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There remain several thousand uncounted provisional and mail-in ballots in Salt Lake City's mayor's race, leaving the door open for Mayor Ralph Becker to pull off a come-from-behind win although such a scenario appears unlikely.
Tuesday's unofficial and incomplete results gave Jackie Biskupski a 52.1 percent to 47.8 percent lead over Becker. They are separated by 1,450 votes out of 33,717 counted 46.8 percent of registered voters in Salt Lake City.
According to Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, 23,855 ballots remain uncounted across Salt Lake County.
The clerk's office will know Thursday how many of them are Salt Lake City ballots.
According to Utah law, the new total will be sealed until the Nov. 17 canvass.
Although she promised to stay in touch with the community at her election night party, Biskupski said she will not be commenting further on the election until she sees the final results.
She will spend the next two weeks closing down the campaign, thanking supporters and donors, and spending time with family.
On Tuesday night, Biskupski said that Becker's 4.3-point deficit was statistically "insurmountable." When she announced at her campaign celebration that Becker would not concede, her crowd of supporters groaned and booed.
But the Election Day anticlimax didn't seem to disappoint Biskupski.
"I get it. He wants this, he's clinging on to it," she said of Becker's refusal to give up on a rare third term. "I'm one of those candidates that's won by 11 votes and lost by 43. I know the pain of feeling like I went to bed winning and then I didn't. So, you know what? It's OK."
Until Nov. 17, the discussion of Biskupski's possible election as the first openly gay big-city mayor in the deeply conservative, Mormon state are on hold.
"In a couple weeks," she said, "I'm confident we will have a chance to talk about how historic this is."
Biskupski said she recognized from the beginning that she would lose votes for a number of reasons, not limited to her gender. "There are people who would not vote for me because I'm openly gay," she said. "There are people who would not vote for me because I'm a single mom."
Nonetheless, it's possible to get elected in a conservative state based on your merits, Biskupski told reporters Tuesday night.
"Not my gender, not my sexual orientation," she said. "It matters that we embrace people for their ability to lead and effect change."
Her likely victory says something about Utah, Biskupski said.
"We have a reputation here, right? But ... this community continues to move forward in strides that are mind-blowing," she said. "I'm so proud of our community."
In fact, Biskupski isn't the only openly gay candidate to be elected mayor in this state. In 2001, Willy Marshall was elected mayor in the southern Utah hamlet of Big Water. The population of the Kane County town was about 400 at that time.
"It's easier for a gay person to get elected in a small town because people know you and their biases go away," Marshall told The Tribune in a 2004 interview. "In a place like Salt Lake City, it would be a bigger issue because you can't meet everybody and they vote their biases."
Biskupski's throng of supporters Tuesday night were jubilant, from chanting "Jackie, Jackie, Jackie" throughout the night to dancing to "YMCA."
And it showed in Biskupski's unrelenting smile throughout the night.
"Stay with me, stay strong," she said. "We are confident we will win this race, and I hope you will be with me on the 17th when those final numbers are decided."Biskupski also commended Becker for his two terms as mayor of Utah's capital.
"There is no doubt that Mayor Becker has changed our city," she said. "He has done many good things. We can be proud of those good things. Mayor Becker has left his mark for a very long time. ... We can all be proud of the things he has accomplished."
On Wednesday, Becker was en route to Nashville for a meeting of the National League of Cities, where he now serves as president. He was not available for comment.
In his Tuesday night speech, Becker hit some of the notes usually struck by a losing candidate.
"To play a role working in the community and working with this community to transform this city has been the richest working experience of my life," he said, calling it "beyond anything that I could have imagined."
And he said if success is measured by leaving a place better than when you found it, his administration came out a winner.
"I can leave this job, if I need to, feeling very successful."
Nonetheless, the mayor took note of the outstanding ballots and said he remained hopeful, not nervous.
"I've been very focused on running a strong campaign and presenting myself, and as of 8 o'clock tonight, the campaign is over and we have votes to count. So I'm happy to sort of wait and see what the votes are."
Becker's campaign had sprinted to the finish line after the Aug. 11 primary election, where he fell behind 31 percent to Biskupski's 46 percent. He said it became obvious early on beginning in February that there was some public sentiment questioning whether three terms is too many for a Salt Lake City mayor.
"I've been in a way working against that tide throughout the campaign," he said.
Ted Wilson, Salt Lake City's last three-term mayor, said Wednesday that more than two terms is not a good idea. On TribTalk, the Tribune's online interview program, he said he wished he had not made his final mayoral bid in 1983.
"I didn't like my third term and I'm sorry I ran," he said. "I think what happens in office is you tend to lose your vision and your Cabinet gets calcified."
Wilson left City Hall in the middle of that last term to take a post at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
The likely election outcome will be good for everyone, Wilson said. "One person can leave with pride," he said. "The second person can lead with a huge amount of excitement."