The folding chairs on Salt Lake City's Main Street were filled with people in orange shirts, most delivered to Monday's debate on the "Ben Bus" to support Ben McAdams, Democratic candidate for Salt Lake County mayor.
They had the prime seats, but the blue T-shirted backers of Republican hopeful Mark Crockett had bigger signs, which they held high and waved each time their candidate spoke at the debate co-sponsored by KUTV and The Salt Lake Tribune.
It was a colorful backdrop for at least the fifth debate this fall between the candidates to succeed retiring County Mayor Peter Corroon, a Democrat. And for the most part, they staked out similar positions to what they've said all along, responding to wide ranging questions from a diverse group of interrogators.
For instance, University of Utah theater student Emily Ferguson asked the candidates if they were concerned that the Utah Performing Arts Center, a project pushed by Salt Lake City and backed by the county, could hurt other local artistic groups.
Crockett said he found the feasibility study for the big Broadway-style theater to be "iffy." But since the project apparently has been pushed through by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker with help from his adviser McAdams, Crockett said he would negotiate hard to ensure that county residents and existing arts groups receive the best returns possible on any future deals involving the theater.
McAdams responded that Crockett was giving him too much credit for forging the city-county partnership on the project, but having looked over the financial numbers, he felt the theater eventually would benefit all arts groups in a "rising-tide-lifts-all-boats" sort of way.
On SkiLink, the proposal to connect Big Cottonwood Canyon and Park City-area ski resorts with a gondola, Crockett said it's not his favorite proposal, but he thought it should be looked at among a number of proposals. His goal is to preserve the backcountry as public lands, removing private parcels from the backcountry and clustering them with other private lands near ski areas to help bolster tourism.
McAdams is flatly opposed to SkiLink and the federal legislative process promoting it, feels watershed protection is paramount and that conserving more lands is important.
Neither candidate expects to raise taxes if elected, and both generally support the $47 million bond proposal for county parks (also on the Nov. 6 general election ballot). Each pledged to use technology to make the county more efficient and to find ways in the budgeting process to fund human services aimed at keeping troubled individuals out of the correctional system.
One of the closest elections Nov. 6 is likely to be the Salt Lake County mayor's race between Republican Mark Crockett and Democrat Ben McAdams