Earlier in the day the Prison Relocation Commission (PRC) unanimously approved a motion to place the state’s next prison facility in the capitol city – two miles west of the Salt Lake City International Airport.
In many ways the decision seemed inevitable after the chairs of the PRC announced last week that they intended to hold the unexpected meeting.
During the afternoon session lawmakers reviewed the four proposed prison locations, however questioning of consultants by lawmakers was squarely focused on the wetlands north of I-80 and the west side of 7200 West as the potential next home of the Utah State Prison. It became increasingly clear that lawmakers were tempted by the potential economic benefits to the state in the form of increased development on the west side while simultaneously reducing relocation costs for employees and freeing land at the southern end of Salt Lake County.
Co-chair of the PRC, Senator Jerry Stevenson (Republican – Layton) made the formal motion to recommend the location, which would pass unanimously.
Though the final decision will be made by the full legislature and approved by the governor, it is doubtful that the Republican majority will choose another location, as the Salt Lake location also sits in one of the few districts currently represented by Democrats.
Senator Luz Escamilla (Democrat – Salt Lake City) who represents the area chosen called the decision disappointing, adding that “a big mistake is being made to build a state prison in this limited available space area when we should be developing this area for economic development purposes.”
Tuesday also happened to be the date of the primary election for mayor of Salt Lake – as voters trim down the number of candidates from five to two for November’s ballot.
Though complaints often take place between campaigns in the final hours of an election, mayoral candidate and Salt Lake City Councilman, Luke Garrott, levied three specific and potentially damning complaints against Becker.
In an official letter to Salt Lake County Clerk, Sherrie Swensen, Garrott Campaign Manager, Richard Jaramillo, alleged that the Becker campaign engaged in electoral intimidation, illegal electioneering, and potential ballot tampering.
The core of the complaint focused on three tactics that the Becker Campaign engaged in during the lead-up to Tuesday’s election.
The Garrott campaign alleges that the Becker camp targeted Salt Lake City employees by going door-to-door to collect ballots in order to deliver them. As the ultimate boss of all Salt Lake employees, Garrott is alleging that “sending [Becker’s] campaign staff to the homes of employees appears to constitute some manner of practicing intimidation.”
Garrott’s campaign also alleged that the Becker camp illegally collected ballots during events and that such activities could potentially lead to ballot tampering by Becker supporters.
According to Jaramillo, the Becker camp illegally collected sealed ballots during an advertised event called “Rooftop Party with Mayor Becker BYOB (Bring Your Own Ballot)” and encouraged voters to drop ballots of with campaign staff in tweets leading up to the election.
Under Utah Code only authorized election officials are allowed to handle official ballots either before or after a voter has completed their ballot.
Eric Ethington of City Weekly informs Utah Political Capitol that he spoke to Matt Lyon, Becker’s Campaign Manger. Lyon told Ethington that the Becker campaign did not collect ballots and also claimed that Republicans “did this all the time” in 2014.
Election Night Surprises
This year’s election marked the first time that vote-by-mail would be the principal way to vote in Salt Lake. Because of this, the vast majority of ballots had already been received by the time the Salt Lake County Clerk opened the doors of only a handful of physical polling locations on Election Day.
Though the official tally is still days away, initial results point to a landslide victory for Becker’s principal rival this election: former legislative colleague, Jackie Biskupski.
When initial results were announced just seconds after polls closed, Biskupski took a massive lead, collecting 45 percent of the vote among five candidates; Becker would come out n a distant second, gathering 30 percent of the votes – a trend that held throughout the night.
With nearly 70 percent of Salt Lake voters casting a vote for someone besides Becker, it is clear that the mayor has seen better days.
Barring any surprises, Becker and Biskupski will square off in the November General Election.