Mendenhall ‘close’ to calling victory in heated Salt Lake mayoral race

Nov 21, 2023, 9:05 PM | Updated: Nov 22, 2023, 5:39 am

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at an election night watch party for her reelection cam...

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at an election night watch party for her reelection campaign in downtown Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Mendenhall called the numbers "very strong" in her favor. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s all but certain that Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall will remain in office.

Mendenhall did everything but declare victory as she spoke to a rambunctious crowd of supporters Tuesday night, calling the numbers “very strong” in her favor. The room roared earlier in the evening when preliminary Salt Lake County results showed she held a 59% to 34% lead over former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

She maintained her large percentage lead by the end of the night. Community activist Michael Valentine is in third place with 7% of the vote.

Salt Lake City is using ranked-choice voting this year, a first in its mayoral race. That means a candidate needs at least 50% of the vote to win outright; otherwise, there will be one elimination before a candidate reaches at least half of the vote.

“We’re feeling very good,” Mendenhall told the crowd.

A spokesperson for her campaign told reporters that the mayor’s camp was “close” to calling the race in her favor but decided against it until more results poured in. However, Anderson told KSL.com it’s “pretty clear” that he lost the race, though he also stopped short of conceding Tuesday evening.

“Mayor Mendenhall has prevailed,” he said, as his campaign party began to thin out about a block south of Mendenhall’s. “I haven’t conceded only because I was (advised) by the elections clerk not to until all the votes come in, but I think the spread right now is such that the writing’s on the wall. I’ll hold out just in case something unexpected happens.”

Anderson, who served as Salt Lake City’s mayor from 2000 to 2008, jumped into the race late last year, blasting the current administration over how it’s handled issues like homelessness and crime in Utah’s capital and most populated city. He later said the city is “headed in the wrong direction for a long time” in one of the debates ahead of the election.

Mendenhall, who focused more on what the city has accomplished over her first four years in office, shot back at those attacks in her near-acceptance speech.

“Salt Lakers are not afraid of our incredible future, we’re excited about it. This election was a repudiation of cynicism and it was a rejection of the politics of fear,” she said. “Anger might be satisfying sometimes but … it’s not a strategy for getting results.”

Anderson said Tuesday he wishes Mendenhall “the best the luck” in her second term, which will begin in January. He added that he has no plans to run for office again, but he will “always be active in Salt Lake City in one way or another.”

Prior to the results being released, Valentine wrote on social media that he would also “fight like hell even harder for the people and community of Salt Lake City” if he lost.

Salt Lake City Council races

There are also four Salt Lake City Council seats up for grabs this year, though one race was decided well before ballots were mailed out on Oct. 31. Salt Lake City Councilman Alejandro Puy, representing District 2, is running unopposed and will represent the city’s west side for the next four years.

Incumbents Dan Dugan and Sarah Young hold leads in their respective races, while Ana Valdemoros is trailing challenger Eva López Chávez both in Round 1 and Round 2 of the preliminary results.

  • District 4 (Downtown, Central City, East Central): Eva López Chávez, 39%; Ana Valdemoros, 35%; Clayton Scrivner, 27%
  • District 6 (Bonneville Hills, East Bench, Sunnyside East, Wasatch Hollow, Yalecrest): Dan Dugan, 46%; Taymour Semnani, 35%; James Alfandre, 19%
  • District 7 (Sugar House): Sarah Young, 54%; Molly Jones, 46%

All results are unofficial until the election is certified.

Salt Lake County Clerk Lannie Chapman told KSL NewsRadio that most of the initial results are tied to mail-in ballots that the county received before polls opened Tuesday, as well as many ballots submitted on Election Day. She said the county hopes to count as many ballots as possible by Wednesday afternoon, but election workers will resume counting on Friday after taking a break for Thanksgiving on Thursday.

The county’s board of canvassers has until Dec. 6 to certify the election. The Salt Lake City election winners will be sworn into office on Jan. 2.

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Mendenhall ‘close’ to calling victory in heated Salt Lake mayoral race