In the race to lead Salt Lake City’s District 6, Dan Dugan, a former Navy pilot, widened his lead over incumbent Councilman Charlie Luke, according to new election results released Thursday.
On election night, unofficial results showed the political newcomer in first place with a razor-thin margin of just five votes. Now, Dugan has a slightly wider lead of 152 votes, or 50.87% to Luke’s 49.13%.
There are still ballots left to be counted and election results won’t be final until the canvass in two weeks.
“This is an exciting time,” Dugan said in an interview shortly after the ballots dropped, declining to declare victory until he’d had more time to look at the numbers. “I’m glad for the support. I love the engagement and I look forward to the next four years.”
Luke, a two-term councilman who works as a lobbyist for the Utah Association of Community Services, did not respond to a request for comment from The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday.
In a statement posted to social media, he said he was aware of the vote totals and planned to “let the process play out."
“A 152 vote difference is still very close," he wrote. "The next update will be tomorrow afternoon and I’ll be waiting for that new total before making any decisions moving forward. I have thoroughly enjoyed the honor of representing District 6 on the Salt Lake City Council and would be happy to continue. Regardless of the outcome, my family and I will be great.”
Luke outraised Dugan by a more than two-to-one margin, bringing in $44,734 to Dugan’s $21,105 in the most expensive Salt Lake City Council race this year. And he performed well in the primary, with an 865-vote lead, a 12-point advantage over Dugan.
Dugan attributed his against-the-odds lead over the incumbent on election night to his focus on knocking on a lot of doors and getting out his message to residents in the council district, which encompasses the East Bench, Wasatch Hollow and Foothill/Sunnyside neighborhoods.
Among the issues Dugan brought up during the race were Luke’s campaign donations from developers and people connected to the billboard industry. The councilman received $4,560 from Steve Price, a developer who was one of the original proponents of the inland port project, and from companies associated with Price’s family.
Those contributions did not represent a campaign finance violation, since no person or individual business gave more than the maximum donation limits. But Dugan expressed concerns about the possible impact on Luke of what he characterized as special interest donations.
Luke countered that he’s received contributions from Price in the past, and that they haven’t affected the few votes the council has made related to the port and wouldn’t influence any future decisions.
West Jordan races
In the West Jordan race to become the city’s first “strong mayor” under its new form of government, Councilman Dirk Burton maintained his lead Thursday over incumbent Mayor Jim Riding.
Riding had declined to concede on election night, when he was behind by a margin of 460 votes. That lead narrowed slightly, to 428 votes on Thursday, but Burton said he feels “confident” that he will become the city’s next mayor.
“The numbers may change some but I think the percentage will stay similar,” he said.
Riding said the race isn’t over until all ballots are counted but expressed disappointment that the numbers weren’t “better than they are” for him.
Burton, who ran for mayor in both 2013 and 2017, attributed his lead over the incumbent to steady involvement in the city over the past few years, knocking on doors and listening to what residents say they want in a leader.
“I continue to listen to the people, to the residents, and I made changes I felt they were looking for and I think I found what they wanted in a mayor, so here I am,” he said.
The issues he hopes to address as mayor include easing east-to-west traffic, controlling water rates and taxes and promoting economic development.
If he is ousted, Riding blamed a constituency that was unhappy about the difficult decisions he’s had to make as part of the seven-member council.
“The city has to be able to be financially OK and in order to do that, you have to have the revenue,” he said. "That’s what makes it difficult. You try to do what’s best for the city and the residents just aren’t going to like that because they’re very protective of their money. Totally understand that. I am as well.”
On election night, longtime West Jordan District 1 Councilman Chris McConnehey had a slight lead over opponent Marilyn Richards. That flipped Thursday but remained remarkably close, with just five votes separating the two.
Brighton mayor’s race
Another close race was in Brighton, Utah’s newest town, where Silver Fork Lodge and Restaurant owner Dan Knopp now has a thin 13-vote lead over Don O. Despain, former owner of the Brighton Village Store.
On election night, Knopp’s lead was five votes.
Knopp said Thursday that his opponent had called and conceded that morning, not realizing there were more votes left to be counted. But he said he feels confident that his lead will hold.
“I feel great. I think it’s good now. I didn’t want to jinx myself,” he said, but added that he’s “ready to get started.”
Both candidates have said it has been a friendly race among neighbors trying to preserve a small-town atmosphere in the ski area, which has a population of 260 people. Despain kept up that spirit in an interview Thursday.
“We all feel [Brighton] is going to be served very well with the town council and Dan as the mayor will be good, too,” he said. “We were all on the same page and just want to see the town work out like we all expect and hope, so thanks to the whole community for believing in the town.”
In his first term, Knopp said he’s hoping to get “a firm foundation” for the new town and take care of basic needs first before deciding what issues to take on.
Results for other city council races in Salt Lake County are available online at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s website.