Erin Mendenhall slightly leads Luz Escamilla in close Salt Lake City mayor’s race, according to Chamber poll

(Jeremy Harmon | Tribune file photo) Salt Lake mayoral candidate Erin Mendenhall speaks during a debate with Luz Escamilla on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019.

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, a new Salt Lake Chamber poll suggests that the Salt Lake City mayor’s race remains competitive, with 42% of likely city voters supporting City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall and 37% favoring state Sen. Luz Escamilla.

But Mendenhall’s apparent 5-point lead is roughly equal to the poll’s margin of error — plus-or-minus 5.23 percentage points — and during the Oct. 3-10 polling period, 21% of respondents indicated they had not yet made a decision.

In a prepared statement, Mendenhall said the poll is encouraging but that her campaign’s internal data suggests an even tighter race.

“It feels like we have the momentum, and this poll seems to confirm that it’s still growing, but it’s not going to change how we campaign,” Mendenhall said. “We are going to run our race tomorrow the same way we did yesterday and just like we did in the primary: like we’re down and working as hard as we possibly can to earn every possible vote.”

The Escamilla campaign responded that the poll — which was released Wednesday but conducted earlier this month — does not reflect a “surge” of support the campaign is encountering in the final days of the race.

“With 21% undecided, we feel good about our ability to win those undecideds," said Rudy Miera, Escamilla’s campaign manager.

The poll was conducted by Dan Jones and Associates for the Salt Lake Chamber. It includes responses from 350 Salt Lake City voters.

Dan Jones & Associates is a subsidiary of the Cicero Group, which conducted a Salt Lake City poll for The Salt Lake Tribune and Hinckley Institute of Politics in late July that was later found to include at least 57 voters who lived in other cities.

The pollster relied on a 2016 voter list — drawing sharp criticism from Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen as being “obsolete” — and did not use a screening question asking respondents to verify their Salt Lake City residency. The Tribune subsequently terminated its professional relationship with the Cicero Group.

Blake Moore, a principal with Dan Jones, said the Chamber poll included screening questions to confirm participants’ Salt Lake City residency.

“Each respondent on that particular sample size for the mayoral question confirmed that they were a Salt Lake City resident,” Moore said.

The Chamber poll also included a number of questions presented to a statewide sample of 600 likely voters. Those questions, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, included the following results:

• 53% of Utahns said they held a favorable impressions of President Donald Trump, while 50% said Trump should be reelected to a second term.

• On the House impeachment inquiry, 56% were opposed and 42% were supportive of the probe.

• Former Gov. Jon Huntsman had the most support in a list of candidates for the 2020 governor’s race, at 33%, followed by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, at 26%. But among Republican voters, the only Utahns able to participate in next year’s GOP gubernatorial primary, Cox led, with 34% to Huntsman’s 30%. That question did not include Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, who this week formally declared her candidacy for governor.

• Jeff Burningham, the only other declared gubernatorial candidate, received 2% among all voters and 2% among Republican voters. Former House Speaker Greg Hughes, who is expected to announce his candidacy in the coming weeks, also was supported by 2% of all voters and 2% of Republican voters. Former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright was supported by 4% of all voters and 7% of Republican voters, and businessman Spencer Eccles was supported by 5% of all voters and 3% of Republican voters.

• In a head-to-head question, Huntsman’s support among all voters was 54% compared with 46% for Cox. But among Republican voters, Cox led with 55% to Huntsman’s 45%.

Editor’s note • Jon Huntsman is a brother of Paul Huntsman, owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune.