Three candidates running to lead Utah’s largest city — incumbent Mayor Erin Mendenhall, former Mayor Rocky Anderson and Michael Valentine — will face off next month in a debate moderated by The Salt Lake Tribune.
The debate is scheduled for Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. and will be hosted by PBS Utah, KUER and The Tribune.
Tribune Executive Editor Lauren Gustus will moderate.
The general election is scheduled for Nov. 21. Salt Lake City is using ranked choice voting again this year, and there is no primary.
The mayoral contest
Mendenhall was endorsed in August by the entire seven-member City Council. The first-term mayor and the council released 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 mayor called the unified council endorsement an honor, adding that “it’s no small feat.”
Anderson, a former two-term mayor, 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 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.”
“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.”
Campaign finance reports released in July showed that Mendenhall raised more than twice as much as Anderson, hauling in roughly $212,000 in donations over a reporting period that stretched from mid-February to July 1. Her campaign has been buoyed by maxed-out donations from business owner and Gov. Spencer Cox adviser Brad Bonham, prominent developer Jacob Boyer, developer and anti-marijuana advocate Walter Plumb III, among others.
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 same reporting period.
Anderson’s top donor during the period, restaurateur Byron Loveall, kicked in 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.
Mendenhall ended the reporting period with $360,000 left in her campaign account, while Anderson had nearly $91,000.
A third mayoral hopeful, 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 had $32 left in his account.
On Sept. 19, PBS Utah, KUER and The Tribune released a joint statement regarding Valentine’s participation in the debate.
“At the request of all three candidates in the 2023 Salt Lake City mayoral race, KUER, PBS Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune have reconsidered the application of their threshold for participation in the Oct. 4 debate. While we stand by those standards, we lacked transparency in communicating those to the public and to the candidates,” the statement read.
“It is reasonable that the third candidate may have reached the threshold of 5% of the total number of donors to the race had the campaign been aware. We have thus invited his participation and he has graciously accepted,” the statement continued. “This does not change our policy for future elections. We commit to making those standards public and reserve the right to amend them in advance of upcoming elections.”
How to watch
Individuals can tune in to the debate on television through PBS Utah on channel 7.1, and can listen live to the broadcast on KUER’s public radio station on 90.1. American Sign Language interpretation will be available on all platforms and Spanish audio will be available through pbsutah.org.
The event will also be livestreamed on the following websites:
If you have questions for the mayoral candidates, email them to Lauren Gustus at email@example.com.
As of Sept. 2, three Salt Lake City Council races are contested, according to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office.
• District 4: Incumbent Ana Valdemoros — representing Central City, East Central and much of downtown — has two challengers: Eva Lopez Chavez and Clayton Scrivner.
• District 6: Incumbent Dan Dugan, representing Bonneville Hills, East Bench, Sunnyside East, Wasatch Hollow and Yalecrest — faces three challengers: James Alfandre, Jack Bellows and Taymour B. Semnani.
• District 7: Newly appointed Sarah Young, who represents Sugar House, squares off against Molly Jones.
West-side District 2 council member Alejandro Puy — who represents Fairpark, Glendale, Poplar Grove and parts downtown — is uncontested in his quest for a second term.
Clarification • Sept. 19, 10:15 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that Michael Valentine will participate in the debate.