Less than a month after the end of her first political race in Congressional District 2, Shireen Ghorbani has announced she will run for the Salt Lake County mayor seat being vacated by Rep.-elect Ben McAdams.
Ghorbani is a communications professional at the University of Utah who ran unsuccessfully to unseat Rep. Chris Stewart this year. But she was wildly popular in the Salt Lake County portions of the district, winning 67 percent of the vote there.
The half-Iranian daughter of an immigrant, Ghorbani decided to run after her mother fought and died from cancer in 2016, leaving the family with bills it didn’t know how to cover even with the help of Medicare.
“I got into the congressional race because of my own health care story,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday. “But it was really just reaffirmed over and over again that there is a real need for a focus on mental health care, affordable housing. And the rubber hits the road on many of these policy decisions at the county level.”
Ghorbani has two master’s degrees and in 2016 served as the board chairwoman for the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City. Previously, she and her husband spent time as Peace Corps volunteers in Moldova.
After McAdams resigns as county mayor, state law directs the County Council to notify Democratic Party leadership about the vacancy, triggering a 30-day timeline for the party’s central committee to vote on a replacement mayor. McAdams has said he intends to remain in the seat until the beginning of January.
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson announced on Friday her plan to run for the seat. Others are rumored to be considering a bid, including County Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw.
“They bring valuable experience, and that is absolutely something that should be considered and it’s something I respect greatly,” Ghorbani said. “I also know that I bring a fresh set of eyes and fresh energy to this race and would bring the same level of commitment and energy to 2020.”
In a prepared statement sent to The Tribune on Friday, McAdams didn’t indicate whether he’ll support any particular candidate and instead praised the county’s direction under his leadership.
“Already, several great candidates are expressing interest in running,” he wrote. “Whoever is chosen to lead Salt Lake County will step into a government that is well managed with positive momentum and can bring new ideas and a new perspective in service to our residents.”
During her congressional campaign, Ghorbani and volunteers knocked on more than 30,000 doors in Salt Lake County alone to talk to voters. And she said the stories she heard on their porches and in their living rooms have helped her identify some of the key issues she would focus on, if elected: affordable housing, homelessness and mental health and addiction resources.
Ghorbani first announced her run in an email to the roughly 1,100 central committee members who will be choosing the next county mayor and plans to host a formal campaign launch sometime in the next week.
Although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party, Ghorbani said she hopes to continue hearing from residents throughout the campaign.
“Reaching out on Twitter or reaching out on Facebook is a great way to get the conversation started,” she said. “I’m really interested in listening and being responsive to the concerns of community members.”