Senator Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City) announced Tuesday that he will not be seeking re-election to the Utah State Senate in 2018. Utah’s only openly gay representative at the state legislature was appointed by Democratic delegates in December 2012 to replace outgoing Ben McAdams when he became Salt Lake County Mayor.
“I will not be running for re-election to the Utah State Senate in 2018,” Dabakis wrote in a statement to the media. “I want to thank the people of Salt Lake City for giving me the greatest honor of my life: allowing me to represent them.”
Dabakis said he believes that “people should be elected, serve with all their heart and soul, then make way for other citizens.”
“I have had six years of pouring myself into the Senate job. I have left nothing on the table. I am grateful that I was able to play a part in bringing the ‘homos and the Momos’ together with the historic 2015 LGBTQ non-discrimination law; help support and reorganize the arts and culture structure in the state; be a fierce watchdog in protecting our state’s precious lands; and perhaps it has been my greatest task to stand toe-to-toe with the all-encompassing political machine that runs the state.
In a video released Tuesday on his decision, he said he feels his most important job was to “speak truth to power to the 30- to 40-percent of Utah citizens who feel like they have no voice.”
“From LGBT youth who feel alone and isolated, to hero educators disrespected for generations, to Native Americans fighting to protect sacred land, to many who believe there is no shame in enjoying adult beverages, to our Dreamers who are every bit [as] American as I, and to the women across Utah [who] are not given the same wages as their male counterparts for the same work and are belittled for demanding equal treatment,” he wrote in his release.
He said he enjoyed the people working on Utah’s Capitol Hill.
“My colleagues in the Senate have been wonderful people to serve with,” he wrote. “While most of them are dead-wrong politically, that has never interfered with me having warm personal relations with each senator. I respect their hard work and sincerity. In the six years I’ve served in the Legislature, I have never spoken a word in anger with another Senator. I thank them for their congeniality (I am sure I have irritated them more than once).”
He does, however, believe many should be replaced.
“That said, I hope most of them get dethroned in their next election by a new generation of progressive Utahns that would welcome openness, diversity and a fresh approach to the State’s challenges,” he wrote.
He quoted Thomas Watkins for those who fight in Utah for progressive causes and rarely win.
“If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But, a person flattened by an opponent can get up again. But a person flattened by conformity stays down for good.”
He is thankful that he has many supporters in the state.
“In the darkest days of the Legislative Session, there would invariably be words of encouragement,” he wrote. “I would find great inspiration and solace from strangers in the grocery store or movie theater, kind words in emails from constituents, and heartfelt texts from friends. These messages inspired me and buoyed me up. To you, my supporters all across Utah, and most of all to my husband Stephen, I say your love and support has meant the world to me.”
He said he has no regrets for riding the “wild roller coaster” of Utah politics.
“I leave the Senate with gratitude in my heart, and optimism in the spirit of the people of Utah. I leave with no regrets. I have given every ounce of energy I possess to the work. I look forward to a few months of reflection and breath-catching. I don’t know what the world holds for me, but I can’t wait for the next great adventure.”
He said he would continue his work for progressive causes in the state.
“Clearly, the war for good government in Utah has not been won. I will continue to lead our growing army of 60,000 reasonable Utahns, who want to take our state government back from the machine. I will be very active with the newsletter, social media, and my website, SenatorDabakis.com”
“I leave ever optimistic about Utah’s future,” Dabakis tweeted as he announced the decision.
Dabakis speaks to his constituents in a video: