Palmer DePaulis will not seek re-election as Salt Lake City's mayor this year. Instead, he will begin testing his chances as a Democratic candidate for the governor's office.
In an emotional announcement Thursday morning, DePaulis said he did not want to run for mayor this year only to run for governor next year."That wouldn't be fair to the people of Salt Lake City," he said. "I believe in giving fully to the people I'm serving and feel that running back-to-back campaigns would prevent me from focusing the time and effort that is truly needed to serve the public."
However, the 47-year-old DePaulis stopped short of announcing his candidacy for governor. He said he is leaving all options open, including the possibility of running for the U.S. Senate should Republican Jake Garn decide not to seek re-election. But he said the office of governor is more appealing to him because its duties would be similar to that of mayor.
He said he soon will be organizing a committee to begin studying his chances for the governor's office.
DePaulis also declined to formally endorse any of the candidates lining up to replace him as mayor, although he said he had encouraged his chief administrator, Mike Zuhl, to run. "I think he would make a good mayor," DePaulis said.
Zuhl, 39, confirmed he's a candidate.
"I have been thinking about this for a long time. I have strong love and commitment for Salt Lake City and would like to have the opportunity to lead the city as mayor," he said.
DePaulis became mayor in 1985 when Ted Wilson resigned and DePaulis was appointed. However, DePaulis said, he gave no thought to the possibility of resigning. Wilson's decision became a political liability when he unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1988.
Another potentially strong candidate for mayor is Deedee Corradini, the 47-year-old chairwoman and chief executive officer of the consulting firm Bonneville Associates Inc. Corradini said, "I am very seriously interested and will be making a final decision soon and will be announcing it."
Although the mayor's race officially is non-partisan, DePaulis has made no secret of his affiliation with the Democratic Party.
State Democratic Chairman Peter W. Billings Jr. said he thinks Corradini would have a good chance of becoming the city's first woman mayor.
"Although it's not true in the rest of the state, in Salt Lake City it's an advantage to be a woman when running for political office," he said. "It will be an exciting race with some very able candidates."
He also mentioned 40-year-old state Rep. David M. Jones, D-Salt Lake, as a possible candidate. Jones is president of Life Designs, the Wallace Associates design group.
As for the Republicans, possible candidates include Richard Snelgrove, the 36-year-old state Republican chairman, and David Buhler, 33, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce.
"I know that some people say a Republican can't win this race," said Buhler, who has not yet made a formal decision to run.
"But I think that's wrong. People will vote for the person, not the party. That's why this is a non-partisan race, because the issues the mayor deals with - police, fire, garbage collection and zoning - are non-partisan issues. They don't pit Democrat against Republican. It's about good government, and I've got 12 years experience making government work."
Since the mid-1970s, first Democrat Ted Wilson and then Democrat DePaulis won mayoral elections against well-known Republicans with healthy margins.
In a just-completed poll for the Deseret News and KSL-TV, pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that 33 percent of city residents consider themselves Republicans, 21 percent Democrats and 44 percent politically independent. "The independents are so high because the mayor's race is considered by most people non-partisan," Jones said. Two percent mentioned membership in some other party.
Although he was appointed to the office in 1985, DePaulis formally was elected mayor in a special election later in 1985 and was re-elected in 1987. Prior to that, he served for two years as the city's public works director and for four years as an elected City Council member.
He made his announcement in the City Council chambers where, he said, he began his public service in 1980. His voice choked with emotion as he thanked his staff and his wife, Jeanne.
"At the end of this year I will have been in city government for 12 years," he said. "I've come to the conclusion that 12 years is enough."