Metro Weekly

LGBT candidates perform well in Utah primaries

Out candidates for Salt Lake City mayor, Council and Midvale City Council advance to general election

Jackie Biskupski (Credit: Jackie Biskupski for Salt Lake City Mayor campaign).
Jackie Biskupski (Credit: Jackie Biskupski for Salt Lake City Mayor campaign).

The Beehive State could be on the cusp of having three openly LGBT locally elected officials come November.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund celebrated on Wednesday morning after three of their endorsed candidates qualified for the general election ballot. In Utah, local offices are technically nonpartisan, meaning that the “primary” election is a race in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general.

In the Salt Lake City mayor’s race, out lesbian Jackie Biskupski was the frontrunner among a field of five candidates, earning 46 percent of the primary vote. She will face incumbent Mayor Ralph Becker, who earned 31 percent of the vote last general election. Both Biskupski and Becker are former Democratic members of the Utah House of Representatives. Biskupski previously got a huge boost after State Sen. Jim Dabakis (D), who is currently the only gay member of the Utah Legislature, dropped out of the mayor’s race and endorsed her.

In the race for the District 4 seat on the Salt Lake City Council, openly gay candidate Derek Kitchen — lead plaintiff in the case that overturned Utah’s same-sex marriage ban — was the top vote-getter, with 36 percent. His opponent is yet undetermined. So far, Nate Salazar leads the pack, but his lead over the last-place challenger is only 137 votes, according to election results from the Salt Lake County clerk’s office.

Due to Salt Lake City’s elections being done mostly by mail, that means that several hundred votes in the District 4 race could still yet be counted. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the final results of the election will not be available until Aug. 18, at the city council’s official vote canvass. One of those candidates vying for the second spot on November’s ballot is out lesbian candidate Babs De Lay, who is currently in fourth place, with less than 16 percent of the vote.

In Midvale, City Council candidate Sophie Hawes-Tingey advanced to the general election against incumbent Paul Glover. If she is victorious, Hawes-Tingey would become the first openly transgender officeholder in Utah. Of the three candidates, she faces the most difficult battle, as she earned 39 percent of the vote to Glover’s 55 percent.

“We’re excited about these results,” Aisha Moodie-Mills, the president and CEO of the Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Electing LGBT candidates is so important to changing politics and giving hope to folks in places like Utah, where it’s still hard to be out and honest about who you love or how you identify. That’s why over the next 83 days we’re going to work hard to make sure these candidates have the support they need to win.”

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