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In a race where every vote might count, Salt Lake County mayoral candidates Mark Crockett and Ben McAdams are mobilizing their resources for a final push before the Nov. 6 general election.
Republican Crockett, a Holladay businessman, has more mailers going out and plans to continue holding "cottage meetings" at supporters' homes "that's the best way to actually get out and talk with people, little meet and greets," he said while his campaign staff goes door-to-door and works the phone lines with potential voters.
Democrat McAdams, a state senator from Salt Lake City, also feels he has a "well-organized ground game," with staff volunteers contacting voters who the campaign encountered during the past six months.
"We've been running a phone bank since May, six days a week," he said. "We are sending individualized postcards to voters to help them pay attention and care. Every conversation matters."
McAdams will reinforce his grass-roots efforts with radio and television advertisements. He just spent another $7,800 on TV commercials through election eve, increasing his campaign total to almost $100,000, Federal Communications Commission records show.
That extends a broadcast campaign that began four weeks ago with ads showing the Democratic candidate driving a yellow "Ben Bus" and picking up the mayors of Murray, Sandy, Taylorsville and South Salt Lake, four of the Salt Lake Valley's 13 Republican mayors who have endorsed McAdams.
Crockett decided to bypass the airwaves, believing that "with all of the Mia/Matheson mud, we just figured TV would be lost in the noise." He was referring to the proliferation of television ads about the 4th Congressional District fight between Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson and Republican Mia Love.
That decision may have cost Crockett some valuable exposure, said Quin Monson, a Brigham Young University political science professor, one of several academics watching this election with interest.
Because Crockett has not been visible on TV, Monson said, "I don't have a lot of impressions of him. That's not a negative reflection on Mark Crockett as much as on how McAdams has been proactive in advancing his campaign.
"The McAdams' campaign has stuck out to me because he's a Democrat in Utah making a go of it and doing a pretty effective job of reaching across the aisle to get Republican votes," Monson said. "He has a pretty interesting mix of message and tone that conveys what he wants with a little dash of humor."
Thad Hall, a University of Utah political science professor, also has been impressed by McAdams' TV ads but questions whether Crockett needs to be out there that much. "The key for him is not to do something phenomenally stupid," he said. "He's running in a presidential election year with Mitt Romney on the [Republican] ballot. He has a lot of advantages."
Hall's U. colleague, Matthew Burbank, said Crockett would be well-served to keep pushing his devotion to applying good business principles to government, a tried-and-true Republican calling card, as well as the notion that "the Democrats have been in charge of the county mayor's office and now it's time for a change."
McAdams' visibility could help him overcome Crockett's position on Romney's coattails, Burbank said, "but he will have to work hard to pull this out. … He will need to counteract the percentages of otherwise inactive voters who come out because they want to vote for Romney."
To help do that, the McAdams campaign said Friday it has set up a "voter resource hotline" to answer county residents' questions about the election, starting with, "Where do I vote?" Emphasis has been placed on having Spanish-speaking staff members available to respond to queries.
Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto de Latino Utah, predicted the county's growing Latino community will decide the election.
"McAdams has been out there. This is the first time we have seen a candidate of any level be so active with the Hispanic community," Yapias said. "Most Latinos don't know who Crockett is because he hasn't been out there. I've seen Mark Crockett do very little other than meeting with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and maybe a few other groups."
Sparring since mid-July to raise their stock in voters' eyes, the candidates have engaged in almost a dozen debates, both hammering repeatedly on a couple of points.
Crockett has argued he has the skills from a career running a consulting company (Vici Capital Partners) that helps corporations and government agencies become more efficient that will enable him to cut county expenses by redesigning how work is done. Instilling budget discipline also can free up money to pay for human services the county is responsible to provide, he has said.
McAdams has stressed that he "is different" a Mormon Democrat who prefers compromise to confrontation and that he is better suited temperamentally to be county mayor than Crockett, who had a reputation in an earlier County Council stint (2005-08) of being hot-tempered and hard to work with. Crockett has said that reputation is undeserved and that cooperation is a trademark of his working style.
The temperament issue has arisen twice in the last month.
On Sept. 23, state Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, wrote in his blog that he was endorsing McAdams as the "better choice" for county mayor. Two days later, Urquhart said he had been harassed and threatened by the Crockett campaign for crossing party lines, adding "I simply don't think that Mark Crockett is stable enough to be county mayor. He can't handle disagreement in a mature way."
Crockett said that without his knowledge, "Someone from our campaign called and challenged him about why [endorse McAdams]. Apparently [Urquhart] didn't like that, which I understand. No calls like that were authorized by me and none will be authorized or made from this point."
The second incident involved Crockett's announcement of a plan to use technology to improve services in the county jail system. That infuriated Sheriff Jim Winder, an elected Democrat who Crockett would have to work with if elected mayor.
"I hope people understand that law enforcement needs a leader who will work with us rather than coming in and telling us how it is to be done," Winder said.
Crockett said the sheriff misunderstood his point and that he can work easily with Winder on implementing plans under development since his term on the council. He also believes he can bring extra value to the process. "We can bring more technology and private sector resources to bear to actually get these things done," Crockett said, "without imposing a greater tax burden on the community."
Party • Republican
Age • 46
Family • Wife, Judy; two daughters
Occupation • Managing director of Vici Capital Partners. Formerly with law firm Latham & Watkins and business consultants McKinsey & Co.
Education • Received a bachelor's degree in economics from Brigham Young University and a law degree from Stanford University
Civic experience • On Salt Lake County Council (2005-2009), representing District 4 (Millcreek, Holladay, part of Cottonwood Heights)
Party • Democrat
Age • 37
Family • Wife, Julie; four children
Occupation • Senior adviser to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker
Education • Bachelor's degree from University of Utah, law degree from Columbia University
Civic experience • Chosen in 2009 special election to replace Scott McCoy in the state Senate; re-elected in 2010