Challenger Dirk Burton claimed victory Tuesday over incumbent West Jordan Mayor Jeff Riding — but Riding refused to concede. Meanwhile, mayors in Millcreek and Ogden appeared poised to win another term. And candidates seeking to become the first mayor of Brighton were just five votes apart.
Because of mail-in voting and those dropped off at centers Tuesday, ballots will continue to be counted over coming days.
In a race for who will become West Jordan’s first “strong mayor” as it changes forms of government, Riding trails Burton 47.6% to 52.4%, or 460 votes.
“It is with profound gratitude that I have the opportunity for the next four years to work toward making West Jordan an even more remarkable place to live and work,” Burton, an electrical contractor and City Council member since 2016, texted after the final unofficial election night count.
But Riding said, “The fat lady hasn’t sung yet.” He said he figures in discussions with the county clerk that thousands of ballots have yet to be counted. “I only have to win 500 more votes than him to win.”
He added he figures “that people who were angry voted early, and those who researched things to make a good decision voted late. So I will wait for more votes to be counted.”
Riding also said he was hurt by by continuing attack ads by a murky group called the “West Jordan Alliance.”
The group initially was anonymous. But residents and news media figured out that West Jordan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Aisza Wilde was involved after she had hired an artist to design an attack flyer on the website freelancer.org. She did that after the city recently cut funding for her chamber and canceled its City Hall lease in the wake of criticism that her group leveled at the city.
Later, resident John Calveri said he was head of the group. He said most people involved with it were upset about recent hikes in the city water rates. Burton said the rates went up 17% in 2017, 10% last year and 33% this year. Riding said they were needed to handle growth and cover higher rates from the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District.
Burton — who has been a board member previously of that chamber of commerce — said he had nothing to do with the attack ads, but campaigned vowing to try to control water rates.
Riding said he’s glad the contentious election is over. “It’s amazing that people will come out of the woodwork to say untrue, horrible things about you. I guess that’s the game we play these days,” he said.
Incumbent Mayor Jeff Silvestrini has beaten challenger Angel Vice, with the election night results showing a 76.8% to 23.2% lead.
Millcreek became one of Utah’s newest cities in 2016, and Silvestrini has been serving as its first mayor.
Vice, who works for Salt Lake County Youth Services as an advocate for children in state custody, had criticized development in the city and debt for a new city park.
Silvestrini said he campaigned on his record.
“I feel good about what we’ve done,” he said. “We haven’t had a tax increase and we’ve been running on a sound fiscal basis. We’ve received more than $22 million in grants to help fix the roads,” and said the city has built up a healthy rainy day fund.
In Utah’s newest town — population 260 — Silver Fork Lodge and Restaurant owner Dan Knopp was holding a thin lead over Don O. Despain, former owner of the Brighton Village Store, 52.4% to 48.6%. The difference is just five votes right now.
Both candidates said it has been a friendly race among neighbors trying to preserve a small-town atmosphere in the ski area.
“Everyone running is on the same page. We want to keep Brighton like old-time Brighton. We want to protect what we have. We want to make it better for people,” Knopp said. “We have 260 residents, but 2 million visitors every year. Our biggest job is to help take care of them.”
Despain said Brighton formed the new town because residents felt they lacked a voice on district boards and were ignored by the county government that oversaw most local services.
He said the town has plenty of work ahead. “We will work out how to run a little town and handle a lot of visitors.”
In the state’s seventh-largest city, two-term incumbent mayor Mike Calwell led Angel Castillo 58.3% to 41.7% .
Caldwell campaigned by saying he has helped build Ogden in his eight years in office.
“We’ve been nationally recognized as one of the highest job-creating communities per capita in the United States,” Caldwell said. “Improving our economy has been a key focus.”
Caldwell said crime has decreased significantly in Odgen during his terms through an emphasis on housing and community policing.
In a City Council race, Sophia Hawes-Tingey — hoping to become the state’s first elected transgender office holder — trailed incumbent Paul Glover by 40.5% to 59.5%.
Hawes-Tingey lost a City Council race in 2015 and a race for mayor in 2017.
She said in this third race, the issue of being transgender came up much less than previously as she campaigned. “It’s not an issue anymore,” she said adding that conversations focused on city issues from improving police protection to improving affordable housing options. She is, however, also proposing to create a diversity council.
Results for other city council races in Salt Lake County are available online at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s website.