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Erin Mendenhall takes heated Salt Lake mayoral race after Rocky Anderson throws in the towel

Mendenhall all but declared victory when she spoke to a rambunctious crowd of supporters Tuesday night. Anderson called Wednesday evening to concede.

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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Erin Mendenhall is headed for a second term as Salt Lake City's mayor.

Her office confirmed that former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, her primary challenger, called shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday to concede. The conversation took place not long after Salt Lake County officials released new election results, which didn't change the direction of the race by much.

Mendenhall still leads the race with 58% of the vote to Anderson's 34%. Community activist Michael Valentine is in third place with 7% of the vote.

"It's an honor to be trusted to lead Salt Lake City for another four years," Mendenhall said in a statement to KSL.com Wednesday evening. "I'm grateful to the county clerk's office for working so hard to finish counting ballots before the holiday."

Mendenhall all but declared victory when she spoke to a rambunctious crowd of supporters Tuesday night, The room roared earlier in the evening when the first batch of preliminary results showed she jumped out to a 59% to 34% lead over former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson with a significant number of votes already counted.

Salt Lake City is using ranked-choice voting again this year, a first in its mayoral race. That means a candidate needs at least 50% of the vote to win outright; otherwise, there will be one elimination before a candidate reaches at least half of the vote.

Her campaign ultimately chose not to declare victory until more results came in. Conversely, Anderson told KSL.com Tuesday night that it was "pretty clear" that he lost the race, though he did not initially throw in the towel.

"Mayor Mendenhall has prevailed," he said, as his campaign party began to thin out. "I think the spread right now is such that the writing's on the wall. I'll hold out just in case something unexpected happens."

Anderson, who served as Salt Lake City's mayor from 2000 to 2008, jumped into the race late last year, blasting the current administration over how it's handled issues like homelessness and crime in Utah's capital and most populated city. He later said the city is "headed in the wrong direction for a long time" in one of the debates ahead of the election.

Mendenhall focused her campaign more on what she said the city has accomplished over her first four years in office, including leading the city through the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a major earthquake and windstorm in 2020. She shot back at Anderson's campaign attacks in her near-acceptance speech Tuesday night.

"Salt Lakers are not afraid of our incredible future, we're excited about it. This election was a repudiation of cynicism and it was a rejection of the politics of fear," she said. "Anger might be satisfying sometimes but ... it's not a strategy for getting results."

The mayor's campaign scheduled an event for Monday to speak more about the election results.

Anderson said Tuesday that he wishes Mendenhall "the best the luck" in her second term, which will begin in January. He also said that he has no plans to run for office again, but he will "always be active in Salt Lake City in one way or another."

Prior to the results being released, Valentine wrote on social media that he would also "fight like hell even harder for the people and community of Salt Lake City" if he lost.

Salt Lake City Council races

There are also four Salt Lake City Council seats up for grabs this year, though one race was decided well before ballots were mailed out on Oct. 31. Salt Lake City Councilman Alejandro Puy, representing District 2, is running unopposed and will represent the city's west side for the next four years.

Incumbents Dan Dugan and Sarah Young maintained leads in their respective races. Meanwhile, Eva López Chávez extended her lead over incumbent Ana Valdemoros in another race.

• District 4 (Downtown, Central City, East Central): Eva López Chávez, 39%; Ana Valdemoros, 35%; Clayton Scrivner, 27%. López Chávez leads Valdemoros 53% to 47% in Round 2 of the runoff.

• District 6 (Bonneville Hills, East Bench, Sunnyside East, Wasatch Hollow, Yalecrest): Dan Dugan, 45%; Taymour Semnani, 35%; James Alfandre, 20%. Dugan leads Semnani 56% to 44% in Round 2 of the runoff.

• District 7 (Sugar House): Sarah Young, 52%; Molly Jones, 48%

All results are unofficial until the election is certified.

Salt Lake County Clerk Lannie Chapman told KSL NewsRadio that the county hoped to count as many ballots as possible by Wednesday afternoon, but election workers will resume counting on Friday after taking a break for Thanksgiving on Thursday.

The county's board of canvassers has until Dec. 6 to certify the election. The Salt Lake City election winners will be sworn into office on Jan. 2.