Salt Lake City's mayoral race is growing more contentious by the day. The latest skirmish is over the very touchy subject of religion and the influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over political decisions in the capital city.
With three weeks until Election day things are starting to get very interesting. The latest rhetorical skirmish broke out after a comment the mayor made at a debate yesterday.
Tuesday night the city council voted 6-1 to reject the department store Nordstrom's bid to move to the Gateway development, a move that the Church, which has big redevelopment plans of its own, opposed.
The next day Mayor Rocky Anderson said: "There are some on the council who would never have considered voting contrary to the Church's desire in this matter."
Asked about it today, the mayor defended his comments.
Rocky Anderson: "I made a one-sentence statement that was simply what everybody knows to be the truth. I think a lot of people think that unity means you just sweep all this under the rug and never talk about it. It's very healthy to have the dialogue."
Anderson's opponent in the mayor's race believes the comments crossed the line.
Frank Pignanelli, Candidate for Mayor: "If he doesn't agree with what they did, great, point out the differences. But don't attack their motives, especially when it's based on religious grounds."
City councilor Eric Jergensen--who backs Pignanelli in that race--says he and other councilors wrestled over the decision for months, and take exception to Anderson's comments.
Eric Jergensen, City Council Member: "It tends to marginalize that effort saying because they are Mormon they vote a certain way, as if they kind of fall in lock step. That did not happen."
The issue could be crucial in the Mayor's race with Anderson and Pignanelli vying for a large block of LDS voters who supported Molonai Hola who came in third in the primary. Anderson insists the real issue here is a lack of diversity.
Rocky Anderson, Salt Lake City Mayor: "There are not enough people's interests being represented. And i think there are a lot of people in this community who feel like their voices are never heard. And there's a huge need for balance in city and state government."
We will see just how important this issue is come November 4th--that's Election day--now less than three weeks away.