There are no polls or oddsmakers for Salt Lake City Council primary elections, but three District 3 candidates have been most visible with only a few days left until Tuesday’s primary.
They include Phil Carroll, who once gave current Council Chairman Stan Penfold a run for his money, and two first-timers who have worked breathlessly to raise funds and rally voters.
No other City Council candidate in any district had raised close to what Chris Wharton has.
An attorney whose firm focuses on family law and civil rights, Wharton’s $29,865 included $750 from Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski — the only Biskupski donation at that juncture in this year’s council races. He also received $250 from Biskupski’s wife, Betty Iverson.
Biskupski hasn’t formally endorsed a candidate, Wharton said. He once interned for her, “and she told me then that if I ever decided to get into politics, she would support me. I think she was making good on that promise.”
Wharton said he and members of his campaign have knocked on 6,000 doors — they’re “trying to get through the entire district two times before the 15th,” he added.
Laura Cushman, meanwhile, said her team has visited more than 5,000 residences and is fresh out of yard signs.
She’s had nightmares about getting only 15 votes, she said with a laugh, but the mother of three is proud to be in the conversation with better-known, longer-term residents such as Carroll and Wharton.
“I’ve heard feedback from both of those campaigns, people saying, ‘They’re scared of you, because they know that you’re out there working so hard,’” she said.
Cushman had raised the second most in campaign donations by the Aug. 8 reporting deadline — $14,830. That included a $725 contribution from Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman who resigned after WikiLeaks released hacked emails critical of Bernie Sanders.
A few people have questioned her level of community involvement, she said.
Carroll sits on the Greater Avenues Community Council and has led the city’s Transportation Advisory Board, while Wharton has served on the city’s Human Rights Commission and on the Utah Pride Center’s board of directors.
But there are other ways of getting involved, Cushman said, and she’s active in the PTA at Ensign Elementary and in the Avenues Baseball League. The majority of residents she’s met are “excited to see a candidate who’s not really beholden to any political circle within the city.”
Carroll has run twice before. He finished second in 2009, losing to Penfold by 254 votes in the general election after capturing more votes than Penfold in the primary. He was third in the 2001 primary.
This era has presented some new challenges, Carroll said. “The [Salt Lake] Tribune is not the way it used to be, where you could say you’re going to run and then everybody on the block has read The Tribune. How do you tell people you’re running?”
He’s planted 300 yard signs and sent out scads of mailers, believing that’s the best bang for his bucks. He has a respectable fundraising haul of $10,420.
DISTRICT THREE CANDIDATES
Age • 73
Residency • 38 years in Salt Lake City
Education • Law degree, Western State College of Law
Occupation • President of nonprofit low-income housing provider
Age • 35
Residency • 3 years in Salt Lake City
Education • Master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion, University of Miami
Occupation • Wellness specialist
Age • 47
Residency • 40 years in Salt Lake City
Education • Doctorate of medicine, University of Utah
Occupation • Orthopedic surgeon
Age • 36
Residency • 2 years in Salt Lake City
Education • Bachelor’s degree in film, University of Utah
Occupation • Contractor, real estate broker, screenwriter
Age • 33
Residency • 14 years in Salt Lake City
Education • Law degree, University of Utah
Occupation • Attorney and small business owner
Editor’s note: Residency reflects a candidate’s most recent uninterrupted time as a Salt Lake City resident, not necessarily a lifetime total.
There are five candidates in total, and all count among their top priorities two or three of the following: homelessness, affordable housing, public safety and clean air.
Orthopedic surgeon Brian Fukushima said that while his pitch — which also includes a quest to improve foothill trails — has gotten positive feedback, “the real question is, ‘Did the message get out there?’ That’s the part I don’t know about.”
“Our platforms are all very similar,” Fukushima said. “I think our ideals are very similar. I think the difference is going to be our experience.”
In that regard, Fukushima touts his standing as president and CEO of Utah Orthopedic Specialists and owner of Brighton Medical Clinic. He hasn’t raised much, reporting $1,600 by Tuesday’s deadline.
Jeffrey Garbett, son of developer and former state Rep. Bryson Garbett, said the most surprising part of campaigning is that it’s “really enjoyable” meeting voters and talking about what’s important to them.
“A lot of people consider me an underdog.”
He’s heard that Wharton and Carroll are the favorites and said he has the impression “that a lot of people consider me an underdog.”
But Garbett said he’s more willing than other candidates to drill down to specifics, and that if he’s elected, he will devote more time to council matters than his opponents.
He’s raised $7,245 — half from family members.
Carroll is the founder of a nonprofit affordable housing developer, Community Housing Services, that has 200 apartments in District 3 among 1,200 total.
He has testified before Congress about the subject and believes every housing development in the city — where there is an estimated shortage of 7,500 affordable units — should have a lower-income component.
Officials also should do more ahead of the planned June, 30, 2019, closure of the 210 S. Rio Grande St. shelter to find business and housing opportunities for the homeless, Carroll said.
A unique aspect of Cushman’s case is her emphasis on the area’s roads, sidewalks and bike trails, which she said she knows intimately having run or biked more than 500 miles within the district in the past year.
“When you are on the streets ... covering that much territory, you start to see every pothole.”
“When you are on the streets, by bike or foot, covering that much territory, you start to see every pothole,” she said.
Wharton shares widespread concern about homelessness and affordable housing and doubles down on sustainability — “probably the single most important thing” — and the arts — “a huge economic driver for our city.”
Penfold, who opted not to run again after serving two terms, has declined to endorse a potential successor.
The Tribune has already written about the city’s other open race, in District 7. Learn more about challenges to incumbents James Rogers and Erin Mendenhall in Districts 1 and 5, respectively, in the coming days.