Latest vote tally: Biskupski closer to becoming Salt Lake City’s first openly gay mayor

Jackie Biskupski

Jackie Biskupski Rick Bowmer, AP

Jackie BiskupskiRick Bowmer, AP

Jackie Biskupski

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Former Utah lawmaker Jackie Biskupski appears even closer to becoming Salt Lake City‘s first openly gay mayor after the latest tally of uncounted votes were released Thursday.

Biskupski has a 1,450-vote lead with only about 5,000 ballots left to be counted.

Incumbent Ralph Becker must win 65 percent of the remaining votes to erase the deficit, which seems unlikely after getting only 48 percent of the votes counted as of Tuesday night.

That all but clinches the win for Biskupski, even though it won’t be official until the final canvass on Nov. 17. State law prohibits updated vote tallies after election night until the canvass.

Biskupski’s campaign spokeswoman Maryann Martindale said since late Tuesday night that it would be next to impossible for Becker to come back.

“We already felt confident, but we feel like this is just assuring that the numbers were correct and that Jackie has been elected mayor,” Martindale said.

Becker has not conceded.

His campaign spokesman Matt Lyon said Becker, who is in Nashville for a conference of the National League of Cities, is still processing the data and didn’t have any comment yet.

Becker, 63, has served as president of the National League of Cities and on a White House climate change task force. He was hoping to become the first to win a third term as Salt Lake City mayor since 1983.

A win by Biskupski, 49, would mark another landmark moment for the LGBT movement in a conservative state with a history of hostility toward gays and lesbians.

Nearly two years ago, a federal judge overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban. It was among the first in a string of similar rulings across the United States that eventually paved the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to declare gay marriages legal across the nation.

Earlier this year, a Mormon-backed Utah law was passed that provided protections against housing and employment discrimination for LGBT people while also creating shields for religious freedom.

Church leaders now preach a “fairness for all” approach in which the right to beliefs are balanced with compassion and understanding for gays and lesbians.

The increasingly welcoming environment for LGBT people is most pronounced in Salt Lake City, a liberal island in the state where Democrats can compete and win races. The city has had a four-decade streak of Democratic mayors.

Becker was also well-liked by the LGBT community. He officiated one of the first same-sex marriages in 2013 in the jubilant hours after the ruling when gay and lesbian couples flooded the courthouse to make their unions official. Equality Utah endorsed both Biskupski and Becker.

Salt Lake City voters also appear to have elected a second gay member of the City Council: Derek Kitchen. He and his husband, Moudi Sbeity, were one of three couples who sued to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Kitchen has declared victory in his race.

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