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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker jabbed back at his top mayoral opponent, Jackie Biskupski, Tuesday, accusing her of using "abhorrent campaign tactics of spreading misinformation and fear-mongering."
Leading up to the primary election, Becker endured months of political pummeling from four challengers, and Biskupski beat him by more than 15 percent of votes on Aug. 11.
But now that the contest has been narrowed down to two candidates, Becker said his voice won't be drowned out by "misleading, mean-spirited and divisive" rhetoric.
"I have sat back long enough as I've been accused of not listening and not being collaborative," he said. "My style is not slick or flashy, but enough is enough with that kind of campaign attack."
The incumbent was surrounded by at least 100 supporters on the steps of the City-County Building to launch his fall campaign in anticipation of the Nov. 3 election.
There, he declared he was the only candidate with "concrete" plans for the city and that Biskupski has engaged in a campaign that "divides" the community through criticisms, rather than providing solutions.
My style is not slick or flashy, but enough is enough with that kind of campaign attack.
"Our voters expect and deserve an election in which they choose between the substance of two candidates," Becker said. "But we have yet to hear any substance — either specific accomplishments or specific plans — from my opponent."
But Biskupski said Becker's claim that she doesn't have any plans for the city is "simply not true."
"I may not have a fancy printed plan paid for by the taxpayers, like the mayor's EnterpriseSLC plan, but I've been campaigning on my plans ever since I announced in January," she said in an email Tuesday. "I will be rolling out more formal presentations of these plans over the next few weeks, just as the mayor is also doing. My vision is resonating with voters, as we saw with the primary election results."
Becker rolled out what he deemed as a "blueprint" for the city, focusing on education and opportunity, economic development, energy and sustainability, transportation, and open space and wild places.
Becker's first televised ad is scheduled to air Wednesday, after he secured a $11,660 contract with KSL-TV.
Appearing in the ad is former Gov. Mike Leavitt, who said he is endorsing the mayor's re-election.
"While I'm a Republican, both candidates are well-defined Democrats in the race," Leavitt, a resident of Salt Lake City, told the Deseret News. "So, like all Republicans, I find myself choosing between two people not of my party. I believe Ralph is the candidate best qualified to head the city. He has a temperament for leadership and has the city moving in a good direction."
I may not have a fancy printed plan paid for by the taxpayers, like the mayor's EnterpriseSLC plan, but I've been campaigning on my plans ever since I announced in January.
Among other issues, Becker lashed out at Biskupski Tuesday for criticizing the Mountain Accord, a plan for Wasatch Front canyons. He said she has "misrepresented the agreement," which was an undertaking of more than 200 stakeholders.
"This feels like hollow criticism for the sake of criticism," the mayor said. "It is environmentally naive, irresponsible, and not supporting it is a disservice to the residents of Salt Lake City. We will lose a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if we don't complete the job on Mountain Accord."
But Bisksupki said the environmental impact of the plan could damage watershed areas, so she said leaders need to ensure several environmental studies that are slated to be conducted are not rushed and exhaustive.
"Mountain Accord has the potential to be a great agreement between developer and environmental interests, but if the mayor believes that no one should have any concerns then he is the one being nave," Biskupski said. "To not approach these plans with the appropriate amount of caution would show poor leadership."
Becker also criticized Biskupski for "demonstrating a lack of understanding" of homelessness, pointing to a process he and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams worked on to review homeless services.
"Two community-driven solutions will present a series of action steps by the end of the year. I have promised to follow those recommendations," the mayor said. "I want to know if my opponent will also pledge to implement the findings of the two commissions and continue the new policing and regional approach. If not, what's her plan for dealing with this complex issue?"
Biskupski said her plan would include some of the recommendations that come from the commissions, but the studies don't provide enough big-picture focus.
"Unfortunately, the mayor's commission is focused solely on a shelter, and the issue of homelessness needs a holistic approach that includes not just sheltering, but also assessment, treatment, training, permanent housing solutions and a long-term follow-up to ensure success. My plan includes all of these elements, and will not be a Band-Aid that exacerbates the problem."
In response to Becker's criticisms, Biskupski said she won't engage in a political boxing match.
"It's clear the mayor intends to take a negative tone for the rest of his campaign, but I will not be following his lead," she said. "I will continue pointing out areas where I believe we can do better while explaining my plans for improving the city."
Last week, Salt Lake City Latino community leaders joined in a press conference to announce their endorsement of Biskupski. Those who attended included former senetor Ross Romero, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, and Rep. Mark Archuleta Wheatley.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche