Updated 8:00 p.m. MDT 8/15/19: For the first time in Salt Lake City history, two women will face off in a mayoral race this November.
State Sen. Luz Escamilla and Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall emerged from a crowded field of eight candidates in Tuesday’s primary and will advance to the general election.
Mendenhall held a comfortable lead on election night, but until Thursday afternoon it was unclear who would fill the second spot on the November ballot.
Escamilla sat in third place, just 109 votes behind former state Sen. Jim Dabakis. A results update Thursday afternoon put her more than 400 votes ahead of Dabakis, who conceded the race on Twitter.
I lost! New votes counted. Greatest honor of my life to serve full time people of Utah and SLC for 8 years. I never compromised my principles! Congrats to woman. Stephen, we are going on that great vacation! #utpol
— Jim Dabakis (@JimDabakis) August 15, 2019
“We had a tough day and a half, but we’re happy,” Escamilla said after clinching the second general election spot. “We knew we worked really hard and we obviously had very high expectations to make it to the general and we’re just happy things went this way.”
The update, which added another 7,570 tallied ballots, also widened Mendenhall’s lead to more than 1,000 votes.
In a statement, Mendehnall welcomed Escamilla to the race, but touted the fact that she received the most votes in the primary while spending far less than some of her opponents, including Escamilla.
“Senator Escamilla is a formidable fundraiser, but I think we’ve proven that you don’t buy votes, you earn them,” Mendenhall said. “Given a choice between a campaign driven by the community or driven by money, I’ll take our community every time.”
Escamilla said her campaign is “grassroots” and not self-funded.
“Most of our contributions are under $100 and we’re proud of that,” she said. “That’s important. We also know that we need resources to put our name out there.”
On Wednesday, Mendehnall declared victory in the primary and called for a debate in each of the city’s seven city council districts, as well as a televised debate about climate change, air quality and other environmental issues.
She also called for a clean campaign based on issues.
“I hope Sen. Escamilla will join me in committing to a clean campaign, disavowing whisper campaigns and anonymous, dark-money PACs,” she said, in reference to text messages and mailers sent out days before the primary. “I look forward to a general election campaign that I hope will delve deeper into the policy challenges facing our city, and will challenge the candidates to offer real solutions to them.”
If elected, Escamilla would be Salt Lake City’s first Latina mayor. She said the fact that two women are headed to the general election “speaks volumes of Salt Lake City.”
“It’s a good message for young Latinas and young women of color,” said Escamilla, who has four daughters, including a stepdaughter. “I’m excited for them to ... be able to see debates with pictures of two women. I think it sends the right message.”
County Clerk Sherrie Swensen will release another, smaller, update Friday afternoon.