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Mendenhall holds lead in Salt Lake mayoral primary, lower than expected voter turnout

Photo courtesy of Deseret News

Salt Lake mayoral candidate Erin Mendenhall holds a lead in a primary election that saw a lower than normal voter turnout.  Expected frontrunner Jim Dabakis and Luz Escamilla are a close second and third place, with at one time fewer than one-hundred votes hanging in the balance.

University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless says the low turnout is disappointing.  He says the reason may be due to the election being in the middle of August, with eight candidates and no incumbent to target with potentially negative ads.

“Four years ago, the incumbent was being criticized by four active challengers.  This time we have had a unique situation with candidates who have been very collegial, who have liked each other and have focused on public policy issues rather than personalities,” according to Chambless.

He says the public has been very engaged despite the eventual low turnout of under 50 percent.  The relatively positive campaign for Salt Lake City mayor, he says, has been a nice refreshing change from what we’ve seen nationally.

One of the candidates not quite ready to concede, State Sen. Luz Escamilla, says her campaign is watching the numbers, with only about a hundred votes separating her and challenger Sen. Jim Dabakis.  She says she’s not surprised how close the primary turned out to be so far, with so many good candidates on the ballot.

“I think it speaks volumes about our campaign.  The fact that we have great candidates kept voters deciding up until the last minute.  That reflects how good Salt Lake City is and the importance of having a good mayor for the city,” says Escamilla.

The vote-by-mail primary featured five other candidates, including Rainer Huck, Stan Penfold, Richard Goldberger, David Garbett and David Ibarra.  The top two candidates from Tuesday’s primary election are back on the ballot for the general election November 5th.