Utah Dems elect two gay leaders
Published: August 1, 2011 11:51AM
Updated: July 18, 2011 11:31AM
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Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Jim Dabakis, candidate for Utah Democratic party chairman, center, speaks with the Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle, right, and Bing Kerwood at the Democratic convention at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday.

Jim Dabakis has been picked as chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, making him the first openly gay person to lead a major political party in Utah. Also at Saturday’s State Democratic Convention, Brian Doughty, who also is gay, won a close race to replace former Rep. Jackie Biskupski in House District 30.

“I am excited that the LGBT community will have a voice again on the Hill because I’ve seen what a difference it makes to have someone on the floor who can articulate a personal message on some of the issues that arise,” Biskupski, Utah’s first openly gay lawmaker, said Saturday. “That is really important, especially during this critical civil-rights time for the LGBT community.”

Dabakis, an art dealer, helped start both Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, the state's leading LGBT organizations. But he’s made it clear his focus as Democratic party leader will be on all the party’s issues, from labor to immigration. He also is making a push to reach out to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I want to talk to LDS people and I want to tell them that we want them in our party, we need them in our party,” Dabakis said Saturday. “We recognize that they have a great deal to contribute. ... As chair, my commitment is to make sure that LDS people feel comfortable in our Democrat tent. Sometimes, we haven’t been as warm and as inviting as we should be.”