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Biskupski Launches Bid For Second Term Amid Growing Field Of Challengers

Mayor Jackie Biskupski
Julia Ritchey
Mayor Jackie Biskupski launches her campaign for re-election on Saturday, Feb. 9.

Flanked by friends and a sea of green signs, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski kicked off her re-election campaign on Saturday in what is shaping into a crowded mayoral race.

“I love this city, and I love my job,” Biskupski said as she stood in front of City Hall in chilly 30-degree weather.

The mayor wiped away tears as she thanked supporters and her family for backing her through the ups and downs of her first term.

“Though it hasn’t always been easy, I have stayed the course to create the shifts needed to make our city a better place,” she said.

Biskupski touted creating an affordable housing plan, addressing homelessness and hiring more police officers as evidence of her effectiveness. She also highlighted her environmental  record and goal to transition the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2032.

“Today Salt Lake City is leading our state on clearing the air and protecting the environment,” she said.  

Yet the mayor has also faced multiple controversies since taking office. Among them were her handling of last year’s negotiations with state lawmakers over the creation of an inland port in the city’s northwest quadrant and clashes with city and state leaders over Operation Rio Grande and the placement of new homeless shelters.

“While all the candidates running for Mayor share similar policy positions on the issues important to the City, we differ drastically on how to achieve results,” said Dave Ibarra, a Latino businessman running against Biskupski, in a statement released on Saturday.

Ibarra is one of several challengers who’ve declared their candidacies for Salt Lake City mayor. Among the other high profile names are former City Council member Stan Penfold and former state Sen. Jim Dabakis.

Asked about the growing field, which will soon include David Garbett, a former executive director of the Pioneer Park Coalition, Biskupski sounded confident.  

“It is interesting that so far there are a number of men in this race, especially in the year of the woman, which is ironic,” she said.

A recent poll by the Salt Lake Tribune and Hinckley Institute put Jim Dabakis in the lead by 26 percent to Biskupski’s 14 percent, results Biskupski dismissed as flawed.

“The poll has very little ground to stand on; it’s not a well-done poll,” she said, saying her campaign would be commissioning a new survey this month.

Among those endorsing the mayor’s re-election on Saturday were Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera, state Sen. Gene Davis and former Mayor Ted Wilson, who called on voters to give Biskupski another term to “finish what she started.”

Biskupski was first elected as mayor in 2015, defeating former Mayor Ralph Becker, and before that served as the first openly gay lawmaker in the Utah Legislature for 13 years.

“Campaigns are hard,” said Biskupski. “What I’m trying to do is keep us united and moving forward and continue this progress — and to not let that divisiveness break us apart.”

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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