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Democrats lead GOP in money chase in Salt Lake County mayor race

Published April 12, 2012 9:39 am

Politics • Close contests await verdicts from party conventions on Saturday.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Yes, it's possible, even in heavily Republican Utah: Democrats are out-raising Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin in the Salt Lake County mayor's race, whose vast field of candidates will be pared Saturday at conventions for both parties.

The two Democrats running for mayor report raising a combined $266,672 so far — more than twice the $122,055 collected by six Republicans combined. And both Democrats have amassed at least2.5 times as much individually as the nearest Republican.

"We need to out-raise them because it's not going to be an easy race to win, and it's going to be a tough year for Democrats," says one of the mayoral contenders, Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City. With favorite-son Republican Mitt Romney on the ballot for president, he noted, "Republicans will likely show up at the polls in record numbers."

McAdams reported raising the most among mayoral hopefuls — $135,659. Right behind him was fellow state Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, at $131,013.

Among Republicans, West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder gathered the most: $50,758.

He was followed by former County Councilman Mark Crockett, $49,580; County Councilman Richard Snelgrove, $10,306; former Rep. Merrill Cook, $7,738; and County Recorder Gary Ott, $3,673. Candidate Larry Decker filed forms saying he intends a low-cost campaign of less than $2,000, so he was not required to file a disclosure form.

Republicans say they raised little because that is all they need at this stage of the campaign, which mostly consists of meeting personally with county delegates.

"I raised sufficient for my needs. If I needed more, I am ready and able to get it. ... I think it shows I am frugal," Snelgrove said, adding that he intends to collect $650,000 to $700,000 to be competitive if he is the GOP nominee.

That fundraising comes amid sometimes hard-hitting campaigning in both parties as candidates aim for Saturday's county conventions. Candidates who lock up 60 percent of the delegate vote there become the party nominees. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters will square off in a June 26 primary.

On the Democratic side, Romero and McAdams each insist they could achieve 60 percent of the vote, and both say they are trying to keep the race clean to help the party retain the post of outgoing two-term Mayor Peter Corroon.

Still, a bit of bitterness is apparent. Romero, the outgoing Senate minority leader, announced last year he was giving up his legislative seat to run for mayor.

McAdams jumped in later and, if he loses, still has two years left in his Senate term as a safety net.

"I am exclusively focused on the county race," Romero said, "and he has one eye on the county and one eye on the Senate and possibly finishing his first term there."

Romero's disclosure forms list several donations from current or former Democratic legislators, while McAdams' papers did not.

"That shows the people who know us both support me," Romero said.

McAdams disputes that assertion and argues he has more endorsements from current Democratic senators — along with backing from Democratic mayors in the county and even some Republicans. "I am able to reach out and work with Republicans. I think that is especially important this year if we want to win."

McAdams also says he has been outraising Romero recently, showing he may be able to amass more money and win a November election.

On the Republican side, campaigning also is sometimes sharp.

For example, Snelgrove and Cook chastised Winder — listed by most candidates as among the front-runners — for controversy over writing news stories under an assumed name, and being sued for character defamation for it.

"In the history of Utah politics," Snelgrove said, "a candidate has never won while they are a defendant in a federal court lawsuit — like Winder is."

Winder counters that GOP delegates "are interested in someone who has a proven track record in limiting government, and I'm proud of our record in West Valley City … of cutting our budget by 12 percent."

Cook and Snelgrove also criticized Crockett, whom most candidates also named as one of the top contenders, for voting for big spending when he was on the County Council and for losing re-election in a GOP-leaning council district — which they said shows he may not be able to prevail countywide.

Crockett said he is focusing on providing core county services, saving money to avoid higher taxes and borrowing less through bonding for high-ticket items. He said he has personally met with more than half of the 1,600 delegates, "and it feels like we are picking up speed and adding delegates every week."

While Cook was elected twice to Congress, he has lost many other races, including for governor, U.S. Senate and a 2004 bid for county mayor. "It shows I am persistent and will not give up," he said. "That's what we need to get budgets under control."

County conventions will also pare down the fields in County Council contests.

Four Democrats are running for the east-side District 4 seat being vacated by Democrat Jani Iwamoto, the council's lone woman. They include former County Auditor Jeff Hatch, former U.S. Senate candidate and restaurateur Sam Granato, attorney Paul Nielson and Occupy activist Deb Henry.

Three Republicans are running for the same seat, including Missy W. Larsen (daughter of former Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson and sister of former Democratic County councilwoman Jenny Wilson), small-business owner Craig Ward and longtime wilderness foe Rainer Huck.

For the countywide seat held by Democrat Jim Bradley, GOP delegates will choose among: Joseph Demma, a former campaign manager for Gov. Gary Herbert; former Councilman Steve Harmsen; and Melvin Nimer, chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans, a caucus for gay GOP members.

Republicans currently hold a 5-4 edge on the council.

ldavidson@sltrib.com

Saturday's conventions

• Salt Lake County Republican Convention, 10 a.m., Salt Palace Convention Center.

• Salt Lake County Democratic Convention, caucus meetings at 9 a.m., full convention opens at 10:30 a.m., Murray High School.