Salt Lake County mayor: Crockett wins over Winder — for now

Salt Lake County • In Republican primary, Mark Crockett is clinging to a razor-thin lead of 239 votes over Mike Winder.
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Mark Crockett is the Republican nominee for Salt Lake County mayor — for now.

But in a close race reminiscent of Bush vs. Gore, the Holladay businessman's 239-vote win over West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder appears headed toward a recount.

Absentee and provisional ballots that were completed in time but not counted by Tuesday night seem unlikely to widen the margin of victory enough (to 724 votes, one for each precinct in the county) to avoid a recount.

"We're at least glad to be the nominal winner for now," said Crockett, 46, of Holladay, a former county councilman and managing director of Vici Capital Partners. "Starting from where we were a few weeks ago, we feel great. It looks like we're winners, but we'll wait to declare victory until they call it official."

Winder, 36, said "we'll just have to learn some patience" while waiting for "provisionals and absentees to trickle in. … This shows that every vote counts and that we had two strong Republican candidates. We'll just have to wait a few days to let the dust settle. I feel really good about the race we ran. What happens, happens."

The winner will face Democrat Ben McAdams, a state senator and key adviser to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, in the November general election.

McAdams, who has stockpiled more campaign cash than both of his GOP rivals, will be seeking to retain the Democrats' hold on the mayor's seat, occupied since 2005 by Peter Corroon, who opted against seeking a third term.

He congratulated both Republican candidates, adding "I look forward to learning the results of the primary election following the completion of the official canvass. I will continue my efforts to communicate my vision for the future of Salt Lake County to both Republican and Democratic voters."

During the primary campaign, Crockett maintained that his business experience helping big corporations and government agencies become more efficient and cut costs were attributes that could be applied to the county, which next to state government has the biggest public budget in Utah.

Until the end, he avoided focusing too much on Winder's Achilles heel — last November's revelations that he wrote 13 articles for the Deseret News and other news outlets under the pen name Richard Burwash. He also supplied a photograph to The Salt Lake Tribune that he attributed to Burwash.

After Burwash was found to be a fictitious character, Winder was reprimanded by the West Valley City Council, resigned from his public-relations job at The Summit Group and was sued for defamation by a former executive of the UTOPIA fiber-optic network who was portrayed unfavorably in one of the articles.

With that lawsuit pending, he was criticized in writing by county GOP leaders for entering the mayoral race.

But Winder withstood the criticism, apologized repeatedly for his transgression and built a formidable base of support among local leaders and legislators throughout the county.

Emphasizing his devotion to limited government, economic development and local control, he secured enough backing from delegates to mid-April's county Republican Party convention to emerge from a field of six candidates for the mayor's post.

Crockett also had his detractors, who said he had a temper and could be difficult to work with during his council term representing District 4 on the county's east side.

Philosophically, the issue that separated Crockett and Winder the most involved their approaches to economic development.

Crockett is steadfastly opposed to government financial assistance for private business ventures. He cited his objections, while on the council, to county aid for the Real Salt Lake stadium in Sandy, his consistent "no" votes on bonding initiatives and his calls for lower taxes.

Winder, by contrast, hailed his success in working with West Valley City's Redevelopment Agency to give new vitality to his city's central business district, including the use of RDA financing to help build an Embassy Suites hotel.

A business development official for the city a decade ago, he also took credit for working with private-sector officials to revitalize Valley Fair Mall.

The Republican candidates did not differ markedly on their approaches to the delivery of services to unincorporated areas, potentially a big issue for the next mayor if Millcreek residents vote in November to turn their east-side neighborhoods into the valley's 17th city.

They also supported SkiLink, a proposal by the Canadian company Talisker Inc. to build a gondola from Canyons, their Park City-area resort, over the ridge to Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon.