Mendenhall gets unanimous City Council endorsement for reelection; Anderson fights back

Seven-member council lauds the incumbent’s “vision, strength and determination.” Her chief rival says the “mayor and a sycophantic council have led us to the worst humanitarian crisis among our homeless population” in Salt Lake City history.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall shares a few words before President Joe Biden's speech at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023. She has gained the full council's endorsement for a second term.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall scored a hefty endorsement this week as her bid for reelection heats up.

All seven City Council members threw their support behind the first-term mayor, releasing a joint statement saying Mendenhall has led Utah’s capital with “vision, strength and determination,” and deserves a second term at the city’s helm.

The council said Mendenhall “boldly” led the city through the COVID-19 pandemic, earthquakes, a destructive windstorm and flooding, and did so “without demonizing our allies or picking fights with our would-be partners.”

“Our city is still facing real challenges,” the council said, “and we believe Erin Mendenhall should continue leading us through them.”

For her part, the mayor said her relationship with the council is collaborative, functional and based on trust and respect. Those qualities, she said, help city leaders create better policies.

The mayor called the unified council endorsement an honor, adding that “it’s no small feat.”

Mendenhall’s chief political rival, former Mayor Rocky Anderson, said he is no stranger to not having council support. When he ran for reelection in 2003, he said, his opponent received the nod from most of the council, but he still prevailed on Election Day and secured a second term.

Together, Anderson said in a statement, the mayor and council have failed Utah’s capital in addressing homelessness, housing affordability and public safety.

“The mayor and a sycophantic council have led us to the worst humanitarian crisis among our homeless population in our city’s history,” Anderson said, “with corresponding tragic results for families and other residents and businesses.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rocky Anderson talks to a man named Sheldon, about applying for permanent housing, on Thursday, June 8, 2023. Anderson blames Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the City Council for the "worst humanitarian crisis among our homeless population" in Salt Lake City's history.

Council members, meanwhile, said they worked with Mendenhall to make record investments in affordable housing, address the homelessness crisis and fuel downtown’s post-pandemic resurgence.

“We are creating exciting new parks and making long-overdue improvements to aging infrastructure,” the council said. “We have made it easier for more of our residents to access public transit, and lowered residential speed limits to make our streets safer.”

Council member Chris Wharton said Mendenhall has worked hard to address the weightiest issues in all of the city’s seven districts.

Wharton said he and the mayor share the desire to keep the city safe, prosperous, just, equitable and welcoming.

“Even though we don’t always agree 100% on everything,” he said, “we have such a strong working relationship and we have such a shared vision for a better and stronger Salt Lake City that I’m happy to endorse her.”