SALT LAKE CITY — Former Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson made national news when he led an anti-war protest during then-President George W. Bush’s visit to the Beehive State 13 years ago.
“Wow. And this guy is the mayor of the biggest city in … Utah?” Bob Geiger wrote in a 2006 Huffington Post article entitled “SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson: A Righteous Dude in a Wrong State.”
Onlookers from around the country were surprised by the decidedly liberal protest at the heart of a conservative state like Utah. But Salt Lake has long been a spot of blue in a sea of red — and an outsider’s gateway to the rest of the state.
“Salt Lake City is our urban center. It’s the front porch, central living area of our state,” Natalie Gochnour, associate dean in the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah, told the Deseret News in a recent interview. “It’s certainly the symbol of our state to outsiders.”
For the last 40 years, Salt Lake residents have elected Democratic mayors, and this year’s election does not appear to stray from the trend. All the frontrunners hoping to finish in the top two in today’s primary are Democrats, and most of their campaign promises lean toward progressive ideals.
But while Salt Lake’s politics may differ from other parts of the state, the city’s relationship with the rest of Utah is critical for both Salt Lake and Utah as a whole.
“As Utah’s capital, its center of commerce, its transportation hub, its center of culture and entertainment, Gochnour said Salt Lake City “really belongs to everyone in Utah.”