Crockett downs Winder in GOP Salt Lake County mayor race
Text messages flooded Mark Crockett's mobile phone a few minutes after 4 p.m. Tuesday as he drove down Weber Canyon after a work meeting with a new client.
That's how the Holladay businessman learned he was officially the Republican nominee for Salt Lake County mayor.
By 4:40 p.m., he walked into the County Government Center, where the GOP challenger he defeated, West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder, greeted him with a congratulatory hug and handshake, then posed arm in arm with Crockett for photographs.
"It's wonderful to be going to the next round," said Crockett, 46, a former county councilman who is now managing director of Vici Capital Partners, a consulting firm that helps large corporations and government agencies function more efficiently.
His opponent in November's general election is Democrat Ben McAdams, 36, a state senator and adviser to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. McAdams hopes to keep the county mayor's seat in Democratic hands as successor to Peter Corroon, who decided not to seek a third term.
Crockett had held a 239-vote lead over Winder on primary election night (June 26). But the results were not official until the 7,652 provisional, absentee and mail-in ballots were included in the formal canvass, which the County Council certified at its 4 p.m. meeting.
With 92 percent of those ballots (7,032) weighing in on the mayor's race, Crockett padded his lead by 780 votes. That boosted his margin of victory to 1,019 votes, comfortably above the 724 threshold (one vote for each precinct in the county) that would have let Winder request a recount.
"That saves a week at the very least," Crockett said, days he will spend raising money and spreading his campaign message that his business background equips him well to curb county government spending and help it operate more efficiently while still providing essential human services.
Winder immediately threw his support to Crockett. His older sister, Aimee Newton, and campaign manager Jake Dennis wore "Crockett for Mayor" T-shirts as he answered reporters' questions moments after County Clerk Sherrie Swensen revealed the outcome of the canvass.
"Mark Crockett did a terrific job articulating his message to reform things in county government," Winder said. "That's a big issue."
He acknowledged that negative reaction to his use of a pen name, Richard Burwash, in positive news articles he wrote about West Valley City hurt his candidacy. But Winder added he preferred to look at the election results as a matter of "not Mike Winder lost, but Mark Crockett won.
"It was still pretty darn close. I'm proud of the tough and close race we ran," he said. "The good news is that it's resolved and we can move on."
Crockett also said the Burwash incidents "no doubt played a role." But he added that Winder's ability to secure nearly 50 percent of the GOP primary vote reflects voters' "belief in him and what we [Republicans] want to be in the future. I wouldn't write him off."
With Utah being the country's most Republican state, Crockett said he "would love to think" of himself as the favorite heading into the Nov. 6 general election.
In addition to counting on the support of the GOP faithful, especially with Mitt Romney atop the national party ticket, Crockett expressed confidence his "experience of getting into an organization, redesigning it and decreasing its budget" would resonate with independent voters.
McAdams also is optimistic about his prospects of appealing to independents.
"My leadership goals have resulted in an outpouring of bipartisan support," he said in a prepared statement after canvass results were released. "I look forward to an honest, positive campaign in order to provide residents with a clear vision of the direction I will lead Salt Lake County over the next four years."
That vision did not sound all that different from Crockett's campaign message, with McAdams saying "my plans for conservative fiscal management will focus on eliminating wasteful tax dollar spending, promoting economic growth and increasing government efficiency."
Crockett predicted their philosophical differences will become more clear during the campaign, which he enters with considerably less money than McAdams (almost $97,000 for the Democrat compared with $18,000 for Crockett, according to mid-June financial statements).
Salt Lake County's canvass of primary election results took place Tuesday. The results of the Republican mayoral primary, with total votes and percent of the vote: