Jim Dabakis, co-founder of Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, was elected to lead Utah’s Democratic Party, making him the first openly gay head of a major party in Utah.
The convention, held on Saturday in Salt Lake City, attracted more than 1,000 people. Dabakis handily beat his opponent for the top office, Robert Comstock, with a 528 to 71 vote. He will replace outgoing state chairman Wayne Holland Jr.
Dabakis said he wanted to focus on making the party inclusive to all races, genders, sexual orientations and religions. He called Mormons in Utah a “tremendous resource,” and invited them to join the Democratic Party for solutions to everyday problems and an alternative to the old-style of governance that is present in Utah.
“When I said all people, I meant all people,” Dabakis said. “I want to speak directly to the LDS people in our state. We want your spirit and we want to earn your votes.”
Although Dabakis acknowledged his sexuality was common knowledge, he said it was not an issue or concern for the delegates he spoke with, which, he said, is a sign of how fair-minded Utahns are. The economy and other pressing issues were what was most important to the voters, not his sexuality, he said.
“Our state is facing an important moment here, especially with the Republican Party now splintering between the Tea Party and the more moderates. We need to convince people all across the state that the Democratic Party is the solution,” Dabakis said.
Despite an uphill battle, Dabakis said he believes Utah can elect Democrats and in his campaign he cited his goals of having a Democrat in the House, Senate and governor’s mansion.
Dabakis was nominated and introduced by Utah’s lone Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson who called him a great communicator and businessman.
“Dabakis is the right person, in the right palace at the right time for this party,” Matheson said in nominating him. “He is exactly what the Utah Democratic Party needs for this next election.”
Along with being involved with Equality Utah, the Utah Pride Center and various other philanthropic causes, Dabakis is a successful businessman and he has been involved in politics in Utah for more than 20 years. He also previously hosted his own radio show.
The other party leadership elected include Jim Judd as vice chair, Paul Pugmire as secretary and Rob Miller as treasurer.