SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, fresh off the trail from her hard-fought but unsuccessful Senate campaign against Mitt Romney, says that while she just finished a "marathon," she's ready for a new "sprint."
Wilson on Friday officially declared her bid to replace outgoing Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, who is headed to Congress after his nail-biting 4th District race with Rep. Mia Love.
"I just ended a race reaching out to millions of people," Wilson said, adding that she thinks she could handle appealing to about 1,000 members of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party's central committee.
"I'm ready to hit the ground running on day one," Wilson said.
But her bid doesn't just have to do with finishing the remainder of McAdams' term after he vacates the seat in January. Wilson also announced her plans to run again in 2020 to capture a full term.
"This seat will remain in Democratic hands," Wilson said, to cheers from a crowd of supporters standing behind her in the atrium of the Salt Lake County Government Center's north building, one floor below the mayor's office.
Wilson has served two terms on the Salt Lake County Council after she became the first woman elected to the body in 2004. In 2011, she left after her first six-year term before returning to win an at-large seat in 2014.
It won't be Wilson's first time running for a mayor's seat. She tried for Salt Lake City mayor — a seat previously held by her father, Ted Wilson — but faltered to former Mayor Ralph Becker.
Now, Wilson said her experience on the council and her commitment to issues including health care, medical marijuana, opioid abuse, homelessness, sexual assault and domestic violence prevention, affordable housing, criminal justice reform, and smart growth make her fit to carry on the "legacy" of McAdams and his predecessor, former Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.
Wilson also said she would prioritize ensuring that the controversial Utah Inland Port Authority has "accountability, transparency and does not worsen our air," echoing concerns of the state's "land grab" from Salt Lake City.
Behind Wilson stood a collection of sparkling Christmas trees — a backdrop showing it is an "odd time" to campaign, Wilson acknowledged.
"But I think this race is worth it," she said. "I'm confident with some hard work I can be standing here with you, with my hand raised accepting the oath for mayor of Salt Lake County."
McAdams is expected to submit his resignation as county mayor sometime in January, Wilson said, which will start the clock on a 30-day time frame for the Salt Lake County Democratic Party to send a name to the County Council.
Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chairman Q. Dang said after McAdams' resignation is submitted, the party will give potential candidates 10 days to file for consideration and about two weeks to campaign and lobby the leaders who make up the party's central committee.
Dang welcomes any Democrat meeting the qualifications of the office to enter the race. "This is an open process," he said, and an "exciting" time for Democrats in Salt Lake County.
Wilson, while the first to formally announce, isn't the only one who has eyed the county mayor's seat.
So has Salt Lake County Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw and former Congressional candidate Shireen Ghorbani, who lost to Rep. Chris Stewart, Dang said.
Ghorbani didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. But Bradshaw said he's "absolutely" considering competing against Wilson for the seat.
The councilman said he's continued to get "encouragement" from constituents and other elected officials. While Bradshaw didn't go as far to confirm a bid, he hinted strongly at it, saying he'll be making an announcement next week "as to what my intentions will be."
"Jenny and I serve on the council together, and Jenny's a good friend, but I always think providing an option is positive for our democratic process," Bradshaw said.
McAdams in a prepared statement issued after Wilson's announcement didn't specifically endorse Wilson or any other potential candidates, but said: "Already, several great candidates are expressing interest in running."
"Whoever is chosen to lead Salt Lake County will step in to a government that is well managed with positive momentum and can bring new ideas and a new perspective in service to our residents," McAdams said.