Sandy Elects Its First Female Mayor By Just 21 Votes, But A Recount Looms

A grueling eight-candidate race to lead Sandy didn’t end on election night or even a few days later. This tight mayoral contest came down to the final votes and those were added Tuesday when cities completed the official canvass.

Sandy Elects Its First Female Mayor By Just 21 Votes, But A Recount Looms
Sandy Elects Its First Female Mayor By Just 21 Votes, But A Recount Looms

In the end, City Council member Monica Zoltanski maintained her advantage over businessman Jim Bennett 8,620 (50.1%) to 8, 599 (49.9%) or by 21 votes.

She led by 81 votes on election night and saw that edge shrivel in successive tallies.

This race, like many in Salt Lake County, was decided by ranked-choice voting, where the last-place candidate was eliminated and those ballots redistributed to voters’ second choices.

This continued until one candidate topped 50%. It took Zoltanski, seven rounds to reach the mark. On Tuesday, when the Salt Lake County clerk included the final votes left to be counted, Zoltanski received just eight more votes and Bennett received 20.

Overall, the turnout in Sandy’s election was 37.5%. That was higher than in Salt Lake County as a whole, which recorded a turnout of 28.8%.

County Clerk Sherrie Swensen has said turnout was driven lower because of the number of uncontested races in cities like Riverton and Holladay. No contest had more candidates than the eight who ran for mayor in Sandy.

Bennett, a former congressional candidate and son of the late U. S. Sen.

Bob Bennett, all but conceded in the days after the election but, as more ballots came in, their race tightened.

Bennett declined to comment on the results. Zoltanski pulled them up and watched the animation showing the round-by-round results while on the phone with The Salt Lake Tribune.

“Wow,” she said, “I knew it was going to be close, but not that close… It is kind of taking my breath away.”

She said the race had “eight strong candidates and strong community engagement” on key issues from growth and economic development to open space and the future of the nearby canyons.

She said she won’t accept congratulations just yet, expecting a quick recount by the county clerk because of the tight margin.

“I will wait until it is final, final,” she said.

The City Council met Tuesday to accept the results of the election pending the recount.

The city attorney said the ranked-choice voting ordinance determines that a recount is necessary using a formula that involves the number of ballots cast and the number of candidates in the race. In this case, a recount would have been called if the race was at least within 57 votes.

The Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office will rescan Sandy’s ballots, once again tabulate the results and run them through the ranked-choice computer program. Sandy has scheduled a Thursday night meeting to review and accept the recount results.

If the results stand, Zoltanski will be Sandy’s first female mayor.

West Valley City also elected its first female mayor in Karen Lang, a council member. They are two of the eight new mayors in Salt Lake County.

The only person to unseat an incumbent mayor in Salt Lake County was Marcus Stevenson, who topped Midvale Mayor Robert Hale.

Stevenson, political director of the environmental nonprofit O2 Utah, prevailed by 201 votes. He had been hesitant to declare victory until Tuesday.

“At this point, the vote is clear,” he said, “…so, I’m confident to say that I’ve won the election.”

In his late 20s, Stevenson campaigned partly on the perspective of a young family. “I’m really humbled.

I’ve been processing this for over a week now since I took the lead,” Stevenson said, “I’m really excited about bringing a new style of leadership to Midvale and seeing what we can accomplish as a city.”

Hale hadn’t conceded as of Tuesday afternoon, but he visited Stevenson two weeks ago to congratulate him and has been including him in meetings to ease the transition.

“Mayor Hale has been incredibly gracious,” Stevenson said.

The other new mayors in Salt Lake County are:

Alta — Roger Bourke.

Bluffdale — Natalie Hall.

Cottonwood Heights — Mike Weichers.

Herriman — Lorin Palmer.

Murray — Brett A. Hales.

Salt Lake City didn’t have a mayoral contest, but it did have five City Council contests. Incumbents Amy Fowler, Chris Wharton, and Darin Mano won their contests, and the west side elected new members in Victoria Petro-Eschler and Alejandro Puy.

Sandy elects its first female mayor by just 21 votes, but a recount looms.
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