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Sam Granato, never a shy man, jumped into electoral politics two years ago as the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate and lost big to Republican Mike Lee. The race, though lopsided, proved the catalyst for Granato's decision to seek a seat on the Salt Lake County Council representing the district where he grew up and now runs the food-importing business he turned into a household name.

Granato's late-breaking relish for electoral politics follows a long history of public service, including a stint on the state liquor commission — part of it as chairman — where he was a teetotaling Mormon advocating for reform of Utah's state-run alcohol monopoly and antiquated liquor laws.

For his enlightened efforts, he was passed over by Gov. Gary Herbert for the post of executive director of the dysfunctional Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Once a Republican, now a fiscally conservative Democrat, Granato has a solid grasp of the issues confronting residents of the sprawling eastside District 4, as well as the county-wide challenges facing the nine-member County Council.

In contrast to his Republican opponent, Missy Larsen, Granato has taken firm positions on such thorny issues as the SkiLink gondola and the ballot proposal to incorporate Millcreek Township as a city, both of which he opposes.

Larsen learned politics at her father's knee. She is the daughter of former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson and sister to former Salt Lake County Council member Jenny Wilson, both Democrats. That familial connection is at the top of the first-person account of her life on the candidate's website.

Larsen entered politics as a Democrat, serving as press secretary for Utah Congressman Bill Orton. Later, the University of Utah graduate in communications co-founded a public relations firm. More recently, she co-founded the Utah Refugee Coalition, became a member of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, and otherwise is commendably engaged in grass-roots efforts to build community involvement.

Her strong suit, she says, is in uniting people with diverse interests around a common cause. While that skill as a facilitator would be welcome in any setting, it should not preclude Larsen taking well-defined positions on important public issues — something she seems reluctant to do — and to have a thorough knowledge of the nuts and bolts of county government.

The Tribune editorial board believes the district's voters have a clear choice as they fill the seat being vacated by Democrat Jani Iwamoto. We believe that well-seasoned Sam Granato would prove a worthy successor.

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