Early political jockeying has started in the Salt Lake City mayor's race, as three Democrats and one Republican carve out their power bases.

With five months left before the official filing deadline, four candidates are definitely in the race: Democrats Deedee Corradini, David Jones and Mike Zuhl and Republican David Buhler.Others, of course, may get in. And one or more of these four might get out. But they aren't talking that way now.

"I'm in," says Jones, a Utah House member representing the east-central part of the city. "But I won't make a formal announcement until May." The other three make similar statements.

Corradini has drawn first public blood in the race. U.S. Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, sent a letter out last week to some of his supporters introducing Corradini, who worked on his Washington staff back in 1972 when Owens served one term in the U.S. House.

While the endorsement letter is broad-based in nature and not partisan, Buhler says he wants a copy so he can show Salt Lake Republicans that Corradini isn't the non-partisan candidate some may believe. Corradini says 9,000 letters went out to Owens' Salt Lake mailing list at a cost of about $1,800. "I assume that includes some Republicans and independents as well. Later, we'll be doing some things aimed directly at getting more Republican and independent support. I am a broad-based candidate," she said, and announced that her campaign co-chairmen are former Democratic Gov. Calvin Rampton and Republican Kathleen Garn, wife of Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah.

Being a Democrat may be a liability in some Utah locales. But in Salt Lake City, says Buhler, it's an asset. "I see it as a Democratic city. That's one reason you have three Democratic candidates and only one Republican," says Buhler, who now heads the state Department of Commerce and is a former aide to GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter.

Being the only early Republican in the race gives Buhler an advantage. He has to watch for defections among his own party, but that's all.

Zuhl, Jones and Corradini, meanwhile, are fighting for a toe-hold among party loyalists while trying to build a broader base among independents and Republicans.

Buhler hopes being the lone Republican will help him get enough votes to make it out of the Oct. 8 primary election - where all candidates compete on the ballot - and into the final November fight - where only two top primary vote-getters appear. "But I can't win (the mayoralty) with only Republican votes. I have to get the independents and some Democrats also," he says. Zuhl, chief of staff to retiring Democratic Mayor Palmer DePaulis and former budget director for the late Democratic Gov. Scott M. Matheson, has Norma Matheson, the former governor's widow, and Jazz owner Larry Miller as his campaign co-chairmen. Well-known Democrat Ian Cumming is Zuhl's campaign finance chairman.

Corradini, president of a large consulting firm, has Owens in her corner, along with Rampton and former U.S. Sen. Frank Moss. Corradini says a number of well-known Republicans, including industrialist Jon Huntsman, Board of Regents member Michael Leavitt, businessman Dallas Bradford and Mrs. Garn, as well as some independents, will be among her supporters.

Jones has the support of many of his House Democratic colleagues, including House Minority Leader Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake, and his wife, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, who is also the vice chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.

"I have to run a grass-roots campaign - which is what I'd do anyway - because I don't have the big money backers that Zuhl and Deedee have," says Jones. Corradini and Zuhl scoff at that, saying they're running grass-roots, broad-base campaigns as well.

Corradini says she has no final campaign budget figure yet but believes the range of an adequate contest runs from $100,000 to $250,000. DePaulis spent $142,000 in his 1985 race against then-Republican Merrill Cook. In a less competitive 1987 race that saw only token opposition, DePaulis spent $44,000.

"I think having three Democrats in the race is good for the party," Jones said. "It ensures the best Democrat will come out and be the strongest candidate. I assume Buhler, now the only Republican, has a good chance coming out of the primary as well, but it's possible we could have two Democrats."

That hasn't been the case in the past. Since the change of government in 1979, Salt Lake City mayoral races, while officially non-partisan, have seen a Democrat and Republican in the final matchup.