Utah Policy/KSL Insider Survey: Grading Dabakis’ Tenure

Jim Dabakis resigned as chairman of the Utah Democratic Party this week. We asked our “political insiders” and readers to grade his time heading up that group.

Selected anonymous comments:

“Finally a Democrat with a spine.”

“What did he do?”

“I sure wish he would resign from the Senate as well. He certainly does not represent Utah values!”

“All he did was call Republicans names. He did nothing to explain the Democrat positions. He was unprofessional and juvenile.”

“Too much bluster, not enough doing. Democrats are in decline more now than when he first took over, if that’s possible.”

“He managed to get himself elected as a Senator, then seems to have lost interest in the party job. Left a group of teenagers in control of the office, and was at the helm for the worst turnout for a slate of candidates in 3 decades. Too much short-term pulpit pounding, no long term planning. RIP Todd Taylor.”

“He made things a lot more fun. And, he told it like it is without mincing words.”

“Jim’s biggest accomplishment was outreach to LDS Democrats (or fence-sitting Republicans” to help them feel more welcome in a party that has sometimes seemed hostile or resentful of the LDS Church and its members.”

“If the party needs to attract more Latter-day Saints, why would did they decide to have an openly gay man lead them? He reinforces the perception, whether deserved or not, that Utah democrats do not reflect mainstream Utah values. Instead, their leader makes them appear as liberal as the democrats in New York or California. If they want to attract me to their party, or just get my vote, they should choose a leader who embodies my moderate, family-centric values. Why not pick someone who has been married 30 years, has five kids and fifteen grand kids, and who is a small business owner.”

“He did well getting Jim Matheson re-elected but it was too hard to be both party chair and senator. I don’t think that served his party very well.”

“No individual, regardless of party, should serve concurrently as a party chair and as a state legislator. The less partisan politicking that can be withdrawn from the policymaking process the better. Utah Democrats were disserved by an individual serving in both capacities.”

“The State Party under Dabakis was purely about Dabakis and his career. He threw every other candidate under the bus and turned the county parties against the state party. Now maybe they stand a chance at winning some elections.”

“Grade off of results. Dems in the legislature at all-time low. He talks a lot. But no results.”

“Leadership is giving people hope not always despair. JB always was inflammatory never inspiring. If a partisan comment on the sunrise was called for, he gave it.”

“His rhetoric was divisive bombastic and was as bad for the Democrats as the tea party is for the Republicans.”

“He brought a refreshing level of humor to the post. He helped make the fight for marriage equality have a friendly face. He was often incredibly biased about Republicans, but what do you expect from the Democratic chair? He did it was a good sense of humor.”

“Articulate; timely and considered commentaries and communications showed Dabakis as a thinking leader of the minority party with emphasis on thinking and not on apologizing, accepting marginalization or pointless defensiveness evinced by the usual Dem party chairs.”

“Excellent at calling out issues and rallying the base. Hyperbole was his best friend. Election results dismal.””His handling of the federal decision on same-sex marriage will harm Democrats for decades.”

“Jim Dabakis was a telegenic and engaging spokesman, a prolific fundraiser that helped tremendously to build party infrastructure, and made great strides in helping his party find more common ground with the LDS community. For those accomplishments he deserves praise. But once he decided to run for state senator he was noticeably less effective while being pulled in two directions by two different jobs with responsibilities that competed with one another. He’s seemed a little all sizzle, no steak as a senator thus far. And from a purely numbers standpoint, Democrats have lost nearly a dozen seats in the Legislature during his tenure. Some might blame the ‘shellacking’ 2010 midterms where D’s all across the US lost seats, redistricting, and the Romney effect in 2012, but the best leaders don’t blame circumstances and acknowledge the buck stops with them and I haven’t ever quite heard Dabakis hold himself accountable for those events.”

“Losing legislative and council seats during tenure to make Dems smaller than ever before is not doing a good job. Dabakis certainly did have a loud mouth though which people seem to care about more than actual, real results.”

“I thought he led the Party well. He played the barking circus announcer at times but that’s part of the job description. He was visible. He was active. He was effective.”

“Democrats failed to resonate with Utah voters, lost ground in the legislature and will likely sink to historic lows after the elections this year. Is there any other measurement of failure?”

“Kept the Democrats in the limelight, but not always in such a way as to build respect. Overall, I’d say we need more high-profile politicians with a sense of humor like his. Politicians in general are prone to pomposity, and a one-party state like Utah even more than usual; Dabakis popped a lot of those inflated egos.”

“He successfully raised money, delivered colorful public commentary and challenged the status quo. I don’t agree with many of his points, but he is an effective orator.”

“I don’t agree with Jim on many issues but you could never find more genuine dedicated, tenacious leader then Jim. We wish him the best and a speedy recovery.”

“Jim was always good for a great one-liner and a chuckle. He will be missed in that role.”

“He was very effective in getting the Democrat party message out. His effectiveness and devotion to that role severely compromised his ability to succeed in his State Senate role. Thus, grading solely his role as chairman of the party, he does well.””I begrudgingly give him an A+. He’s abrasive and arrogant, but he ‘s been an incredibly good spokesperson for his party.”

“Jim is both bombastic and likeable, but he actually lost ground in the legislature during his tenure.”

“I give a C because he represented Salt Lake City Democrats well, but he didn’t do much to help the more moderate Democrats around the state. His celebrations following Judge Shelby’s ruling were understandable from a personal point of view, but also didn’t help Democrats in Utah for the 2014 ballot. His dual role of Party Chair and State Senator also never seemed completely comfortable. Dabakis is an extremely intelligent and capable leader, and will continue to represent his Senate District well. As a spokesperson for all of Utah’s Democrats, though, he left a little to be desired.”

“He raised a lot of money, but succeeded in keeping Utah Democrats on the far left of the political spectrum and deep in the wilderness of obsolescence. There’s a reason that Utah Republicans continue to expand their majority each year and that legislative Democrats’ phones remain quiet during the session: lobbyists know that the legislative Dems have no influence to get stuff done.”

“He is unique and a hard worker but his leadership of the Democratic party did not make it mainstream or increase the public support.”

“One thing that Jim has done tremendously is bring some spirit back into the party. I also thinks that he understands better how difficult it is for Democrats to run in Utah – we’re a Republican state. Unless you’ve been square in the middle of it, you don’t understand how Republican we really are, and what a battle it really is.”

“If running a political party is about winning, then he gets a solid F. If it is about commenting on everything and the Tribune publishing it, he gets an A. If it is about expanding the Democrat party? He gets an F. If it is about getting more people to register as Democrats? He gets an F.”

“Jim did a solid job of bringing attention to currently irrelevant party on state issue in Utah. It will be hard to fill his shoes as the Democrat bench is pretty short right now.”