Election update: Zoltanski to become Sandy’s first female mayor; results flip in Midvale

In Salt Lake City, Blake Perez concedes to Victoria Petro-Eschler in District 1.

(Photo courtesy Monica Zoltanski) Monica Zoltanski has prevailed in a crowded and tight mayoral race and will become Sandy's first female mayor.

Salt Lake County updated election results Thursday, adding more than 31,500 ballots that were mailed in or dropped off. This new data provides more clarity on some tight races for mayor and city council seats.

Here are the latest developments:

Sandy mayor

Monica Zoltanski, left, edged out Jim Bennett in the Sandy mayoral race.

City Council member Monica Zoltanski ended election night with an 81-vote advantage over businessman Jim Bennett, 50.4% to 49.6%, after seven rounds of ranked choice voting eliminated the other six challengers.

Now, with the new results, Zoltanski is up 115 votes, with the percentages staying the same. She’s likely to win and become Sandy’s first female mayor.

Bennett posted on Facebook late Thursday that he phoned his opponent, calling her “likely the mayor-elect.”

“She ran a great campaign, and she has the skill and intellect to be a great mayor,” Bennett wrote. ”I will do all I can to support her to make Sandy a better place to live.”

Zoltanski said the contest was “grueling,” especially with seven other candidates in the field.

“It was an endurance race,” she said late Thursday. “It was a great challenge and it made me a stronger candidate, and I think a better representative for our city because I really had to work for this victory.”

In the end, though, she said the spirited campaign — with her opponents all having a “strong interest in making our city better in different ways” — shows Sandy has a “very bright future.”

“I’m really proud to have won,” she added, “and very proud to be serving as the first woman mayor in Sandy City’s history.”

Zoltanski is a former Sandy prosecutor who was elected to the council in 2019. She has not shied away from conflict, which she considers a healthy part of the political system that leads to better ideas. She opposes billboards and is not a fan of many developers either. She is against bringing more multifamily housing to established neighborhoods, instead suggesting that town homes and condominiums should be constructed close to the freeway.

“I’m known as a representative who votes against in-fill zoning,” she said.

Bennett, a former congressional candidate and son of the late U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, ran as an outsider to city politics, which have been mired in disagreements between outgoing Mayor Kurt Bradburn and the City Council.

Bennett argued city government has been “dysfunctional,” adding that the people who are part of that status quo shouldn’t be given the opportunity to perpetuate it.”

Six other candidates were in this race, including three additional members of the City Council — Brooke Christensen, Kris Nicholl and Marci Houseman. Nicholl was the last candidate eliminated in round seven of the ranked choice voting.

Former council member Linda Saville, council Executive Director Mike Applegarth and retiree Ronald Jones also were in the race.

On Thursday, 4,631 more votes were counted in Sandy.

Zoltanski was the first choice of 20.8% of voters and it took seven rounds before she topped 50%, with a challenger eliminated each round. She led in all of those rounds but the fifth, where the redistribution of Saville’s votes favored Bennett. She jumped back to the top when the votes for Christensen were redistributed.

Midvale mayor

Candidates for Midvale mayor, from left: Amanda Hollingsworth; Marcus Stevenson; and current mayor Robert Hale.

Mayor Robert Hale saw his small lead evaporate in the new results.

On election night, Hale had the edge over challenger Marcus Stevenson, 50.7% to 49.3%, which accounted for just 44 votes.

On Thursday, that flipped, with Stevenson surging to a 182-vote lead, 52.1% to 47.9%.

Hale is seeking a second term. Stevenson, who works at O2, an environmental nonprofit, previously helped other candidates but is a first-time candidate himself.

A third mayoral hopeful, Amanda Hollingsworth, was eliminated.

Salt Lake City District 1

(Courtesy photo) Victoria Petro-Eschler is a 2021 candidate for Salt Lake City Council in District 1.

Candidate Victoria Petro-Eschler was up 110 votes on election night over Blake Perez, 52.4% to 47.6%.

And that largely held with nearly 1,000 additional ballots added. Petro-Eschler is up 52.7% to 47.3%, or 163 votes. In reaction, Perez called and conceded the race.

“I called Victoria and congratulated her on the victory,” he said. “It was close. I’m proud of the campaign we ran, proud of the vision we put out there.”

This was the tightest of the five City Council contests in Salt Lake City and was the only one not to include a current member of the council. Petro-Eschler is likely to take office early, because the former District 1 representative, James Rogers, resigned to spend more time with his children. The City Council plans to name a temporary member Tuesday.

Draper City Council at large

Draper had two at-large seats on the ballot and Tasha Lowery, a sitting council member, won one of them on election night. That left the second one to be a battle between Hubert Huh and Mike Green.

Huh had a 19-vote lead, giving him a narrow 50.2% to 49.8% edge late Tuesday. After the new ballots were added, the race flipped again, with Green taking a 61-vote advantage.

Huh was the subject of some critical texts sent to Draper voters criticizing his role as a chapter president of United Families International, a group that is anti-LGBTQ. He has also criticized the Draper City Council for voting in lockstep too often.

Turnout and what comes next

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen was surprised on election night when her staff collected an additional 45,000 ballots from drop boxes and the mail.

“We have never seen anything like this on a municipal Election Day,” she said.

Thursday’s 31,541 additional ballots came from this cache, and she promised another update Friday.

She said turnout in Salt Lake County was about 28%, lower than the 33% in the 2019 municipal races. Swensen attributed that to the high number of unopposed candidates in places like Riverton, Taylorsville and Holladay.

— Tribune reporter Kolbie Peterson contributed to this story.