Mendenhall leads tight three-way race in the Salt Lake City Mayoral primary


Erin Mendenhall


It appears the Salt Lake City mayoral primary is now a three-way race for two spots in November’s general election.

The gap between first and third place is a mere 733 votes, with just 109 votes separating second and third. Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall held a large lead all night, finishing in first place with 6,924 votes. Former Sen. Jim Dabakis was in second place with 6,300 votes. Sen. Luz Escamilla sits in third place with 6,191 votes.

The remaining five candidates are so far behind Escamilla it’s unlikely that they would be able to catapult themselves into the top two or three places barring a massive influx of last-minute mail-in ballots. 

The top-two vote-getters will face off in November, with the other six candidates facing the end of the electoral road.

The results have to be particularly stinging to businessman David Ibarra, who began campaigning much earlier than any other candidate and spent over $400,000 on the race but got fewer than 2,500 votes. Ibarra sits in fifth place behind attorney David Garbett.

Just over 29,000 votes were counted on Tuesday night in the primary election, which is the highest number of total votes since 1999. The next closest primary election total was the 2015 primary which saw 28,825 votes cast.

According to the vote map from the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office, Mendenhall’s voting strength was centered mostly in the southeastern part of the city and near the University of Utah, while Dabakis got most of his votes in the central part of Salt Lake City. Escamilla’s strength was along the west side.

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Mendenhall seems the most likely of the top three candidates to advance to November, which puts her in good shape ahead of the final vote. In every Salt Lake City primary election dating back to 1999, the candidate that emerged from the primary in first place went on to win the general election.

  • In 1999 and 2003 Rocky Anderson got the most votes in the primary elections ahead of his two terms in office. The 1999 election featured 11 candidates. In 2003 Anderson topped Frank Pignanelli and Malonai Hola along with a handful of other candidates.
  • Ralph Becker secured the most votes in the 2007 primary ahead of Dave Buhler, Jenny Wilson and a host of other contenders. Becker went on to win. 
  • In 2011, there was no primary election as only one candidate stepped up to challenge Becker, who won the general election easily.
  • Current Mayor Jackie Biskupski scored an upset primary win over Becker, then went on to win her only term in office.

The race has already cost big bucks. According to pre-election financial disclosures, the field of 8 candidates raised nearly $1.5 million and spent $1.1 million.

Mail-in ballots will trickle in over the next two weeks until the results are made final at the August 27th City Council meeting.