Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis announced Monday morning in an email that he will be resigning as Chairman of the Party. Dabakis served as Chairman for three years and as a State Senator since January, 2013 after then-Senator Ben McAdams left the spot to take over as Salt Lake County Mayor.
In the email sent to Party members, Dabakis cites ongoing health problems necessitating his resignation. He will, however, continue his bid for reelection to the State Senate this fall.
First elected as Chairman three years ago, Dabakis has been seen as a transformative figure in the Utah Democratic Party. The founder of both Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, he quickly went to work focusing his energy on rebuilding the Party’s fundraising base and outreach to voters—Party insiders say both initiatives have been enormously successful.
Dabakis has never been shy about media attention and has been frequently seen in both local and national media, pushing Democratic values in a state known for its conservative bent.
Dabakis quickly gained the respect of many of his Republican counterparts and his friendship with former Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright led to several joint initiatives to increase public participation in elections, and the two still appear together in a regular segment on ABC4.
Utah Democrats will pick his replacement at their convention next month. Party Vice Chair Josie Valdez will serve as interim Chair until then.
Here’s the full letter from Dabakis:
My Dear Democrats,
This is a hard letter to write.
Noon today, I will resign as Utah State Democratic Party Chair.
It was a little less then three years ago that I took the job. It has completely transformed my life. It has been the greatest honor to represent Utah Democrats from Charlotte to the White House. But, the real joy I have experienced is traveling to every corner of our state and meeting so many wonderful, dedicated Democrats–that is something I cherish.
Your Utah Democratic Party is in good shape. Facing the November elections, we have a large and talented pool of candidates. We have worked, begged and scrimped and now have an unprecedented $430,000 in our election war-chest. We have an amazing staff. We have more Chair Circle members then ever and we have a strong executive committee.
Governor Howard Dean (former head of the DNC and presidential candidate) said, after spending three days with us that he thought that our staff (he didn’t say chair) is the finest Democratic Party staff in America! Bar none. I wholeheartedly agree. Our staff is led by one of the finest young men of his generation. Matt Lyon, is an organizational genius. And most importantly in the world of politics he has a very strong moral and ethical compass. Never have I seen him compromise doing what’s right–even when it hurts. Whatever success the party has enjoyed over the last three years, it are mostly a result of the skills and talent of Matt and our amazing staff. Usually, when there has been a major screw-up, truthfully, it was me.
My single piece of advice to future chairs is do not give into the temptation (and pressure) to hire friends and cronies. Every single person we hired was hired (and let go) strictly on merit. We ramped up the staff from 3 to 14 employees and we did it because we hired the best people we could find. Of that, I am proud and I feel has been essential to the success of the party.
Why, you may ask? And why now? I was going to announce that political stand-by line. I am quitting for ‘family reasons’–but I not sure that would be legally permissible in Utah. Would I have grounds to quit federally–but not grounds to quit in the state–if it was for ‘family reasons’? AG Reyas,–as a guy who is in court fighting to end my marriage, Sean, I could use a legal opinion here.
While I spend the next months fighting some medical issues, I can assure you that my voice still works. I will stay in the Senate and run for re-election (I have 3 tough Tea Party opponents). Frankly, the Senate job is very genteel, unlike the Party Chair 24/7 war. I can handle the Senate job and do what I need to do to get physically better. Quitting one job was a compromise I made with Stephen (my partner of 27 years and husband of 3 months).
Speaking of Stephen, (those of you that may get queasy with this next paragraph may click off now–and for goodness sake–alert the children) Stephen, you have been amazing. Uncomplainingly, letting me go out, night after night. Six AM breakfast after breakfast, so many week-ends gone. Anniversaries, family events, everything, subjugated. With me completely avoiding my share of the household work and abandoning virtually all income responsibilities over the last three years. You have been magnificent. Frankly, no matter what Governor Herbert says–we are married. And as Samuel Johnson said, “Love is, what you have been through together”.
Finally, I would like to stay in touch with you. My great Democratic friends, all across Utah. You may find me on facebook at James Dabakis. Or Jim Dabakis for Senate. I am on the radio every Saturday morning with Progressive Saturdays at 630 on the AM dial (from 10am to 3pm) or you can stream live at http://www.k-talk.com/
Also, as my tenure as Chair ends, I may well morph into the blazing liberal I have always felt but needed to moderate-out as a statewide spokesperson. I will represent my good folks in Senate 2, as well as progressive people all across Utah!
Look for a new Democratic organization to be the voice of Utah progressive people both in communication and to raise Koch Brothers kind of money (LOLOLOL) to make progressive voices in Utah matter…watch for unveiling of the DABAK PAC.
Thanks for giving me three short years and a lifetime of memories. No words can thank you enough for allowing me this experience.
* Editors Note: Eric Ethington was the campaign manager for Jim Dabakis’ election to Chairman.