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Former opponent David Ibarra endorses Erin Mendenhall for mayor

David Ibarra answers a question during a debate with other Salt Lake City mayoral candidates in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 15, 2019. The debate was broadcast live from KSL-TV studios.
FILE - David Ibarra answers a question during a debate with other Salt Lake City mayoral candidates in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 15, 2019. Salt Lake City mayoral candidates who failed to advance past the primary are throwing their support behind their former opponents.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City mayoral candidates who failed to advance past the primary are throwing their support behind their former opponents.

David Ibarra, the fifth-place finisher in the August primary, became the latest on Thursday, unveiling his endorsement of Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall during a news conference on the steps of the Salt Lake City-County Building.

Ibarra, who owns a consulting business and travels all over the world as a “leadership coach,” said he makes a living helping people identify what leadership is. After competing with Mendenhall along the campaign trail and during dozens of debates, Ibarra said it quickly became clear who he would endorse, crediting her with having experience at City Hall, plus “vision” and the ability to “articulate” that vision.

“Erin Mendenhall is the individual that is the champion for the environment. She has the internal compass to direct this city and to get us to where we need to be,” Ibarra said. “I passionately want to see her become the next mayor of Salt Lake City. And I believe when others go through the due diligence that I did, that they’ll come to the same conclusion.”

Less than two weeks remain until ballots begin hitting voter mailboxes. Ibarra’s endorsement comes the week after another previous mayoral candidate endorsed Mendenhall’s opponent, Sen. Luz Escamilla.

David Garbett, an environmental attorney and former executive director of the Pioneer Park Coalition, became the first primary candidate to publicly endorse one of his past competitors, calling Escamilla his clear choice because of her institutional experience on Capitol Hill and as a Zions Bank executive to bring partners together to tackle big issues like air quality.

While Ibarra was the top fundraiser ahead of the primary, collecting over $476,000 for his bid, Garbett won more votes, with 6,238 to Ibarra’s 3,046.

Ibarra and Garbett’s endorsements add to a growing list of support for both Escamilla and Mendenhall.

Earlier this week, Salt Lake City Councilman James Rogers — who represents the city’s west-side district — also threw his support behind Mendenhall, joining a list of other city leaders endorsing the councilwoman.

Other names, including former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson and former Salt Lake City Councilman and now State Sen. Derek Kitchen, have endorsed Mendenhall, along with fellow City Council members, community council leaders and a list of emergency responder, teacher and worker unions.

For Escamilla, many state-level officials have lined up to support her, including Democrat lawmakers Rep. Sandra Hollins, Rep. Angela Romero, Sen. Gene Davis and more. Some Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Jake Anderegg and former Sen. Brian Shiozawa have also thrown their support behind Escamilla. She’s also been endorsed by a list of Democratic organizations, including the Women’s Democratic Club of Utah, and several Salt Lake County Democratic caucuses.

One primary candidate who hasn’t yet offered an endorsement, however, was still mum Thursday on whether he would officially support Escamilla or Mendenhall.

Former state Sen. Jim Dabakis — who placed third, about 500 votes behind Escamilla, in the primary — hinted in a cryptic post on social media that he would be weighing in next week on the mayor’s race.

“Just one more citizen’s opinion. I will give my two cents on the mayor’s race on Monday,” Dabakis posted on Twitter on Wednesday. “Still checking on a few things.”

Asked Thursday about the post, Dabakis would not tell the Deseret News whether he plans to endorse a candidate on Monday or not, declining to go into more details.

“My thoughts and opinions, I’m still formulating them,” Dabakis said, though he added, “I don’t really know how many people absolutely vote based on somebody’s endorsement.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski has also not officially endorsed either candidate. However, she has publicly pointed to Escamilla as a candidate who has “stood strong” on inland port-related issues, noting her voting record on inland port-related legislation.