The 4th Congressional District race between Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and Rep. Mia Love is still too close to call as thousands of ballots remain uncounted.
If elected, McAdams would take office in January, with two years left in his second term as county mayor — leaving an opening for new leadership the Salt Lake County Democratic Party said it would be prepared to fill.
“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” said Q. Dang, executive committee chairman of the county Democratic Party. “We’re optimistic, but until it all comes through and the certification happens, I’m not going to jinx it.”
If McAdams vacates the seat, Dang said state law outlines a process for replacing him that starts with the County Council notifying party leadership, which would then have 30 days to appoint a replacement. Interested candidates would be able to put their names forward for consideration, and a vote of approximately 1,100 central committee members would decide a replacement.
McAdams told The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday that he’s still watching the outcome of the remaining ballots but is back in the office working on county business, including his proposed $1.5 billion budget plan. “Regardless of the outcome of this election, I will be mayor through the end of the year and into January,” he said. “And I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
No Salt Lake County mayor has resigned in recent years, but the process for replacing county officials has become relatively commonplace.
“We’re prepared to do these special elections now,” Dang said. “It’s kind of routine.”
In June, county Democrats chose Ann Granato to fill the vacancy on the County Council left by the death of her husband, Sam Granato. And, in August 2017, the party elevated Rosie Rivera to lead the Unified Police Department as county sheriff after Jim Winder vacated his term early to become Moab’s police chief. Ann Granato and Rivera were both elected to their first full terms on Tuesday.
Around the same time the Democrats were working to appoint a new sheriff, the Salt Lake County Republican Party picked former state Rep. Adam Gardiner as county recorder. Gardiner, who replaced the late Gary Ott after months of turmoil in the office, trails Democratic challenger Rashelle Hobbs after Tuesday’s election, but he has yet to concede the race.
In the case of McAdams’ seat, the county could be out a mayor for up to 30 days. But County Council Chairwoman Aimee Winder Newton said a vacancy likely wouldn’t pose too big of a challenge for the council and its work.
“Keep in mind [McAdams] has got four deputy mayors that he’s appointed,” she said. “And the last several months, I know he’s been busy with his campaign and hasn’t been as hands-on as he normally is. And so I would expect those same people [who] have been helping to run the county while he’s been in the midst of the campaign will continue to keep us going.”
Potential contenders for McAdams’ seat likely will keep quiet to see what happens after the rest of the 4th District votes are counted. But already, two-term County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, who ran unsuccessfully in this election cycle for U.S. Senate against Republican Mitt Romney, has been floated as a potential mayoral contender.
Wilson, reached for comment Wednesday, would not say for sure whether she’d throw her name into the race if it came to that, but she hinted that she would consider it.
“Having worked with Mayor McAdams for several years, I know he will be a wonderful congressman and look forward to a favorable outcome,” Wilson said in a written statement. “Once we have final results, I will certainly take a hard look at how I can best continue to serve Salt Lake County.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated who would vote on a new county mayor. It is the central committee members.