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Ralph Becker better dust off his campaign signs and get his walking shoes ready. The Salt Lake City mayor, shooting for a second term, will face an opponent after all although on paper it doesn't look like much of a contest.
Farther north, however, a real battle looms, where eight candidates including sitting council members and a former state lawmaker are chasing Ogden's open mayoral seat.
In Utah's capital city, J. Allen Kimball, a 79-year-old precinct chairman for the Salt Lake County Republican Party, filed before Friday's deadline to oppose Becker, a Democrat, in the officially nonpartisan race.
Kimball says there is no single issue driving his decision, which elicited a scolding from his wife. He has never run for public office before but says he's "more Republican than Democrat."
Salt Lake City voters have not elected a GOP mayor in 40 years.
Asked if he will actively campaign, Kimball said, "sure, yep." The upper Avenues resident, who was not recruited by the GOP to take on Becker, declined to answer any other questions Friday.
Kimball is a mystery to the Becker camp.
"I don't know much about him," said Matt Lyon, Becker's campaign manager. "We came up with a campaign plan in early January, and we're going to continue moving forward with it. We're taking the race seriously, regardless of who he is."
The seemingly token opposition does not surprise Thad Hall, associate professor of political science at the University of Utah. It is a referendum, he says, on having a "highly competent" chief executive after two tumultuous terms under former Mayor Rocky Anderson.
"When you have a quiet, no-screaming, no-craziness mayor, the public takes to that," Hall said. "There's really nothing to run against him for."
Hall notes Becker helped pass a nondiscrimination measure with LDS Church support, pressed successfully for Sugar House streetcar dollars, and piloted the city through the Great Recession all "without rhetorical shenanigans."
"Making trains run on time is not sexy. And not yelling at people all the time is not sexy," he added. "But it makes people's lives better. What you're seeing is the win of quiet management."
Becker, who captured the open seat in 2007 after a hotly contested primary, has $240,000 in the bank. Late last year, a poll pegged his approval rating at 84 percent.
In Salt Lake City's other three contests, three City Council members are sure to face feistier fights. In west-side District 2, incumbent Van Turner will square off against familiar foe Michael Clara along with Kyle Lamalfa. Central-city District 4 incumbent Luke Garrott faces Jack Gray. And, in east-benchDistrict 6, incumbent J.T. Martin must fend off Charlie Luke and Tracey Harty.
In Ogden, after 12 sometimes-turbulent, sometimes-triumphant years, Mayor Matthew Godfrey is stepping aside and eight candidates have stepped forward to replace him.
The list includes Ogden Community Development Manager Jonny Ballard, Weber County Public Information Officer Mike Caldwell, Ogden resident Jason Goddard, former state Rep. Neil Hansen, City Councilman Brandon Stephenson, perennial candidate John Thompson, City Councilwoman Susie Van Hooser and Historic 25th Street Association President Steve Van Wagoner.
During his tenure, Godfrey stirred controversy by trimming subsidies to Union Station and the Marshall White Center, an inner-city recreation haven. He also aggressively pursued cleanup of and development along the Ogden River. His dream of an aerial gondola to connect Ogden's intermodal hub to Weber State University roused opposition and riled east-benchers. But he succeeded in landing a number of new outdoor companies and helped shepherd a downtown renaissance.
Current candidates hope to build on Godfrey's hard-fought victories, but also sees the need to mend some civic fences.
"The primary reason that I'm running is to maintain the current economic momentum," said Stephenson, in his eighth year on the council. "The other reason is that I think it's possible to come together as a community ... and move forward in a more unified fashion."
Caldwell, who has been involved in Weber County for a decade, hopes to foster more collaboration.
"We've gotten off track at times," Caldwell said. "I want to build relationships with the City Council and do some community building."
Voters will narrow the field to two candidates in a Sept. 13 primary.