Affordable housing and homelessness are top issues in Salt Lake City’s ranked-choice mayoral race

Nov 20, 2023, 9:16 PM

FILE - Erin Mendenhall talks to reporters during an election night party in Salt Lake City on Aug. ...

FILE - Erin Mendenhall talks to reporters during an election night party in Salt Lake City on Aug. 13, 2019. Mendenhall is seeking re-election as mayor of Utah’s capital Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023 in a ranked-choice contest that includes a challenge by former Mayor Rocky Anderson. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, file)

(Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, file)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Erin Mendenhall is seeking reelection as mayor of Utah’s capital Tuesday in a ranked-choice contest that includes a challenge by former Mayor Rocky Anderson.

The third left-leaning choice for mayor is Michael Valentine, an activist and business owner. Though the position is officially nonpartisan, the city is largely Democratic in a mostly Republican state.

Three of the mayoral candidates had a debate Oct. 24 that touched on several of the main issues: conserving water, fighting climate change, reducing crime and addressing homelessness.

Anderson, who served two terms from 2000-2008, has criticized Mendenhall for not doing enough to alleviate the rising cost of housing.

“We have got to provide a safe community and we’ve got to deal effectively with the homelessness crisis and the affordability crisis we have,” Anderson said in the debate, which was sponsored by KSL, the Hinckley Institute of Politics and Better Utah.

He proposed mixed income housing built by the city to help solve the problem rather than Mendenhall’s approach, which involves working more closely with developers.

Mendenhall defended her approach as one that is showing results.

“Salt Lake City is building more affordable housing than every mayoral administration combined by a lot — 413% increase in our investment in the creation of affordable housing units. Yes 4,000 of them,” Mendenhall said.

However the affordable housing being built has been for those with incomes far higher than most service industry workers make, Valentine pointed out.

He accused Mendenhall of being “in the pockets of developers and corporations.”

“The rate of conspiracies coming out of his mouth is insane,” retorted Mendenhall.

It is the first Salt Lake City mayor’s race since the capital, along with a number of Utah cities instituted ranked-choice voting in 2021. The system will allow voters to rank the three candidates, regardless of party.

If no candidate claims a majority, the candidate who finishes third will be eliminated and voters’ second- and third-choice picks will determine the winner.

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Affordable housing and homelessness are top issues in Salt Lake City’s ranked-choice mayoral race