Rocky Anderson concedes amid trouncing from Erin Mendenhall in SLC mayoral race

“It’s an honor to be trusted to lead Salt Lake City for another four years,” the incumbent mayor says. Former mayor says his blowout loss may mean most voters “are satisfied with the status quo.”

(The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City mayoral candidates Erin Mendenhall and Rocky Anderson. Anderson, a former mayor, conceded to incumbent Mayor Mendenhall on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023.

After a political slugfest, there will be no Rocky III.

Ballot returns released Wednesday showed incumbent Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall maintaining her sizable lead over former Mayor Rocky Anderson. Those unofficial returns, which included all scannable ballots in the Salt Lake County clerk’s possession, left Mendenhall with 58% of the vote over Anderson’s 34% and long-shot candidate Michael Valentine’s 7%.

And the former two-term mayor, who all but conceded after Mendenhall jumped off to a hefty lead Tuesday night, has officially seen enough.

“As seemed pretty clear last night, these more final results clearly indicate that Mayor Mendenhall has won reelection,” Anderson said. “I wish her the very best, and I hope she and her team succeed.”

Mendenhall’s campaign said Anderson called the mayor Wednesday afternoon to concede.

“It’s an honor to be trusted to lead Salt Lake City for another four years,” she said in a statement, “and I’m grateful to the county clerk’s office for working so hard to finish counting ballots before the holiday.”

[View the latest unofficial election results from across the state.]

The incumbent mayor essentially declared victory Tuesday night, saying she was looking to “regroup for a second term” and telling supporters it is “an honor to continue serving” them.

“This election was a repudiation of cynicism,” she said at her election night watch party, “and it was a rejection of the politics of fear.”

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks to supporters at an election watch party in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023.

Mendenhall told supporters she was proud of running a campaign that didn’t fearmonger or resort to “dirty tricks.”

Anderson and his team, however, were visibly disheartened by those returns Tuesday night.

“I think the writing’s on the wall, but I was advised by the elections clerk not to concede until the ballots come in,” he said at his election night party. “So it’s not a formal concession, but I do think it would take a minor miracle for this to turn around right now.”

Anderson said Wednesday that there is no reason not to concede now that the clerk’s office has counted all the ballots in its possession.

“With that kind of a margin,” he said, “I think it’s appropriate to concede.”

Asked what he thought led to his 24-percentage-point loss to Mendenhall, Anderson paused for 17 seconds before saying he didn’t know.

“I guess a lot of people,” he said, “are satisfied with the status quo.”

Anderson officially announced his campaign for a third term overseeing the city late last year, leveling a firestorm of criticism at Mendenhall for her response to the homelessness crisis.

He said he hopes those with “very strong feelings” about the direction of Utah’s capital will stay active and organize to push for affordable housing measures, for addressing what he called “repeated failures” to provide adequate winter shelter for the city’s unsheltered population, and for preventing illegal camps by creating a place for homeless Utahns.

The former mayor said he heard concerns about these issues across the city as he walked door to door for more than a year.

“Another four years of what we’ve seen in the past,” he said, “would be a really tragic thing for our city.”

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Former Mayor Rocky Anderson speaks during an election night party in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023.

Salt Lake County Clerk Lannie Chapman said another update of results may come next week. Election totals must be finalized by Dec. 6.

Mendenhall wasn’t the only Salt Lake City incumbent to see favorable returns on election night and again Wednesday.

Salt Lake City Council incumbents Dan Dugan in the east side’s District 6 and Sarah Young in Sugar House’s District 7 were leading their races as of the clerk’s most recent election update. West-side council member Alejandro Puy ran unopposed and will retain his seat representing District 2.

Ana Valdemoros, the incumbent council member for District 4, was trailing former Mendenhall staffer and previous Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chair Eva Lopez Chavez in her bid to continue representing downtown and nearby neighborhoods.