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Another group takes aim at Rocky

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The opposition to Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson reelection is growing — outside of Salt Lake City.

On the heels of two Davis County residents who formed a political action committee designed to topple Anderson, a similar group — largely from Utah County — is also developing a base of support.

While less organized than the like-minded residents to the north, the Utah County group has similar intentions — raise money from people who dislike Anderson and use it to urge people not to vote for the incumbent.

Even though they live outside city borders, organizer Clark Carras says the roughly 10 members of the Utah County group shop, play and have vested interests in Salt Lake City.

"I support Salt Lake City financially more than I do any other city," said Carras, who lives in Sandy, works in Utah County and spends entertainment dollars downtown. "Rocky is hostile to the rest of the state. He's hostile one minute and at the next he wants us all to support his arts festivals, his jazz festival and wants us to shop downtown."

While the Davis County movement doesn't endorse either of Anderson's opponents, the Utah County group is promoting direct support for mayoral candidate Frank Pignanelli. All the money the group raises, in fact, will go directly into Pignanelli's coffers, Carras said.

In addition to holding a few Utah County fund-raising lunches and dinners, the group plans to initiate a statewide letter-writing campaign to rural newspapers urging Utahns who know people in Salt Lake City to convince their city-dwelling friends, relatives and peers to vote against Anderson.

The group has tentatively decided to name its proposed political action committee "Utahns for Utah's Capital." The Davis PAC is known as Fed Up Utah.

While the two groups want Rocky gone, many Anderson opponents in Salt Lake City feel the non-Salt Lake City groups may be doing more harm than good.

"If they do it the wrong way, it could galvanize Ross (Anderson) people to come out even more," said Pignanelli's campaign manager, Dallis Nordstrom. "His polling numbers do go up when people galvanize issues outside of Salt Lake City, so they could do it in a way that could be beneficial to Ross."

Dave Owen, Anderson's former communications manager who is now anti-Anderson, went so far as to e-mail the organizers of Fed Up Utah and inform them they weren't helping the cause.

"If you understand Salt Lake City politics, that's absolutely the wrong way to do it," Owen said.

Salt Lake City voters have a "real contrarian streak" and are willing to vote against anything that seems to be supported by the LDS Church, the Republican-run Legislature or the "establishment," Owen said.

"They say, 'You can run all that stuff, but you can't run this city,' " he said.

Ted Wilson, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and an Anderson supporter, agrees the non-Salt Lake City campaigns could backfire, causing city dwellers who don't want suburbanites telling them how to vote to check Anderson's box.

"It tends to play that way and helps the sort of hard-nosed, 'we're-for-Salt-Lake' crowd get energized," Wilson said.

Wilson acknowledged some have criticized Anderson for making Davis and other surrounding counties angry. Many local officials in Davis County have encourage residents there to boycott downtown in an effort to punish the city, and therefore Anderson, financially.

Pignanelli's take is that the city needs a mayor who will bring people in from the suburbs to shop and play in the capital city.

"How can Salt Lake City survive if its leadership is so unpopular in the rest of the state," he said. "If Salt Lake City was thriving, I don't think there would be too many complaints from inside or outside the city."

Molonai Hola, who is also running against the mayor, agrees the groundswell against Anderson shows the city is in economic and social turmoil and needs change.

"They've come out because of what has happened to our city," he said. "If these guys are successful, then they prove their point. If not, well, they don't have anything to lose."

Anderson had no comment on the new Utah County group and instead referred to his previous statement regarding Fed Up Utah, in which he called Salt Lake City an "island of progressivity" not to be swayed by conservative politics rampant in the rest of the state.

Fed Up Utah organizer Rob Beard said his group received dozens of donations ranging from $5 to $100 over the weekend.

E-MAIL: bsnyder@desnews.com