Press Release: Salt Lake City Mayoral Candidates For Primary Debate Announced

Press Release: Salt Lake City Mayoral Candidates For Primary Debate Announced

Salt Lake City, UT – Today, the ABU Education Fund and John R. Park Debate Society announced the candidates who have been invited to participate in the Primary Debate for the Salt Lake City Mayoral election. All eight candidates will be invited to participate. Those candidates are: David Garbett, David Ibarra, Erin Mendenhall, Jim Dabakis, Luz Escamilla, Rainer Huck, Richard Goldberger, and Stan Penfold.

“We are excited to see so much energy surrounding this debate,” said Chase Thomas, ABU Education Fund executive director. “We’ve seen passion from the community and from the candidates themselves, and the polling results show that many of the candidates are in a statistical tie. In an effort to make a fair and data-driven decision, we ultimately decided the best way forward was to include all the candidates in our debate.”

The candidates for the June 26th debate were decided, as per the rules established when the debate was announced, by polling. The poll, commissioned by the ABU Education Fund and administered by Public Policy Polling, took place from June 10-12 and surveyed 480 likely voters in Salt Lake City. The polling results, which can be found in the attachment below, show the following results for mayor:

Jim Dabakis27%
Luz Escamilla10%
Stan Penfold8%
David Garbett, David Ibarra, Erin Mendenhall6%
Aaron Johnson2%
Richard Goldberger1%
Rainer HuckN/A
Not sure34%

In light of the margin of error, these polling results reveal there is not a neutral way to differentiate between the candidates as to who would be the fourth candidate to participate. These results leave a forum that includes all candidates as the fairest way to compose the debate field and maximize the opportunity for voters to learn about their options in the upcoming election.

In an effort to allow the candidates to share their views, and also in the interest of a robust and informative debate, the length of the event has been expanded to two hours. For those who cannot attend in person, the debate will be aired live on KCPW radio, as well as streamed online from KCPW’s Facebook page, and shared on the ABU Education Fund and Alliance for a Better Utah’s Facebook page.

Details of the event:

What:Salt Lake City Mayor Primary Debate
Who: The ABU Education Fund and John R. Park Debate Society
When:June 26, 2019 | 6:30-8:30 PM
Where:The City Library Main Branch210 E 400 S, Salt Lake City

*Due to the late nature of Rainer Huck’s filing, and Aaron Johnson’s late exit from the race, these poll results are not completely up-to-date. However, because of the close race revealed by these polls, the presumption is that any candidate would be statistically tied with all but the two highest polling candidates.


The ABU Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing a strong, educational voice by creating resources that advance civic engagement and good governance. For more information, visit their website here.

Press Release: ABU Education Fund Commends Decision to Study State Education Governance

Press Release: ABU Education Fund Commends Decision to Study State Education Governance

Salt Lake City, UT – Today, H.J.R. 13 “Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution — State Board of Education,” was heard in the House Education Committee and ultimately was held in the committee for further long-term study. H.J.R. 13 would have turned these into positions that are appointed by the Governor. Currently, members of the State Board of Education are elected by the voters of Utah.

“Direct elections are the best way to hold public officials accountable,” said Chase Thomas, executive director for ABU Education Fund. “Rather than increasing accountability, this proposal would have done the opposite. Those running for governor do so on a platform built from many issues, not just education governance.”

“We are pleased with the decision to hold this legislation with the intent to have a task force study the issue further. By that point, we hope the Utah Supreme Court will have issued a ruling in our ongoing partisan school board case. We also hope this will lead to a more thorough examination into the pros and cons of governance structures that is simply not possible during a 45-day legislative session.”

In 2017, ABU Education Fund filed a lawsuit against the State of Utah to challenge the 2016 law, SB 78, establishing partisan elections for the State Board of Education. They joined with the Utah PTA, Utahns for Public Schools, and several individuals to challenge this law. Last year, the case was heard before the Utah Supreme Court after the state appealed the decision by a lower court in favor of the plaintiffs. A decision from the Supreme Court is still pending.

ABU Education Fund Releases Rural Redistricting Report

ABU Education Fund Releases Rural Redistricting Report

Today, the ABU Education Fund released a report focused on the impacts of gerrymandering on rural Utah. The report, titled “Fair Redistricting: A Better Deal for Rural Utah,” outlines the recent history of redistricting in Utah, explains the reasoning behind our four rural-urban mixed districts, and explores the ways in which rural-urban mixed districts disadvantage rural Utahns.

Who is showing your legislator the love this Valentine’s Day?

Salt Lake City — How much love is your legislator getting? The non-partisan ABU Education Fund launched Version 2.0 of its “Follow-the-Money” disclosure database today to help Utahns answer that question this Valentine’s Day.

The improved campaign disclosure website, which can be found at, now features a streamlined search function, the latest statewide candidate filings, and a new design that makes viewing and researching on smartphones much easier. And it should make holding Utah’s elected officials accountable even easier.

“Utah political financial disclosure has always been available on the Lt. Governor’s website,” said Joshua Kanter, executive director of the ABU Education Fund. “But you have to know what you are looking for, wade through dozens of different reports, and there is no capacity to search across donors, years and candidates. Our database will save people time and the typical frustration that comes with searching through the individual disclosures and trying to compile those results.”

But it is important to note that the data is only as good as the as the campaign finance laws currently in place in Utah, said Kanter. In the aftermath of the John Swallow scandal, several legislators have opened bill files that would place limits on campaign contributions and would improve disclosure requirements.

“Campaign finance laws, despite their overwhelming support by most ethics groups and voters, continue to face an uphill battle in Utah, one of only four states without campaign contribution limits,” said Kanter. “This database might not impact the passage of those laws, but it will make it easier for insiders and the general public alike to follow the money.”

The new database features a single search function in place of the multiple search options that previously made the database more complicated to search. Users now have the ability to search across multiple tables, contributions and expenditures with a single search term. And, with smartphone optimization, users can search for information just about anywhere they are.

“More and more people are turning to their smartphones for information about their elected leaders,” said Pat Thompson, the website’s designer. “Journalists and activists who might not have access to a laptop during committee meetings and interviews will find the improved smartphone functioning especially useful.”


Joshua Kanter
Executive Director, ABU Education Fund
435-287-4228 |