Two of the three Salt Lake City Council incumbents running for reelection appeared likely to hold their seats Tuesday, but election night results showed an extremely tight race in District 6, where Council Chairman Charlie Luke trailed opponent Dan Dugan by five votes.
The unofficial election night results showed Dugan, a political newcomer and former Navy pilot, with 3,413 votes to Luke’s 3,408. Election results won’t be final until the official canvass is complete in two weeks. Updated results are expected Thursday.
“We knocked a lot of doors and we got our message out,” Dugan said of the early results in a phone interview before he took the razor-thin lead. "I’m pretty excited about it all.”
Dugan, who works in the manufacturing industry, has hinged his campaign on a promise that he would fight the inland port, a massive development project planned for the city’s northwest side that he argues will cost the city money and that he believes will contribute to poor air quality.
Luke, who works as a lobbyist for the Utah Association of Community Service, is seeking election to a third term in which he has said he would keep pushing for an east-side police precinct and improved east-to-west connectivity and would work to prioritize the “nuts and bolts” of city government.
He said he remains “very optimistic," despite the unexpected tight race.
“There’s still a lot of ballots to be counted and so we feel good about what our strategy has been,” he said.
Salt Lake City Councilwoman Ana Valdemoros declared victory for her first full term in office, after the City Council appointed her in January to fill the seat vacated by now-Sen. Derek Kitchen.
In a city with a growing Spanish-speaking population, the Argentinian native — who moved to Utah more than 20 years ago as an international student and gained her U.S. citizenship last August — is one of the few Latina elected officials in the state and is the only person of color on the Salt Lake City Council.
“I am truly honored and grateful for all the opportunities that this amazing country has afforded me,” Valdemoros said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing to work hard for my constituents.”
With a 2,609 vote lead, Valdemoros handily beat Leo Rodgers, a grocery clerk from Colorado who argued he would push for more progressive policies, if elected. He floated the idea of legalizing psychedelic mushrooms and creating safe injection sites.
But the 22-year-old candidate said he struggled to fundraise because of his age and because he’s a newcomer to city politics.
“We’ve done just about as good a job as we could have,” he said Tuesday.
In Salt Lake City’s District 2, City Councilman Andrew Johnston had a 526-vote lead over Moroni Benally, an activist and member of the Navajo Nation who ran unsuccessfully for president of the Navajo Nation in 2014.
Benally, the co-director of the Utah League of Native American Voters, both outraised and outspent Johnston by a factor of more than six to one — the only one of the council races in which a challenger brought in more dollars. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Johnston is a social worker with Volunteers for America and the former chairman of the Poplar Grove Community Council. He was not declaring victory but said he thought the early results showed his constituents were happy with the work he’d done over the past four years.
“I’m really thankful,” he said.
The candidate has said his focus, if reelected, would be on diversity in housing, increased bus service to his area and “rebranding” perceptions of the west side.
Reporter Benjamin Wood contributed to this article.