Salt Lake City Council members Erin Mendenhall and James Rogers appear to have some significant advantages over their challengers as Tuesday’s primary election approaches.
Mendenhall won 82 percent of the District 5 vote in 2013 and this time around has $7,700 left in her campaign account after spending $5,700, compared to the combined $1,680 outlay of her four opponents.
Rogers had yet to fully delve into his District 1 re-election campaign as of last week — but opponents Arnold Jones and David Atkin reported $100 each in contributions and no expenditures, and are brand-new to politics.
“I really don’t know anything about my opponents,” Rogers said. “I haven’t seen anything in the mail.”
Mendenhall’s opponents have been more active, and have more experience to draw upon.
George Chapman ran for mayor in 2015, and is a fixture at the public-comment portion of City Council meetings.
Carol Goode-Rogozinski twice sought a Council seat in District 4 before being redistricted, finishing third in the 2003 primary and fourth in 2007.
And Noah Rosenberg knows politics from his work for Reps. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, and Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay.
DISTRICT FIVE CANDIDATES<br>George Chapman<br>Age • 66<br>Residency • 11 years in Salt Lake City<br>Education • Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, University of Utah<br>Occupation • Retired; community activist<br>Vance Hansen<br>Age • 49<br>Residency • Whole life in Salt Lake City<br>Education • Some college<br>Occupation • Walmart clerk<br>Carol Goode-Rogozinski<br>Age • 53<br>Residency • 20 years in Salt Lake City<br>Education • Masters degrees in social work and public administration, University of Utah<br>Occupation • Pursuing therapist license<br>Erin Mendenhall<br>Age • 37<br>Residency • 19 years in Salt Lake City<br>Education • Bachelor’s degree in gender studies, University of Utah<br>Occupation • Graduate student<br>Noah Rosenberg<br>Age • 23<br>Residency • 23 years in Salt Lake City<br>Education • bachelor’s degree in history, University of Utah<br>Occupation • Public health policy advocate<br>Editor’s note: Residency reflects a candidate’s most recent uninterrupted time as a Salt Lake City resident, not necessarily a lifetime total.
Now an administrative assistant for Valley Behavioral Health, Rosenberg said he feels “very, very confident” about the Aug. 15 primary. He was surprised to learn, he said, that many previous city voters weren’t aware who represented them on the Council.
“In knocking on these doors in the district, there’s a lot of frustration that people either can’t get the council’s attention in the first place, or when they can get the attention, that nothing happens,” he said.
He developed an ethic while working in constituent relations at the state Capitol, Rosenberg said: “It didn’t matter if the problem could be fixed with a straight up or down vote from the state Legislature, it was our job to put them in touch with the best people at the programs and agencies who can solve that problem.”
Goode-Rogozinski said the city should be a “little more empathetic” in working to reduce homelessness and wants to be a voice for those who are finding the city less affordable as rents and home prices skyrocket.
“I have Realtors calling me every single week asking me if I’d be willing to sell,” she said.
As a black woman, Goode-Rogozinski said she would be a comfort to those who might be intimidated by an all-white Council. More than a third of the city’s residents are non-white, and “I would just like to see a Council that reflects its city,” she said. “I’ll just keep going at it.”
Chapman is an unusual candidate. He first tried to persuade others to run, saying he wanted to put pressure on Mendenhall and ensure she will be responsive to voter concerns. When that didn’t pan out, he entered the fray.
Still, he didn’t lead with himself when he wrote on his blog about all the candidates for Council.
But he aims to win. He’s set a daily goal of walking four blocks — it’s “really, really, really hot,” he said last week — and making 100 phone calls.
His most popular message, he said, is that the Council shouldn’t decide city business in so-called “secret meetings.” He argued unsuccessfully earlier this year before the State Records Committee for the release of minutes and recordings related to the unpopular closed-door selection of four homeless shelters.
“Boy, do they love that,” Chapman said, though, “the reason I’m getting people liking me is because they’re upset about Erin, which is not the best reason.”
Unlike the others, Vance Hansen, a clerk at Walmart, said he’s new to campaigning. He’s spread his message through social media and in-person visits, he said.
“I haven‘t been too successful at raising funds, so my time’s kind of limited,” he said.
Mendenhall said she’s “a realist that verges on a pessimist” when it comes to campaigns, but feels like visits to constituents are going well.
“The difference between when I knocked doors this year and four years ago is that there’s no stars in my eyes and I feel like I can have actually really productive conversations with neighbors about their concerns and the paths that I see as actually having traction,” she said.
People remain frustrated about the condition of their roadways, Mendenhall said. Two-thirds of city streets are rated “poor,” and results of a citywide survey will soon inform debate about the merits of bonding.
She said constituents have also shared her desire to redevelop State Street while trying to meet the needs of people who might be displaced.
DISTRICT ONE CANDIDATES<br>David Atkin<br>Age •53<br>Residency • Over 30 years in Salt Lake City<br>Education • Trade school<br>Occupation • Self-employed, computer networking<br>Arnold Jones<br>Age • 53<br>Residency • 18 years in Salt Lake City<br>Education • Bachelor’s degree in biology/chemistry, Concordia University, St. Paul; bachelor’s degree in computer programming, University of Phoenix<br>Occupation • Investor, driver at Salt Lake County Aging Services and employee at Redwood Drive-In Theatre<br>James Rogers<br>Age • 39<br>Residency • 37 years in Salt Lake City<br>Education • Two years at the University of Utah<br>Occupation • Businessman — commercial real estate<br>Editor’s note: Residency reflects a candidate’s most recent uninterrupted time as a Salt Lake City resident, not necessarily a lifetime total.
Rogers, meanwhile, probably has less reason to sweat the primary results. His predecessor, Carlton Christensen, held the seat for 16 years before leaving to become Salt Lake County’s director of regional development.
Rogers’ first term also coincided with a spell of brisk activity in District 1 — the Salt Lake City International Airport is undergoing a $3 billion expansion, and a planned new state prison will bring roads and utilities needed to develop vast surrounding acreage.
“I think my record speaks for itself, and I think people have been pleasantly surprised with what’s happening for District One,” he said.
Thus far, his opponents have had low visibility.
“It’s going a little slow,” Jones said. “I haven’t done a ton just because I’m trying to see how this primary goes.”
Rogers likely has a better grasp on city issues because of his experience, Jones said, but he believes his previous employment in armed security for low-income housing gives him insight into homelessness.
Atkin is running on a similar platform of public safety and reduction of homelessness, and said of his campaign, “so far, so good.”
“I haven’t had any bad news or any good news. I’m just going out and meeting people and handing out cards.”