Young Voters Are Vital in Salt Lake’s Close Mayoral Election Race


Miacel Spotted Elk

The Mayoral Town Hall was hosted on Oct. 28 at The Hinckley Institute. ((Photo by Miacel Spotted Elk | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Miacel Spotted Elk , News Writer

On Nov. 5, Salt Lake voters will decide their city’s new mayor. In a historic race where both candidates, Luz Escamilla and Erin Mendenhall, are women, the final two are campaigning to secure voters across all backgrounds. 

Escamilla, who is a current state Democratic senator, and Mendenhall, a city councilwoman, have attended over 10 debates and town halls to make their vision for Salt Lake visible to residents. On Oct. 28, both candidates appeared at a town hall co-hosted by the LGBT Resource Center and the Hinckley Institute on the University of Utah’s campus. Both Mendenhall and Escamilla graduated from the U.

Largely, homelessness and the inland port have been at the forefront of the entire mayoral race. Both candidates have promised to continue the city’s controversial litigation against the Inland Port Authority, but they have clashed on other issues surrounding the port.

ASUU has announced there will be a voting location on campus at the Marriott Library, a first for a municipal election. Nearby, a center located in Trolley Square will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Same-day registration is available at physical locations, and mail-in ballots will be accepted at designated drop-off boxes. Identification is required to vote. 


A Look at What’s At Stake For Mendenhall and Escamilla 

In an expensive and high-profile race projected to be competitive, both candidates are knocking doors and tracking their campaign to focus on securing voters. In the primary election, there was a reported low turnout of 35%, according to Salt Lake County’s elections clerk Sherrie Swensen. Mendenhall and Escamilla are hoping to garner a higher amount of residents turning in their mail-in ballots or arriving at the polls. 

“As we know, many of them still have ballots on their kitchen table,” Mendenhall said. “So I’m out knocking doors and hitting two to three different neighborhoods per day.” 

Escamilla says her campaign is driven by data. “That’s what we’re doing right now, which is focusing on getting the vote out,” she said. “The field effort is critical.”

“People want to know that there will be a leader that will fight for them for their values, but at the same time, they’ll get things done by collaborating with others,” she said. “We’re getting great response on the doors and on the phones.”

In a recent poll by the Salt Lake Chamber, 42% of possible voters support Mendenhall while 37% support Escamilla, indicating a tightly-contested race where the momentum could shift for either candidates. The last financial filing for the election occurred on Oct. 29, where Mendenhall raised around $300,000 compared to Escamilla, who raised around $180,000 in cash. 


Why Local Politics Should Matter To Young Voters

Mendenhall encourages students and young voters overall to engage with local politics. She said that this level of government directly impacts the lives of young people. “By engaging in local politics early in their lives, I hope that students will see themselves as future candidates to lead our city or county, our state and perhaps even a federal government in the future,” she said.

Mendenhall employs many students, who she calls “the future voices of leadership in our community,” in her campaign.

Ensuring the ability to vote is accessible for every eligible resident in Salt Lake is important for Escamilla in this race. “Really, local government is where everything starts, and for me it’s getting people to get excited right now,” she said.


Lessons Learned From Months of Campaigning

While campaigning, both candidates have interacted with many faces of Salt Lake, gaining valuable insight into the issues impacting the city. This experience has enriched both their roles as politicians and as residents learning to serve their community.

“I am really grateful to have had the ability to run for this office. It has made me feel more in love with Salt Lake City,” Mendenhall said. “Through the process, I feel more human for having gone through it, to hear so many people express frustration, their visions for the city, their hopes for the future, quality of life and access to opportunity.”

For Escamilla, the highlight is meeting new faces and hearing the energetic support by the residents of Salt Lake while bringing to light the value of amplifying the city’s west side communities.  “It’s been just so empowering to see the amazing amount of people that have been coming everywhere,” she said. “It’s just been just humbling for me.”

To register to vote and learn further election information, visit this website.


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