A bevy of Salt Lake County’s most prominent stars in the Salt Lake County Democratic Party jostled for a prime seat in the Utah Senate on Saturday, with Jim Dabakis emerging as victorious.
Dabakis, chairman of the Utah State Democratic Party, bested Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon by a vote of 67 to 61. Other contenders for the seat were former Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson and Rep. Brian Doughty, D-Salt Lake, who lost his bid for re-election.
The competition for the spot vacated by Ben McAdams, who was successful in a tightly-run contest for Salt Lake County mayor, was fierce in the weeks leading up to the vote by 150 party delegates.
The contest for the coveted seat — just one of five out of 29 that will be held by Democrats — garnered a lot of attention early on and generated interest top party officials said they wished had played out in every district race.
In July 2011, Dabakis became the first openly gay person to lead a state party in Utah. He is one of the co-founders of Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center.
Dabakis’ stint as party chairman has been more high profile than many who have previously held that position. His efforts have included successful attempts to reach out to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to join the Democratic Party.
Before Saturday’s vote, Dabakis said he would stay on as state party chairman if he won McAdams’ seat and use his higher profile as a member of the Legislature to help Utahns see how the majority Republican Party differs on issues.
He said serving both as leader of his party and a state lawmaker is no different than other members of the part-time Legislature holding jobs off Capitol Hill. “It just happens my day job is Democratic Party chair,” Dabakis said.
McAdams won a hard-fought race for Salt Lake County mayor against Republican Mark Crockett, a former Salt Lake County councilman. He was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to fill an earlier vacancy and was elected to a four-year term in 2010.
Other contenders for the remaining two years of McAdams’ term included former Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chairman Weston Clarke, attorney Will Carlson, and teacher Robert Comstock, who ran last year for the state party chairmanship.