Forget the potential Mia Love vs. Jim Matheson rematch next year. The race I’m looking forward to watching is the coming Democratic thunderdome in the race for Salt Lake City Mayor in 2015.
But, Bryan, you cry…That’s two years away and Ralph Becker hasn’t decided whether or not to run for another term! Too bad, oh ye pollyanna-types! It doesn’t matter whether Becker decides on a third four-year go-round. There are a number of Democrats already positioning themselves for a potential candidacy.
There are a number of reasons Mayor of Salt Lake City is an attractive seat. It’s one of the few that a Republican has zero shot of winning, and it’s the second-biggest bully pulpit in the state, behind Governor. Remember how Rocky Anderson drove Republican lawmakers into fits of apoplexy during his tenure?
With so few opportunities for Democrats to run for a higher office in Utah, Mayor of Salt Lake has the potential for political chaos in ‘15. If Becker decides to run again, and everybody “waits their turn,” the seat won’t be open until 2019. What other high-profile races are there for Democrats to run for with a reasonable shot of winning? Salt Lake County Mayor? Ben McAdams will likely be the Democratic nominee in 2016. Salt Lake City Mayor is it for the time being.
We’ve seen these kinds of political donnybrooks before in Salt Lake. How about 1999 when Rocky Anderson bested 10 other candidates in a primary before defeating Stuart Reid in the runoff? It only took 6,000 votes for Anderson and 5,100 for Reid to advance.
The 2007 race was not quite as bonkers as 1999, with only 9 candidates vying for an open seat. Becker was able to surge past the field in the primary and Dave Buhler in the runoff to win the seat he currently occupies.
Even if Becker does opt to run for a third term, some of the potential challengers being thrown around are quite impressive and could make for a political battle royale.
Former State Rep. Jackie Biskupski has been rumored to be interested in running since she stepped down from the legislature in 2011. I asked her about it earlier this year, to which she acknowledged the idea piqued her interest. “I’m not done with politics, but I don’t want to go back to Capitol Hill. This is a natural place for me to look.”
Biskupski would be looking to make a bit of history as the first openly gay Mayor of Salt Lake City. But, she’s not alone in that quest.
Another name that has bubbled up among Democratic insiders is current party chair Sen. Jim Dabakis. Dabakis’ name has been floated for Salt Lake City mayor or as a potential candidate for Governor in 2016. Pretty ambitious for a guy who has only held elected office for less than a year. He still has to defend his seat in 2014, which could make another run less than a year later a tall order. Still, it would be interesting to see how he would fare in a competitive race.
Some Democratic insiders think Luz Robles’ campaign for Congress in 2014 is merely a mechanism to set her up to run for Salt Lake City Mayor in 2015. Robles has an outside chance at beating Rep. Chris Stewart for Congress, but the better bet is a run to head Utah’s largest city. The only problem is any money she raises for her 2014 campaign won’t transfer to a mayoral run, but that’s small potatoes. We will know how serious she is about her Congressional run when we see how many times she makes the trek to Washington County.
Former Senator Ross Romero is being whispered as a possibility in some circles. There is some speculation that Romero is looking at running for the Senate seat being vacated by Pat Jones, but don’t count him out here, either.
So, batten down the hatches. 2015 can’t come soon enough.