Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's Gentile Vs. Mormon In The Salt Lake Mayoral Finals: Ralph Becker And Dave Buhler Finish One-Two In Primary Election

Special Note: Post updated September 13th, 2007 to include link to District 6 candidate J.T. Martin's campaign website.

Well, I called it - and I didn't even need to borrow the Urim and Thummin to see it, either. Gentile vs. Mormon, according to the Deseret Morning News, although religion has not been a front-burner issue during this campaign, so far.

I thought that Ralph Becker (pictured upper left) and Dave Buhler would be the top two finishers in the Salt Lake primary mayoral race, and that's just how Salt Lakers themselves picked it on September 11th, 2007. Here are the mayoral results, replicated below:


Number of Precincts 167
Precincts Reporting 167 100.0 %
Total Votes 27239

RALPH BECKER 10486 38.50%
DAVE BUHLER 7570 27.79%
JENNY WILSON 6364 23.36%
J.P. HUGHES 378 1.39%
RAINER HUCK 37 0.14%

Click HERE to view all election results for Salt Lake County. Additional news stories on KSL Channel 5, the Salt Lake Tribune, and KUTV Channel 2.

However, Ralph Becker won by a much healthier margin than implied in two polls taken just days earlier, which first revealed Becker's last minute surge. Even Becker himself was surprised at the magnitude of his victory. Not so surprisingly, he pledged to run the same race in the general election.

"We have been feeling this wave coming our way," he said amid cheers from his campaign headquarters. "I attribute it to getting out and walking door to door, this whole city - meeting people and listening to what people's aspirations and concerns are. It's incredibly good fortune".

Buhler (pictured at left), who thanked his strong base of support, is the first capital Republican in 16 years to make it to a mayoral general election. In 1991, Buhler lost to Deedee Corradini. "All day [Tuesday], I felt like we could make it," he said, stressing that, as a moderate, he can prevail. "I'm counting on people to see past the party label and vote for me because I'll do the best job". The last Republican to actually get elected mayor was Jake Garn in 1971.

Jenny Wilson said she expected a tough contest, adding she never thought she was the only one who could run the city. "The campaign generated a great, collective dialogue," she said, "and I'm proud to be a part of that". Wilson said she will endorse Becker since they have the same constituencies.

Despite holding outgoing Mayor Rocky Anderson's endorsement and outspending the field with more than $600,000, Keith Christensen finished a distant fourth, failing to crack a double-digit percentage. "I'm disappointed that the effort that so many people put into this didn't translate into votes," he said. "I didn't have a natural base of either [party]. And people looked at me and said I wasn't Democratic or Republican enough". His transformation from a Republican to an "independent" for this race looked too opportunistic.

Rocky Anderson, to no one's surprise, weighed in on the results. First, he said that he will formally endorse Becker - if Becker wants it. "He'd bring tremendous intelligence and dignity to the office," Anderson said late Tuesday. "Ralph has a very informed, forward-looking, positive approach, which is exactly the opposite of what I've seen from Dave Buhler during eight years on the City Council".

Ralph Becker had better think real carefully before accepting the Rock's endorsement. It was perceived by some to be the kiss of death for Keith Christenson. In addition, Anderson's big yap may have solidified Dave Buhler's constituency and helped boost him into the finals when he launched a vitriolic attack on Buhler on August 30th, claiming that Buhler would be a "disaster" as mayor. In addition, some inopportune remarks Anderson made in a Salt Lake Tribune opinion piece this past Sunday about the trials of serving as mayor with young children, perceived by many as an oblique attack on Wilson's ability to juggle mayoral duties with parenthood, may have plateaued her campaign.

Across the Salt Lake Valley, voter turnout varied greatly, from 30% in Salt Lake City to a mere 3% in Bluffdale.

In the other Salt Lake races, the battle for Buhler's District 6 seat on the Salt Lake City Council will feature a pair of political newcomers, attorney Roger McConkie and small-business owner J.T. Martin. McConkie advanced to the general election with 39.9% of the vote, and Martin collected 31.5%.

In District 4, incumbent Nancy Saxton earned 38.9% of the vote in her bid for a third term on the City Council. Saxton will face a challenge from fellow Democrat Luke Garrott, a professor of political science at the University of Utah. Garrott garnered 34.2% of the vote. Jack Gray, despite being the only explicitly pro-family candidate in the race, and despite his public concern about illegal immigration and the resultant upsurge in crime, finished fifth with only 2.8% of the vote. Perhaps Salt Lakers will wake up to the illegal alien problem when gang graffitti starts appearing on the Avenues and on the Benches.

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