Salt Lake City Councilman Derek Kitchen announces bid for Dabakis’ state Senate seat

Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune Salt Lake City Council member Derek Kitchen takes the oath of office administered by city recorder Cindi Mansell during a ceremony at the City & County Building in Salt Lake City, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Kitchen is joined by his husband, Moudi Sbeity, for the event.

First-term Salt Lake City Councilman Derek Kitchen announced his candidacy Tuesday for the state Senate District 2 seat of outgoing Sen. Jim Dabakis.

He joins retired University of Utah political scientist Tim Chambless and attorney and community activist Nadia Mahallati, who had already filed declarations that they would gather signatures to run for the office.

Just last week, after six years in the Legislature, Dabakis announced plans not to seek another term.

“This is something that kind of happened out of the blue last week,” Kitchen said. “I’ve received probably four dozen calls, emails, text messages, folks from my community and people in my inner circle.

“I spent the last seven days putting a lot of deliberative thought into this,” he continued. “What really made me decide to do this was really all the major successes the city has had in the last several years have included components of the state.”

Mahallati, the daughter of an Iranian immigrant, has “an inborn passion to fight for marginalized communities that she’ll bring to the Utah Senate,” she said on her campaign website, electnadia.com.

“As a results-oriented progressive, she can find common ground without compromising our core values. She is a Democrat who will work year-round to help build our party and be a progressive voice for everyday Utahns across the state,” the website said.

Chambless, who retired from the U. in October after 35 years teaching more than 30,000 students, said he wants “to be a voice for the ignored and overlooked.”

That means everyone from refugees to single parents to stretched middle-class families to struggling students, said Chambless, who previously worked for Gov. Scott Matheson, Rep. Wayne Owens and former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson.

Kitchen, 29, who with his husband co-owns a Middle Eastern food company, was elected to represent Council District 4 in central Salt Lake City in 2015. A native of South Jordan, he’s a University of Utah graduate and has lived in the city since 2006. He and his husband were among three couples who successfully sued in 2013 to challenge the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

On the nonpartisan City Council, Kitchen has embraced affordable housing, economic development, improved transit and environmental quality as top issues. He currently chairs the board of the city’s Redevelopment Agency, composed of City Council members, which guides and promotes community redevelopment in the city.

Kitchen said he was filing his candidate papers officially Tuesday and planned to pursue both routes to getting on the ballot — gathering supporting signatures and seeking the party’s nomination at its April 14 convention.

“What I hope I can bring is the experience of local government to the state Legislature,” Kitchen said. “I have established a strong relationship with Republicans and Democrats alike. I think I will offer a very unique perspective and approach to the state Senate.”

He said if elected he would continue to prioritize housing affordability, “quality growth,” better transportation options, air quality and public lands protection.

“This is very progressive district,” Kitchen said. “I need to be talking about things that matter to progressives in Utah, and that includes things like medical marijuana, education, how we can roll out pre-K statewide,” he said.

Mahallati, on her website, said she would champion a living wage, universal health care, paid parental leave and better access to child care.

She supports efforts to clean up the air, protect public lands, protect and expand LGBTQ rights and increase affordable housing.