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Has Millcreek already chosen its first mayor?

MILLCREEK — It's still uncertain whether Millcreek's first ever mayoral race will be a one-man show this fall.

The field of candidates suddenly narrowed from nine to potentially one after Tuesday's primaries, when Jeff Silvestrini and Fred Healey took clear leads over their opponents, even though Healey wasn't sure if he'd continue his campaign.

Five days before the election, Healey announced in an email to supporters that doctors had discovered an aggressive tumor on his kidney, and he wasn't sure if he'd be physically able to fulfill his mayoral aspirations.

Healey even encouraged supporters to vote for Silvestrini if the news about his health changed their minds about him as a candidate. He said he would choose whether to cancel his bid after the primary election — if it turned out to be necessary.

Now, Healey is still deciding whether he will continue on as Silvestrini's opponent or withdraw to leave Silvestrini in an uncontested race.

"Right now we are still gathering information," Healey wrote in an email Wednesday to the Deseret News. "I have an MRI scheduled this week and some additional blood and other tests, which will determine the options that are available to me. Once I have all the information in front of me, I will sit down with my family, my incredible election committee, and we will determine the course forward."

He said he would be able to speak more about the issue next week.

"We love Millcreek city and I am committed to its success, but I also have to give attention to my own health, the well-being of my family and how I can be help," Healey wrote.

Hugh Matheson, acting as Healey's spokesman Thursday, said the mayoral candidate doesn't have a concrete timeline of when he'll make a decision because he first wants to focus on making it through a surgery scheduled later for late July.

"There's plenty of time before the election, and so he just wants to use that time to get as much information as possible and make a good decision," Matheson said.

The timing of Healey's news about his health issues, his support for Silvestrini and his choice to see the primary election through, however, has raised some eyebrows.

Former state Sen. Scott Howell, who finished third in unofficial results from Tuesday primary, has questioned whether Healey decided to stay in the primary despite his health concerns in order to pave a clear, uncontested path to the mayor's office for Silvestrini.

Howell said Tuesday night after results were posted that he didn't think it was "the most genuine way" to choose Millcreek's first mayor.

But Matheson said Silvestrini didn't know about the illness until Healey called him about 30 minutes before the email announcement circulated the Thursday before the primary election.

"There was no collaboration," he said, calling Howell "classless" for raising those suspicions.

If Healey bows out, Howell would not take his place on the November ballot because state law does not include a measure that would allow a third-place primary candidate to advance to the general election.

Howell may have had a chance, however, if Healey had withdrawn before the primary.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said she told Healey on June 24 that he was legally able to withdraw before the primary, and any votes for him would not have been counted.

"We would have posted notices at the vote centers and suppressed any votes that had been counted for him," she said.

If Healey withdraws now, the only way Millcreek voters would be able to choose a candidate other than Silvestrini would be as a write-in, according to election officials' interpretations of state law.

Moving forward, however, Howell said he and his campaign will be exploring every legal way to get on the November ballot. He noted that the law doesn't necessarily rule out third-place candidates moving up; it just doesn't mention it.

"In light of (Healey's) potential withdrawal, we just think the residents of Millcreek deserve to have a choice," he said. "So we're going to explore all our options."

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com

Twitter: KatieMcKellar1