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State Sen. Ben McAdams officially enters race for Salt Lake County mayor

Published: Monday, Nov. 14 2011 12:29 p.m. MST

State Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake, expresses his support of the Utah Compact in Salt Lake City Nov. 11, 2011. He officially announced Monday that he plans to run for Salt Lake County mayor.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — State Sen. Ben McAdams formally announced his candidacy for Salt Lake County mayor on Monday, saying he will file with the county clerk Monday afternoon and start campaigning with a telephone town hall at 6 p.m.

McAdams describes himself as a bridge builder who can run in a partisan race but leave partisanship behind and work with all levels of government if elected mayor. "There are some tough challenges in the county and I want to be part of the solution," he said.

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, also a Democrat, is not seeking re-election after serving two terms. "There is no party favorite in this race. I think that's good for voters," he said.

McAdams said he first started paying attention to the race after deputy Mayor Nicole Dunn, also a Democrat, decided not to run. McAdams said he decided about two weeks ago he would enter the race after talking with his family.

McAdams, like fellow candidate and Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, faces fundraising restrictions while the Utah Legislature is in session.

"I'm confident I can raise the money I need to before and after the session," he said, adding that he would not consider resigning from the Senate to campaign. "I'm not going to stop doing the work of the people just to raise money."

McAdams said he has strong bipartisan relationships illustrated by his ability to pass 11 of 22 bills he introduced in the last session of the Legislature. He said top concerns for the county include air quality problems, the current and potential business community and a slipping quality of education. He also pointed to his former job as senior adviser to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker as a tie that would give him the ability to promote intergovernmental ties.

In recent issues, McAdams said he supported the $25 million bond proposal that would have transformed the Granite High School campus into a recreation and civic center. The bond failed during last Tuesday's municipal election, but by only 11 votes, leaving the official outcome somewhat up in the air.

McAdams said the center would preserve open space and be important to the identity of the South Salt Lake community, which is in his legislative district, though he doesn't expect the official canvas of ballots to change the outcome.

McAdams said he is aware of a current political controversy in county government, where County Auditor Gregory P. Hawkins is strongly resisting a consultant's proposal that his office give up a role as budget officer to the county mayor's office. Corroon supports the change. McAdams said he has not taken a position in that fight.

McAdams was elected last year to his first four-year term after being appointed in December 2009 to fill the vacancy left by former Sen. Scott McCoy, who resigned to focus on his legal career. McAdams is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been active in the party's effort to recruit Mormon voters and helped bring together members of the church and the gay community on a city antidiscrimination ordinance.

McAdams joins fellow Democrat Romero and Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott, a Republican, in the campaign. Other Republicans known to be eying the race are West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder and Salt Lake County Councilman Richard Snelgrove.

Sam Granato, a former chairman of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, is the third Democrat mentioned as a possible candidate in the race.

McAdams said Romero was one of the first people he contacted after formally deciding to enter the race. Acknowledging Romero was not happy to have an in-party challenger, McAdams said the race is wide open. "My response to him was that this won't be divisive."

The Utah native is a graduate of the University of Utah, and he and his wife, Julie, graduated from the Columbia University Law School and practiced law in New York City before deciding to move back to Utah. "We had twins and decided Utah was the place to raise our family," he said.

The McAdams family now includes mixed twins, age 6, and a 3-year-old boy and a 4-month-old boy.

McAdams, 36, is also an adjunct law school faculty member at the University of Utah. He said anyone interested in joining in on his telephone town hall can contact him at benmcadams@gmail.com.

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com Twitter: SteveFidel

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