It’s official: Salt Lake City has elected a lesbian mayor.
Unofficial totals showed Jackie Biskupski besting incumbent Ralph Becker November 3, but the vote count wasn’t finalized until today, after a canvass — and it shows her with 51.5 percent of the vote to Becker’s 48.5 percent, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Becker had refused to concede until the official count was announced.
While Salt Lake City is home to the headquarters of the famously conservative Mormon Church, its local politics trend progressive. While Biskupski is the first LGBT person to be elected mayor there, or in any major city in the state, she isn’t the first liberal Democrat — Becker also proudly claimed that designation, as did a previous mayor, Rocky Anderson. City races are nonpartisan.
During their campaign, Biskupski and Becker, who had served two terms, generally voiced agreement on their goals for the city, such as improving public transportation, fighting crime, and reducing homelessness, with some differences over how to accomplish them.
In a news conference today, Biskupski praised Becker, saying, “His actions and programs have benefited Salt Lake City,” the Tribune reports. She said she is forming a transition team that will take input from city employees to assure a smooth change in administrations when she is sworn in January 4.
“City employees wanted strong leadership that made them feel they were being listened to,” she said at the news conference. “We need to meet with existing staff and figure out how to move forward.”
This is the second “first” for Biskupski; she also was the first LGBT person elected to the Utah legislature, winning a seat in the House of Representatives in 1998. She ended up serving seven terms. Before entering politics, she was an insurance claims investigator.
Biskupski’s win is “historic,” said Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams. “Her victory sends a powerful message to all LGBTQ Utahns that their sexual orientation will never be a limitation to public service. We look forward to working alongside Mayor-elect Biskupski to advance policies that will benefit all Utahns.”
Today’s official vote count also affirmed Derek Kitchen’s election to a seat on the City Council. Kitchen was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that brought marriage equality to Utah. He becomes the second openly gay member of the City Council, joining Stan Penfold.