SALT LAKE CITY — In the event Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams heads for Washington in January, 1,100 Democratic party leaders from within the county will decide who is best suited to serve out the remaining two years of his mayoral term.
The congressional race is still too close to call, but as of Friday night, McAdams maintained a slim 2.3-percentage point lead over Rep. Mia Love. There are, however, thousands of District 4 ballots yet to be counted.
It appears at least a few current county elected officials are expressing some interest in filling the mayor's seat, should he win and make an eastward exit. And recently defeated U.S. Senate candidate Jenny Wilson is one of them.
Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chairman Q. Dang explained the replacement process, which the county party oversees, would begin with a notice from the Salt Lake County Council that they've accepted a resignation from McAdams.
That notice would start a 30-day timer for the county party to return a name to the council. Dang said the party would give potential candidates 10 days to submit their names for consideration and about two weeks to campaign and lobby the leaders who comprise the party's central committee. The voters of that committee include Democratic elected officials whose constituencies fall within county boundaries, party elected officials and the chairs and vice chairs of county voting precincts.
The race is wide open, so essentially any Democrat with established residency in Salt Lake County would be eligible to run.
At the end of the campaign period, an election would be held to winnow the list of candidates down to one. Dang said, assuming there would be more than three candidates, the election would take place in two rounds, with the top two vote-getters from round one proceeding to a second round, where the winner wins with a simple majority of votes. The winning candidate would then be submitted to the County Council for its approval, which is essentially a perfunctory process.
Dang said party officials are "very excited" about the prospect of a potential replacement election, as it is one that only becomes necessary if the party is successful in putting a Democrat back into the state's federal delegation. If successful, McAdams would be the first since Jim Matheson left office in 2012 after six terms in Congress.
Democratic Councilman Jim Bradley, who was up for re-election this cycle and currently holds about a 13-point lead over Republican challenger Sophia Dicaro, said he may be interested in the mayor's job, should it become available. He also noted that two of his County Council colleagues are also likely poised to throw their names in the hat, should McAdams ultimately be victorious in his District 4 race.
"I've heard from both Arlen (Bradshaw) and Jenny (Wilson) that they're interested," Bradley said. "I have to believe they would be front-runners if they decide to do it. I would describe myself as interested, but lukewarm at this point."
Bradshaw said he's getting positive feedback from constituents and, if the opportunity arises, would consider chasing an open mayor's seat.
“Since Tuesday, I have received encouragement by many in our community to seek the county mayor’s office," Bradshaw said in a statement. "At this time, it is premature to assume there will be a vacancy, but if Mayor McAdams is ultimately sent to Congress, I would give serious consideration to pursuing appointment to his unexpired term.”
Wilson also noted her interest, pending a McAdams victory.3 comments on this story
"Having worked with Mayor McAdams for several years, I know he will be a wonderful congressman and look forward to a favorable outcome," Wilson said in a statement. "Once we have final results, I will certainly take a hard look at how I can best continue to serve Salt Lake County.”
Bradley said he expects there will be strong interest in filling McAdams' seat, should he vacate it, but isn't predicting the opening would draw a scrum of candidates.
"I don't see more than a handful, maybe a half-dozen candidates for this," Bradley said. "Four or five solid candidates and maybe a couple long-shot hopefuls."