Mendenhall outpaces Anderson in fundraising as battle brews for SLC mayor

Does the incumbent’s campaign think it’s enough to propel her to a second term? And how are the City Council races shaping up?

(Rick Egan, Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and current Mayor Erin Mendenhall are lining their campaign coffers for what will likely be a costly race to lead Utah's capital.

First-term Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has widened her fundraising lead over former Mayor Rocky Anderson in the faceoff that will determine who will take the helm of City Hall next year.

Campaign finance reports released this month show Mendenhall raised more than twice as much as her chief political rival, snaring roughly $212,000 in donations over a reporting period that stretched from mid-February to July 1.

“For us, it’s not about the total amount raised,” said Ian Koski, Mendenhall’s campaign consultant. “It’s about the number of contributions that we received and, most importantly, the number of unique donors who gave.”

Koski said the 603 total contributions from 504 donors surpassed the campaign’s expectations for the period. Nearly $10,000 came from 281 donors kicking in $50 or less.

Anderson, meanwhile, said he is seeing steady support for his mayoral bid but acknowledged he could have paid more attention to fundraising. He collected about $102,000 in the reporting period.

For the period Feb. 13 to July 1

“I’ve been so immersed in not only our grassroots door-to-door campaign, but also working with a number of people in the homeless community and the business community,” he said. “It’s been incredibly harmed, and many of them [are] ready to leave the city because of the lack of leadership regarding the homelessness and affordability crisis.”

[Read Q&As with Erin Mendenhall and Rocky Anderson about the homelessness issue.]

Anderson said he will out-campaign the incumbent mayor and ultimately be successful with fundraising. He then pivoted to lament what he considers a lack of coverage of his views by The Salt Lake Tribune.

“You all ought to do your job and provide an opportunity so that everybody doesn’t have to spend gobs of money in trying to reach people,” he said, “and provide your readers the opportunity to see what the candidates are doing and what their stand is on the issues and how different their leadership is going to be for this city.”

Where’s the money coming from?

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rocky Anderson talks to a man about applying for permanent housing on Thursday, June 8, 2023.

Anderson’s top donor during the period, restaurateur Byron Loveall, contributed the maximum allowable donation of $3,720 as an individual and through at least four other organizations: Dodo Investment Group Sugar House, Porcupine Investment Group, Porcupine Investment Group University, and Porcupine Investment Group Cottonwood.

Anderson’s Justice Party Inc. also tossed in the maximum amount to the campaign.

The former mayor, who is seeking a third term after more than a decade away from public office, spent more than $23,000 on a campaign staffer, $1,700 on a campaign consultant, and $2,400 to enter the Utah Pride Parade and set up a booth at the accompanying festival. His two largest expenses — totaling $9,000 — were for yard signs.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall kicks off Pride Month with the raising of the pride flag at City Hall on Thursday, June 1, 2023.

For her part, Mendenhall dished out $37,250 to Koski’s consulting company, Quorum Creative, for political consulting and video production services. She spent another roughly $6,700 on two staffers, and paid $1,575 to the Utah Pride Center for event fees and festival tickets.

Her campaign has been buoyed by maxed-out donations from businessman and Gov. Spencer Cox adviser Brad Bonham, prominent developer Jacob Boyer, developer and anti-mariujana activist Walter Plumb III, and Herve Sedky, president and CEO of Emerald Holding Inc., the company that produces the Outdoor Retailer trade show.

Other contributions included $2,720 from government lobbyist and former state lawmaker Frank Pignanelli, $1,000 from the railroad company Union Pacific, $3,700 from Salt Lake City-based convenience store company Maverik, and $3,720 from Maverik’s parent company, FJ Management.

Joseph Grenny, chair of The Other Side Academy’s board, gave $500 to both Mendenhall and Anderson. The Other Side Academy is leading the charge on the west side’s tiny-house village approved by Salt Lake City last year.

Mendenhall ended the reporting period with $360,000 left in her campaign account, while Anderson has nearly $91,000.

Although Mendenhall holds the fundraising edge in the nonpartisan contest, Koski said, cash is no substitute for hard work.

“Donations don’t vote any more than yard signs do,” he said. “We know that this election will not be about money.”

Michael Valentine, an activist who opposed the demolition of the Utah Theater, added $115 to his campaign coffers in the reporting period, including $100 he donated to himself. He has $32 left in his account.

District 4 council contest

While the mayoral chase continues to capture most of the attention, two of the four Salt Lake City Council races on the ballot this year are heating up as well.

In District 4 — which covers downtown, Central City and East Central — incumbent Ana Valdemoros is seeking to retain the seat she has held since 2019.

Valdemoros was appointed to serve the remainder of former council member Derek Kitchen’s term as he departed to join the state Senate. She won her election later that year with nearly 85% of the vote.

The latest campaign finance records show Valdemoros off to an early fundraising lead, with about $29,000 raised in the reporting period that ended July 1. That tally included $7,500 Valdemoros loaned herself.

She received maxed-out donations (the limit is $790 per contributor for nonpartisan council races) from Mendenhall’s campaign, the Salt Lake City firefighters union, Reagan Outdoor Advertising, and Brandon Blaser, one of the developers behind Post District.

Former Salt Lake County Mayor and Congressman Ben McAdams and state Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla also donated to the campaign.

The incumbent spent about $5,300, including roughly $4,100 in payments to Landslide Political, the consulting and strategy firm run by fellow council member Alejandro Puy. Valdemoros also recorded an $80 donation to The Tribune, which is a nonprofit.

She has nearly $35,000 left in her campaign account.

Valdemoros said her fundraising numbers show the strength of her campaign and the support she has among friends, family, businesses and constituents.

“It’s really refreshing,” she said, “and it’s really exciting.”

Valdemoros faces two challengers at this point in the race: Park City spokesperson Clayton Scrivner and Eva Lopez Chavez, a former community liaison for Salt Lake City and current executive director of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party.

Scrivner posted about $18,200 in contributions for the reporting period, including roughly $1,200 he gave to himself through multiple donations. He received support from McAdams and Kitchen, the former state senator.

In a phone interview Thursday, Scrivner touted his ability to rack up donations from a breadth of individual donors.

“I’m stoked with where we are at,” he said, “and I’m stoked with how we’re doing it.”

He spent nearly $5,000 in the reporting period, with more than $1,300 for yard signs, more than $1,000 for campaign management and about $500 for T-shirts. He has about $13,300 left in his campaign account.

Lopez Chavez posted more than $12,600 in donations, including a maximum contribution from New York businessman and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. David Ibarra, a Salt Lake City entrepreneur and former mayoral candidate, donated $750 both as an individual and through his company, David Ibarra Enterprises.

“Our grassroots campaign is gaining momentum,” Lopez Chavez wrote in a text message, “and we see a clear path forward to victory in November.”

Lopez Chavez spent less than $2,600 during the period, with more than $1,000 of her expenses dedicated to lawn signs and campaign literature.

Districts 2, 6 and 7

For the period Feb. 13 to July 1

In District 6 — which includes Wasatch Hollow, Bonneville Hills, Sunnyside East, the East Bench and Yalecrest — incumbent Dan Dugan is seeking a second term after ousting incumbent Charlie Luke in 2019.

Dugan raised about $21,400 in his bid to fend off his challenger, attorney Taymour Semnani. He spent about $6,000 this period, including $1,600 on printing, $2,200 on campaign consulting and about $700 on flyers.

Semnani took in nearly $7,400, including $100 from former Mayor Jackie Biskupski. All of the $372 he has spent so far has gone to credit card processing and bank fees.

In District 2 — which includes Glendale, Poplar Grove and parts of downtown and Fairpark — Alejandro Puy raised about $13,100 in his quest for reelection. He has more than $17,600 in his campaign account and no challenger at this point.

The timing of former council member Amy Fowler’s resignation as the representative of District 7 means voters in the Sugar House area will vote for a representative in November. The council appointed Sarah Young, chief of staff at the Utah State Board of Education, to replace Fowler this week. Young is expected to launch a bid to retain the seat in the fall election.

Only one candidate, Molly Jones, has submitted campaign finance papers for the seat. She did not report any donations or expenses.

Candidates will need to file for office between Aug. 8 and Aug. 15. Because the city’s election will be held with ranked choice voting this year, there will be no primary.

The general election is scheduled for Nov. 21.