We're very proud of running a tough race, a fair race, a positive race and a close race. —Mike Winder
SALT LAKE CITY — The text messages started pouring in about 4:30 p.m.
"It just about overloaded my phone," Mark Crockett joked later.
Crockett was still on his way to the Salt Lake County Government Center from a work meeting in Park City on Tuesday when County Clerk Sherrie Swensen declared him the winner of the Republican primary in the race for county mayor.
Crockett will face Democrat Ben McAdams in the general election Nov. 6.
The announcement followed two weeks of waiting while county elections officials counted and verified vote-by-mail and provisional ballots in the GOP primary between Crockett and West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder.
On primary election night June 26, Crockett led Winder by just 239 votes with nearly 8,000 ballots yet to be considered. In the end, 7,650 of those votes were deemed valid, giving Crockett a 1,019-vote victory over Winder, 38,387 to 37,368.
"Mike ran an amazingly good race," Crockett said moments after receiving a congratulatory handshake and hug from Winder. "That said, it did look like we were picking up speed every week. We just didn't know if we were going to have enough time to make it across the goal line. … I'm glad we had just enough days to come out ahead here."
Winder supporters who attended the Salt Lake County Board of Canvassers meeting put on Crockett campaign shirts when the winner was announced. It was a show of party support for Crockett, one Winder echoed by endorsing his fellow Republican in the race against McAdams.
"We're very proud of running a tough race, a fair race, a positive race and a close race," Winder said.
Crockett started the race as something of a dark horse, having been out of politics since 2008, when he failed to win a second term on the Salt Lake County Council.
He emerged as a serious candidate at the GOP county convention in April, earning 58 percent of delegates' votes in the second round of balloting — just 2 percent shy of avoiding a primary.
Crockett said he believes Republican voters saw him as the candidate most qualified to get the county budget under control. For the past 20-plus years of his professional career, Crockett has helped large businesses improve management and cut costs.
He sees the county as another organization that needs fixing.
"I think people like the message that you can have more confidence in where your taxpayer dollars are being spent, that it's not going to cost more and that we can make human services a lot more effective than they've been in the past," he said.
Crockett also acknowledged the role "Richard Burwash" played in the GOP election. Burwash is the fictional name Winder admitted in November 2011 that he created and used to write stories about West Valley City for local media outlets, including the Deseret News and KSL.com.
"I have no doubt it played a role," Crockett said. "On the flip-side, though, Mike Winder got virtually 50 percent of the votes. That has to say a lot about people's belief in him and what we might want to believe about his future in the state. So I wouldn't write him off anytime soon."
Winder, too, conceded that the Burwash issue was a campaign hurdle he wasn't quite able to overcome.
"I made a mistake there. I apologized," he said. "We can beat ourselves up all day on would've, could've, should've, and should we have done this or that differently, but I'm deeply humbled today with the enormous support we had, and congratulatory of Mark Crockett."
Winder's term as West Valley City mayor runs through 2013. He said he will be evaluating his political future in the coming months, including whether to run for a second term.
"Asking someone after hearing election results if they're going to run again is like asking a woman if she's going to have another child after she gives birth," Winder said. "We'll wait to make any definitive statements until later."
McAdams, who represents Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake and West Valley City in the Utah State Senate, issued a statement Tuesday congratulating Crockett for securing the Republican nomination.
"I look forward to an honest, positive campaign in order to provide residents with a clear vision of the direction I will lead Salt Lake County over the next four years," he said.
Crockett said he believes independent voters will decide the Salt Lake County mayoral race.
"We should have good turnout in both parties this year," he said. "That should mean, if we run a good, credible race, that we come out a few points ahead."
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