Challenger Suzanne Harrison clung to a sizable lead over Republican incumbent Richard Snelgrove early Wednesday morning as Democrats appeared poised to bite into the GOP’s 6-3 majority on the Salt Lake County Council.
Returns posted at 2:07 a.m. in the countywide race showed Harrison with nearly 54% of the vote compared with Snelgrove’s 46%.
Harrison took the stage to Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” late Tuesday night at the Utah Democratic Party’s election watch party in Salt Lake City.
“When we see someone’s rights get trampled, we step in and help,” she said. “If we see someone get discriminated against, we step up and help. When we see our neighbors struggling, we don’t sit back. We step up and help. That is why I’m a Democrat and why I’m proud to be a Utah Democrat.”
Her campaign did not claim victory, and Snelgrove could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Snelgrove, first elected to the council in 2010, campaigned on maintaining residents’ quality of life as surging inflation and a soaring cost of living continue to eat away at voters’ wallets. He was seeking his third six-year term.
Harrison, District 32′s representative in the Utah House, jumped into the race after the redistricting process thwarted her chances at reelection to the Legislature. She campaigned on lowering the cost of living, improving the region’s air quality and investing in parks and other amenities.
“My motto for our campaign for Salt Lake County Council has been: here to help,” she said Tuesday night. “I became a doctor to help, and that’s why I ran for office. ... To me, what ‘here to help’ means is that I’m here to fight for a better quality of life for Salt Lake County [residents]. To fight for clean air, water conservation, making sure we’re addressing those things that make this an incredible place to live.”
The race for the countywide seat was one of three competitive County Council races on ballots this year. If Democrats had managed to sweep those contests, they would have seized a 5-4 edge over the GOP on the partisan, part-time council and gained full control of county government, with Democrat Jenny Wilson holding the mayor’s office.
As it stands now, though, assuming the latest results hold up, the GOP will have a 5-4 advantage.
Further vote totals are expected to be released Wednesday at about 5 p.m.
Democratic incumbent Arlyn Bradshaw cruised to victory to retain his seat representing District 1, a liberal stronghold that includes a large portion of Salt Lake City.
Bradshaw outpaced Republican Richard D.M. Barnes with about 76% of the vote, according to the latest returns Wednesday morning.
Seeking a fourth, four-year term, Bradshaw campaigned on investing in affordable housing, expanding treatment programs for Utahns in jail, and ensuring the criminal justice system is working optimally.
Barnes — who previously ran unsuccessfully for Salt Lake City Council, the Utah House and state Senate — said during the campaign that the government should not get involved with providing affordable housing. The free market alone, he said, should determine who gets a roof over their head.
In District 3, covering Taylorsville, West Valley City, West Jordan and Murray, Republican incumbent Aimee Winder Newton won election to a third term.
Wednesday morning’s returns showed her capturing about 55% of the vote, followed by Democrat Ashley Liewer’s roughly 40% and United Utah Party candidate Kerry Soelberg’s 5%.
Winder Newton, a senior adviser to Gov. Spencer Cox and head of the newly created state Office of Families, ran as a moderate who decried reverting to “tribalistic partisan corners” and said she would value all perspectives and work across the aisle.
Liewer — a paramedic, clinical leader and health care consultant — campaigned on prioritizing public health and access to equitable services for mental health and substance use disorders. She also promoted environmental stewardship.
Soelberg, a former auditor and administrative services manager for the state, put climate and environmental issues at the top of his list of priorities.
Republicans are certain to control the District 5 seat that represents the southwest segment of the county, where Riverton City Council member Sheldon Stewart ran unopposed after unseating incumbent Steve DeBry in the June primary.
Tribune reporter Palak Jayswal contributed to this story.