Nancy Saxton

The race for Salt Lake City mayor has begun, with the first contender declaring her candidacy.

With a year and a half remaining until the November 2007 election, Salt Lake City Councilwoman Nancy Saxton has said she wants Mayor Rocky Anderson's job.

"I'm planning to run for mayor, whether the mayor runs or not," Saxton said Tuesday.

The councilwoman's announcement makes her the first to enter the race, although several potential candidates say they are considering a run. Anderson himself has not yet decided whether to seek re-election.

Anderson was out of the office for meetings and travel all day Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

Saxton has been on the council for six years — as long as Anderson has been mayor — and the two have regularly butted heads. "It's time for a change," Saxton said, alluding to some of Anderson's more high-profile battles. "I have a great relationship with elected officials all over the state. I have great respect for (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I honor their positions."

Anderson regularly polls poorly among the city's LDS voters, a fact he has attributed to his support for gay and lesbian rights and revamping liquor laws. He has also had run-ins with state lawmakers and other statewide politicians, including North Salt Lake Mayor Kay Briggs, with whom he has argued over 80 acres of open space on the cities' shared border.

"We have basically created a climate for Salt Lake City that we have alienated and isolated the rest of the state, and yet this is the capital. Salt Lake City belongs to all of Utah," Saxton said.

Anderson, a Democrat, is widely regarded as one of Utah's most liberal politicians. Asked how she would define herself on the conservative-liberal spectrum, Saxton, who is also a Democrat, said, "I consider myself very reasonable."

Saxton touted her experience running the Saltair Bed and Breakfast, saying she brings "great insights as a small-business owner." And she said she would promote fiscal conservatism, a trait she said Anderson lacks.

"We have not had an easy time in the six years I've been on the council with our budgets, and that is important for someone who is in a mayoral position to understand, that the well is not endless," she said. "The people who are paying taxes and that we represent are barely squeaking by."

Anderson earlier this month proposed a $190 million budget that would include about $4.5 million in property-tax increases for more police and other purposes, including a $1.2 million voter-approved bond for open space and The Leonardo cultural and arts center.

One of Saxton and Anderson's recent disagreements concerns how best to spruce up Pioneer Park. Anderson wants $4.7 million in funding in the coming years to give the park a face lift, while Saxton supports giving $1.1 million to the first phase of the park project but wants to focus on horse-mounted police patrols as a cheaper, more novel way to increase interest in the park and drive away crime.

Anderson has called the horse-patrol idea "absurd."

Other possible candidates said Tuesday that Saxton's decision will not play a role in whether they will run. Among them are council members Dave Buhler, Eric Jergensen and Jill Remington Love. All three said they have supporters encouraging them to run and that they will make the decision with input from family and friends.

Jergensen added that after word of Saxton's decision to run got out, he's had people calling and asking him to "please run."

If Anderson decides to seek a third term, he will likely face a tough battle, regardless of who his opponents are. A Dan Jones and Associates poll commissioned earlier this month by the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV showed that while 52 percent of the 209 city residents surveyed approve of the job Anderson has done, only 39 percent said he should be re-elected. Fifty-seven percent said it was time to give someone else a chance.

If Anderson doesn't run, Saxton will probably face an Anderson ally on the ballot. Former council member and current airport-board chairman Keith Christensen said he will support Anderson if he runs, and if Anderson doesn't, Christensen will jump into the race.

"One of us will run, but not both," Christensen said. He said he hopes that decision will be made in the coming weeks.

Other people who have been mentioned as possible candidates include Salt Lake County Council members Jenny Wilson, Joe Hatch and Randy Horiuchi and state Rep. Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake City.

E-mail: [email protected]