"I'm out. I'm not running for re-election," Anderson said Friday, slamming shut the third-term door he had creaked open last month.
Anderson says he is disappointed with Christensen's conditional sanction of the sky bridge, but defends his endorsee for being deliberate in reaching his position.
"The difference is Keith has conscientiously studied the issue," the mayor said. "The other candidates jumped in without doing much research."
Christensen joins major contenders Jenny Wilson and Dave Buhler, who have endorsed the LDS Church's plans to link the $1 billion-plus City Creek Center with a skywalk over Main Street between South Temple and 100 South.
Ralph Becker, another top-tier mayoral wannabe, says he also is "conditionally supportive."
"When I look at the design," he said, "they still have a ways to go to address how this project interfaces with the rest of downtown."
Christensen, a business owner who recently dropped his Republican affiliation, sees a sky bridge as part of the Main Street mall makeover as a "positive addition to our downtown."
"It is clear from my study," he added, "that the [development partner] Taubman company will drop the project if the bridge is not permitted."
But his backing has strings. Christensen wants the city to lease rather than sell the air rights for the skywalk. He doesn't want moving walkways. And, he says, the design must make the bridge an "icon" for Utah's capital.
Christensen, who recently traveled to New York to huddle with the developer, says he promised to take a position on the controversial issue before Monday's candidate-filing deadline "in fairness to Rocky." But, he insists, neither the mayor's opposition to the bridge nor the looming election played any role in his choice.
"I didn't ask [Anderson] for permission nor did he require permission," Christensen said. "He was a complete gentleman about it."
Christensen also said he respects residents who oppose the project. "They have valid fears. I just hope they're wrong."
Last month, Anderson said he might crash the mayoral contest if he weren't satisfied with the two candidates who survive the Sept. 11 primary. He cited support from the field for the skywalk - which he repeatedly has called a "gerbil cage" that would be "horrendous" for downtown - as a motivator.
"If it looked like it would be a disaster after the primary, who knows," Anderson said at the time.
The mayor also argued that endorsing the elevated pedestrian crosswalk shows "a lack of leadership." But he backed away from that charge Friday, at least with regard to Christensen.
"I don't expect anybody to agree with me 100 percent of the time," he said, emphasizing that Christensen's position will not jeopardize the mayor's support. "Not at all."
The sky bridge - and the notion of whether it will quash pedestrian traffic - had polarized the mayoral field during the early months of the chase.
But Buhler, a City Council member, became the first, and most unequivocal, fan among the major candidates. He calls the skywalk a "no-brainer." Surgeon J.P. Hughes also is on board.
Wilson, a Salt Lake County Council member, has since backed the project, calling it "the largest green development ever undertaken in Salt Lake City."
On Friday, Anderson tagged that view "absurd."
Becker, a Utah legislator who appears to be leaving wiggle room, notes the issue is largely solved since the city gave its preliminary endorsement.
This spring, the City Council voted 6-1 to amend its master plan for the bridge. A veto by Anderson was overridden by the same 6-1 count. After a Planning Commission review, the council still must approve the final design.
In the interim, the mayor has attempted to shop the air rights above Main Street to kill the project. On Friday, Anderson said, those efforts have stalled. But he pledged to "permanently block the bridge" if he can find a way.
"We ought to be developing a genuine downtown streetscape," Anderson said, "not a suburban mall connected by a gerbil tube. Other cities have tried it and come to regret it. We're going to suffer the same fate."