Fresh off her bid for Salt Lake County mayor — and her race just before that for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District — Shireen Ghorbani announced she’s not done with politics yet.
Ghorbani, a communication professional at the University of Utah, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday that she intends to run for the at-large Salt Lake County Council seat vacated Tuesday by newly-inaugurated Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.
“There’s so much good work to be done and so many places to really start moving the needle — whether it’s on an aggressive approach to sustainability, pushing forward on mass transit, helping more people get out of their cars, there’s just a need across our entire county,” Ghorbani said. “And I would be so honored to serve and really go to work on those issues.”
After losing to Wilson by less than 80 votes during a special election on Saturday, Ghorbani told reporters she didn’t plan on running for the at-large seat. She has a full-time job and a family and didn’t feel she could dedicate the time needed to serve in the role, she said.
But that changed after a meeting Monday morning with her boss, who offered to reduce her hours to a “reasonable” level if she was appointed.
“I was trepidatious about jumping into this race with a full-time job and a family,” she said, “but being able to find that flexibility is what has opened up the reality that this can happen.”
Per state law, the Salt Lake County Democratic Party’s Central Committee will now go through the same process to fill the at-large seat as it did to appoint a new mayor. The council sent formal notification of the vacancy Tuesday after Wilson’s inauguration, which triggered a 30-day timeline for the party to make a nomination.
Ghorbani is the second to declare her intent to run for the seat. Pamela Berry, who previously ran for County Council District 5, announced her candidacy in a Facebook post on Monday.
Ghorbani, who ran an unsuccessful bid for Congress to unseat Rep. Chris Stewart last year, 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 lost her fight with cancer in 2016, leaving the family with bills it didn’t know how to cover even with the help of Medicare.
She and volunteers knocked on more than 30,000 doors in Salt Lake County alone during that campaign to talk to voters, and she said the stories she heard on their porches and in their living rooms prompted her to run for county mayor and now for county council.
“One of the things that’s so important to me is really being responsive to the issues that I heard as I was out there engaging in the community through both of these experiences,” Ghorbani said. “And what I know is that there are a great number of Utahns who feel disconnected from the government, from the elected leaders and officials … [and] really being an engaged, responsive and available countywide representative is something that I’m committed to.”
During the mayoral debate at Jordan High School Thursday, Ghorbani advocated for using tax increment policies to address Utah’s affordable housing crunch. High-density housing has to be part of the solution, she said, but it’s a burden municipalities across the county must share.
Ghorbani also expressed support for a countywide anti-idling ordinance and said she wants to see the county eventually run on 100 percent renewable energy.