Updated 11:45 p.m. MDT 11/05/19:
Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall held a commanding lead in the capital city’s mayoral race Tuesday night, but with potentially thousands of ballots left to count, she did not declare victory; nor did her opponent, State Sen. Luz Escamilla, concede the race.
Preliminary results Tuesday night showed Mendenhall leading by 17.2% — about 5,800 votes. The two-term councilwoman told supporters that while the numbers looked “lovely” Tuesday night, she did not want to declare victory too early.
Escamilla said she would not concede until every vote was counted, which could take until next week.
Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen will next update results at 3 p.m. Thursday, with another update Friday afternoon and a potential third update later if needed.
“It’s going to be a long 48 hours but we’ve been there and we’re going to stick on this one,” Escamilla told supporters Tuesday night. “We’re very hopeful, there are still thousands of ballots that have not been counted. So, we’re going to wait.”
Mendenhall said she was proud of the race both candidates ran, and especially proud that for the first time, two women faced off to lead Salt Lake City. She told girls who watched the race to “come and get this — it is yours.”
“Representation matters, and for a community that has long felt underrepresented in this city, Sen. Escamilla’s candidacy was especially poignant and important,” Mendenhall said.
While she noted that the race highlighted “geographic divisions, racial divisions, even spiritual divisions,” Mendenhall called on residents to unite and speak out against inequity.
“We need to work with intention and determination to ensure that Salt Lake City government is reflective of the people that we serve and that the decisions made in city hall benefit the entire city,” she said.
“If it doesn’t swing our way, we’re very happy with the work,” Escamilla said. “Especially the people that have been supporting us. It’s been an incredible experience. I’m still in the Senate and we’re going to continue to fight for a better Salt Lake City.”
Gov. Gary Herbert made an appearance at Mendenhall’s election night party, apparently to offer an early congratulations to the councilwoman, though he said he liked both candidates and would be able to work with either of them.
"I think that Salt Lake City had a great choice,” he said. “With either choice, they're not going to lose. They're going to end up having a good, significant, talented leader in either Luz Escamilla or Erin Mendenhall."
Herbert said either way, he looked forward to “better dialogue” with a new Salt Lake City administration. He and outgoing mayor Jackie Biskupksi have clashed publicly on the inland port.
Earlier this year, Biskupski decided not to seek a second term and endorsed Escamilla in the race.
Unofficial results showed a tight race in Salt Lake City’s 6th council district, where Council Chairman Charlie Luke trailed his opponent, Dan Dugan, by a mere five votes.
Incumbent councilmembers Andrew Johnston and Ana Valdemoros held commanding leads in their races and will likely win re-election.
KUER’s Cami Mondeaux contributed to this report.