Just when you thought election season was over, here come the falling dominoes caused by the election of Ben McAdams to Congress.
Because the midterm elections were, well, in the middle of McAdams' four-year term as the mayor of Salt Lake County, he didn’t have to give up one office to run for another. Now that the Democrat has — barely — pushed aside Republican Rep. Mia Love for Utah’s 4th Congressional District spot, McAdams will be giving up the mayor’s chair early next month.
That triggers a replacement process that, by state law, empowers the central committee of the party that held the office to pick someone to fill the spot for the remaining two years. Not very small-d democratic, perhaps, but leaving the office in the hands of the party that won it last makes it less likely that the other party would try to push an office-holder aside in hopes of capturing the position for itself. Or that good candidates would be discouraged from pursuing higher office for fear the one they already have would flip.
Among those standing up and saying, “Pick me!” are Jenny Wilson, a member of the Salt Lake County Council who just lost a run for the U.S. Senate, and Shireen Ghorbani, an activist who just lost a race for the 2nd Congressional District seat. (Though if you just count the votes from Salt Lake County, she mopped the floor with assassination-apologist Rep. Chris Stewart.)
Wilson probably has the upper hand, being better known to the political activists who will make the choice. It would be horrible, though, if Ghorbani’s political career has already come to an end. She might want to start running for Stewart’s job again, just in case he finally implodes with the disgrace in the White House.
On the surface, it seems that both Wilson and Ghorbani are more cut out for a legislative role than an executive one. (Sweet Jesus, I hope I would say the same thing about a male candidate in that spot.)
There’s another option for mayor. Sim Gill.
The just-re-elected district attorney has lots of executive experience — though some of the folks who work for him say he’s not a very good manager. But what some folks love and some folks hate about Gill is the clear fact that he finds the traditional role of a county prosecutor far too constricting.
Listen to Gill for a little bit — though it’s really hard to listen to him for just a little bit — and you see that he is mostly on about how local government needs to take a more holistic approach to problems like drugs, homelessness, street crime and violence committed by or against law enforcement officers.
Just arresting people or opening up more jail cells won’t solve any of those problems, Gill rightly says. At the same time, the knock on Gill — raised by the assistant prosecutors who have run against him — is that some of his alternatives to jail haven’t been fully thought-through or sufficiently funded, and so have left too many dangerous folks on the street.
So, let’s move Sim over to the mayor’s office, a far better spot for big-picture thinking, and let the Democrats fill that spot with someone who shares the DA’s overall vision but inspires more confidence on the law-enforcement side of things.
Meanwhile, over at the county recorder’s office, another Democrat has been elected to fill a job that has seen a lot of controversy and turnover in recent months. Such offices are the offensive linemen of politics: Nobody hears about them unless something goes wrong.
The new recorder, Rashelle Hobbs, does appear to have the requisite skills to run a vital yet little-known office such as this, having worked her way up through the county clerk’s office from clerical help to chief deputy.
So Hobbs should keep the job when, if we ever do the right thing, it becomes a professional position, appointed by the mayor (whoever the mayor is) rather than an elected position.
Until she stands on her management skills and runs for mayor.