After Jenny Wilson suffered a disappointing defeat to Sen. Mitt Romney in the midterm elections, Rep. Ben McAdams celebrated a close win over incumbent Mia Love in Utah’s 4th Congressional District. Now, Wilson is taking the charismatic McAdams’ place as Salt Lake County mayor.
The special vote that placed Wilson in office was held by the central committee members of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party. Wilson was sworn in on Jan. 29 and will serve the remainder of McAdams’ term.
“I am very grateful to the Democratic Central Committee for nominating me to complete the final two years of Rep. McAdams’ term,” Wilson said. “Since my swearing in last week, I have appreciated the support that county employees and other partners have provided me. I’m now ready to begin the hard work of addressing air quality concerns, growth, housing affordability and many additional challenges.”
Wilson is a 10-year veteran of the Salt Lake County Council and is known for open space preservation, working to provide benefits to the partners of LGBTQ county employees and co-founding the Jordan River Commission.
“As a former member of the Salt Lake County Council, Wilson is more than prepared for the job,” said Derek Miller, the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and the Downtown Alliance, in a congratulatory statement.
The next mayoral election will take place in 2020, and Wilson will have an opportunity to run for re-election, leaving the newly-elected mayor with a year to recover from her Senate run before another potential round of campaigning.
Wilson was one of three candidates running for mayor. She faced off against Shireen Ghorbani and Arlyn Bradshaw. Ghorbani unsuccessfully ran for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District seat in the 2018 elections and Bradshaw is a Salt Lake County councilman.
A special election in January, like the one that placed Wilson in office, is not a common occurrence. Among those voting in the Democratic Central Committee were University of Utah students.
Nick Cockrell, a senior studying history and political science, was one of the students who showed up. “To get together with other members of the Democratic Party and listen to candidates give their speeches was an awesome experience,” Cockrell said.
There were 761 people who voted in the election. Cockrell recalled it as “the biggest turnout I remember since I’ve been there for four years.”
According to Cockrell, the mayoral race was high profile and the candidates were “all great” making it was difficult to decide.
“Honestly I would have been happy with any of them. I had such a hard time choosing both rounds,” said Abby Broadbent, another student at the event.
Cockrell said he felt both Wilson and Ghorbani would have done well as mayor, but at the end of the second round of voting, it was clear that Wilson won the majority of votes.
“Salt Lake County will have good leadership under mayor Wilson,” he said.
Others have also expressed their faith in Wilson’s abilities. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, addressing Wilson in a tweet, said, “Together we can help Salt Lake County continue to succeed and address the challenges that come with growth.”
Over the years, Salt Lake County has evolved from having a Republican-dominated electorate into a blue county. In a future election when leadership is determined by the entire county rather than just the Democratic Central Committee, there’s a good chance Wilson can secure the position.
A significant amount of the U’s student body lives within Salt Lake County, meaning they fall within Wilson’s purview.
“The University of Utah has always been a great partner to Salt Lake County and as a graduate of the U of U, I’m looking forward to an even stronger partnership in the future,” Wilson said.