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Although Mayor Ralph Becker remains far ahead in the campaign money race surrounding the upcoming election, challenger Jackie Biskupski has outraised the two-term incumbent by more than a 2-1 margin since the ouster of police Chief Chris Burbank.
On June 11, Burbank was forced to resign by Becker for a year-old sexual-harassment scandal that was rekindled when three women filed notice of claim to sue Salt Lake City.
From that day through July 1, Becker has raised $17,682. Biskupski, by contrast, has brought in $42,962.
The mayor, however, still has a hefty financial advantage. Since Feb. 2, he had raised $419,495 and had an additional $200,333 in his campaign fund for a total of $619,828. The balance in his campaign fund as of July 1 was $380,978.
Biskupski reported her campaign had raised $219,824 since February and had a total remaining of $100,419.
Becker's campaign spokeswoman said Monday that the mayor's campaign fundraising is on track.
"We have brought in a very strong performance," said deputy campaign manager Laura Anderson. "We feel we have been able to bring in the support to run the race we need to run."
The mayor has said the departure of Burbank was not politically motivated, but was the right thing to do because the chief had not followed through on promises surrounding the substantiated sexual harassment by a former deputy chief.
But Biskupski, a former state legislator, said the "Burbank factor" is one among a number of reasons her campaign fundraising is surging.
Another is that her campaign is up to full speed and its grass-roots donations are a reflection of that, she said.
"The trend has shifted. Two-thirds of the voters want a new mayor," she said. "It was just a matter of them seeing a viable candidate."
Although it's difficult to point to a single episode as being decisive in such a race, the Burbank flap could fit into that category, said Matthew Burbank, professor of political science at the University of Utah (no relation to Chris Burbank).
"It certainly could be," he said. "What challengers need more than anything else is a reason for people to move away from the incumbent."
During the period between June 11 and July 1, Biskupski also tapped more than twice as many donors.
That's a factor that could be indicative of a broad base of support, Matthew Burbank said.
Although it may be difficult to draw direct parallels to the former police chief's ouster, the latest fundraising report does show a trend in Biskupski's favor, said University of Utah political science Professor Tim Chambless, who also is affiliated with the Hinckley Institute of Politics.
"The advantage the mayor had is shrinking," Chambless said. "The question is, will voters angry over Chris Burbank be willing to overlook the accomplishments of the mayor."
Nonetheless, if the Aug. 11 primary election were held today, Becker and Biskupski would most likely be the two top vote-getters and advance to the Nov. 3 election, Chambless said.
City Council Chairman Luke Garrott, who also is running against Becker, had raised just $17,906 as of July 1, although he says a low-budget campaign not dependent on big money is part of his strategy.
Chambless wondered whether Garrott could "get his voters energized and to the polls" in a summer election when many people have tuned out of politics.
Also running is Dave Robinson, who has raised $15,000, and George Chapman, who reported taking in $2,600, most of it from his own pocket.