Running for a lead position unopposed may seem like a situation reserved for high school student body positions. But for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, who is running unopposed for reelection, the campaign is slightly less pressured than most other major metropolitan mayoral races.
Becker began his campaign for mayor in 2007 on a platform of internationalizing the city and advancing progressive green legislation. He was ushered into the position with 64 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Dave Buhler.
But this time around, Becker is running unopposed, so far. The filing deadline is not until the middle of July, so there is still a chance for an opponent, but it doesn’t seem likely.
“I can’t really answer the question as to why,” Becker said. “I’ve tried to be very proactive and tried to listen well and respond to all legitimate concerns.”
During his first administration, Becker said he used a series of blueprints as an agenda and has started to work through each of these issues and address the concerns.
“I hope to use the campaign as another opportunity to find out what issues are important for my constituents and continue to address those concerns,” Becker said.
However, finding the funding to tackle a very aggressive agenda without any series cutbacks in services or significant layoffs was one of the largest challenges of his administration, Becker said. From higher education to issues of social justice and equality, the mayor has led one of the most progressive agendas the city has seen.
Even before he was the mayor of Salt Lake City, Becker, who is a Washington, D.C. native, was no stranger to Utah politics or advancing gay-rights legislation. He served as the Democrat’s leader in the Utah House of Representatives and he was a representative of his Salt Lake District for 11 years.
While he was a representative, Becker opposed the amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman. He also supported adopting hate crimes legislation and a state-wide ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
As Becker started campaigning for his current position as mayor, he was seen as an underdog. In a poll done by the Deseret News in 2007, Becker almost came in dead last with only 4 percent of registered voters voicing their support. He lead a grassroots campaign focusing on liberal and progressive issues such as the environment, the economy and anti-discrimination legislation.
His campaign struck a chord with voters and his popularity has carried him into the unopposed position he currently holds with an all but guaranteed reelection for a second term. He is not facing any internal challengers within his own party and no Republicans are registered to run against him.
The Republicans have yet to find anyone to run against Becker, but the chair of the Salt Lake County Republicans, Julie Dole, said she wouldn’t even begin to speculate as to why.
“As of right now I do not know anyone planning on running for that office in November from the Republican side,” Dole said. “There were some people who considered it, but no one has announced it yet.”
Becker has been an effective mayor and has advanced some of the most pro-gay rights legislation in the state. In his first few months in office he helped push through the domestic partnership registry in the city that allows couples, including gay couples, to register with the city. He was also instrumental in passing the state’s first anti-bias laws to protect against discrimination in housing and the workplace. Nearly a dozen other municipalities in the state followed Salt Lake’s lead and passed nearly identical measures.
“I’ve always used a grassroots effort to push my campaign and my administration,” Becker said. “I think when it comes right down to it, we are pushing for issues that aren’t just political, but important to all Salt Lake City residents.”
Becker, along with the other city council members, was honored as the 2008 Utah Pride Festival grand marshals. This year he was honored with the prestigious Pete Suazo Award, which is given by the Utah Pride Center to an elected Utah official who demonstrates a commitment to equality.
Becker also lead Salt Lake through one of the most difficult economic recessions in a lifetime without raising taxes, a reduction in core city services or significant layoffs. He has also helped expand public transit lines, increase funding for bike trails and helped clear millions of pounds of greenhouse gases from the city air.
“I would still encourage people to get involved in my campaign and I think we can really make a big difference,” Becker said.