Democrat Jim Dabakis shocked the Utah political establishment this week by announcing his immediate resignation as Democratic Party Chairman because of health reasons.
Dabakis says it was not an easy decision to leave the party chairmanship in favor of keeping his seat in the Utah Senate.
“I love being party chair,” says the often bombastic Dabakis. “I was a key for me to travel everywhere in the state, meet with people and lay out the gospel of being a Democrat. It must be the way Republicans feel when they hold a statewide office.”
And what is that gospel? Dabakis laments he is unable to finish that part of the job – communicating what makes Utah Democrats different than those in other states.
“People in Utah unite on one thing, and that is the federal government is a mess. But, Utah Democrats are different than Republicans in how we approach that problem. Utah Republicans have a kind of isolationist approach, while Democrats want to deal with Washington inaction in a practical, pragmatic way by saying ‘let’s work together.’”
Dabakis says he leaves the party in good shape, having grown the party infrastructure and budget to over $1 million.
“I just wish I could have been there to see the ball over the finish line.”
Mixed metaphor aside, Dabakis is adamant Utah Democrats will come back to prominence when the gerrymandering of legislative districts ends.
“My Senate seat is so safe it’s absurd. That is not healthy for the system. To take back our democracy, we are going to have to make races competitive.”
Dabakis says he’s confident the party will find someone with the right qualifications to replace him, and that’s primarily fundraising.
“If you can’t look someone in the eye and ask them for $10,000 or $15,000, then you’re not going to be successful.”
Dabakis says he hopes the legacy he leaves behind is one of respect and understanding.
“I hope I created an atmosphere where people are comfortable with their differences. There’s plenty of room in the Democratic Party for people on both sides of the gay marriage debate. If we can focus on the 90% we agree on, then we can be successful.”