This year's mayoral race already has spawned accusations of lies in campaign literature and misuse of public funds. And as the two remaining candidates move into the final round, Steve Newton and Larry Smith both say they anticipate a down-and-dirty fight with plenty of mudslinging.
"I'm expecting a very unpleasant, miserable race," said Newton following Tuesday's primary.The contest will be "very nasty," predicted Smith.
Smith, whose highly organized campaign to regain the job he lost four years ago drew praise from several opponents, pulled off an upset by finishing ahead of the incumbent, Newton, on Tuesday.
According to the unofficial tally, Smith received 1,341 votes, or 19.3 percent of the total, compared to Newton's 1,194, or 17.2 percent, as the field of nine candidates was narrowed to two.
A surprisingly strong third place was registered by policeman Gary Saville, who ended up with 965 votes, or 13.9 percent. Saville even led Newton briefly at one point two-thirds of the way through the vote counting.
Other hopefuls eliminated along with Saville were former Mayor W. Paul Thompson, City Council member Warren "Dick" Adair, former City Council member Ken Prince, Maren Atkinson, Sandy N. Richards and Charles Layton.
Turnout was high for a primary election - 23 percent - compared with 12 percent to 15 percent most years, said City Recorder Shirley Bloxham.
In the two City Council races, both incumbents survived.
In District 3, which covers much of northeast Sandy, Bryant Anderson won more than half of the votes cast, while challenger Doug Thompson edged out Russell Cannon for the right to face Anderson in November.
Incumbent John Winder will compete with Stanley Price for the at-large seat, following the elimination of Douglas Anderton and Kelly Casaday.
Although the mayor's race is officially down to Newton and Smith now, in a sense Newton still has at least four of the losing candidates to contend with. Saville, Layton, Prince and Atkinson all said on Tuesday night they'll now support Smith against the incumbent.
Adair said he'll back Newton, and Thompson was not ready to commit himself either way. When Richards was asked which of the two she'll support, she laughed and said, "I'll put my house up for sale."
The anyone-but-Newton theme that has been stressed throughout the primary campaign by three organizations - the Sandy City Police Alliance, Coalition for a Better Sandy and Citizens for the Preservation of Dimple Dell Park - seems likely to continue into the final race.
The police union contributed to several candidates in the primary contest, while the other two groups withheld their funds to see who would emerge. After Tuesday's results were totaled, union President Al Avila said, "We have to rally our support behind Larry Smith now." He said the police officers have between $2,000 and $5,000 to contribute to their man.
Smith, who has had considerable success thus far in raising money from businesses and individuals, said he's spent more than $7,000 in the primary race and will need at least an additional $10,000 - perhaps more - before Nov. 7.
Newton said he's probably spent $10,000 to $11,000 thus far, and his campaign will probably cost another $10,000.
Smith said the efforts of the three anti-Newton groups definitely affected the primary, but exactly how is difficult to assess. "By bringing more votes into the process, as I suspect they did, they probably also caused a greater split of the votes."
He said, "We know a lot of people rallied to Newton because of the controversy. It goes both ways," but he thinks more voters have moved away from Newton than have moved toward him as a result of the groups' efforts.
While both remaining mayoral candidates decried the dirty campaign tactics they each expect to see in the coming weeks, the City Council finalists said they anticipate more positive campaigns in their races.
Winder said he thinks most Utah voters dislike negative campaigns, and he hopes that in the mayor's race as well as the council races candidates will be able to stick to the issues.