

"We’ve personally met and gained the support of our neighbors who have trusted us with their vote," she said.

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About The Author

Benjamin Wood

Benjamin Wood

Lifelong Utahn Benjamin Wood has worn the mantle of City Weekly's news editor since 2021. He studied journalism at Utah State University and previously wrote for The Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News and Entertainment Weekly

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