Dabakis jumps into the race for SLC mayor

Posted at 9:45 AM, Apr 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-06 19:45:55-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Sen. Jim Dabakis has announced his intentions to run for mayor of Utah's Capital city.

Dabakis, known as an outspoken liberal lawmaker in the state legislature, has been widely rumored to be running but made it official on Monday.

"I have a vision for Salt Lake City, where I want it to go," he told FOX 13. "I think it can be, should be, must be one of the premiere cities."

Dabakis is joining an increasingly crowded field. In addition to the incumbent Mayor Ralph Becker, there is former Rep. Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake City Councilman Luke Garrott. They're challenging each other to lead an increasingly blue city in a sea of conservative red.

"Just because we're all Democrats doesn't mean we shouldn't be competing," Dabakis said of his challengers.

Dabakis has served what is believed to be the most left-leaning district in the Utah State Legislature since 2012 (when he replaced Sen. Ben McAdams, who resigned to run for Salt Lake County Mayor). Dabakis was also the Utah Democratic Party Chairman, but quit that job last year claiming health reasons.

In an interview with FOX 13 on Monday, Dabakis declined to state what that health problem was but insisted he had doctor's approval (a "clean bill of health") to run and serve as mayor, if elected.

"It was a problem and now it's not an issue so it's full speed ahead," he said.

In a statement Monday, Garrott focused on Dabakis' health and reputation for having a short attention span.

"It’s a real statement on Ralph that so many candidates are entering the field. When a mayor neglects the issues of everyday residents, it opens the door for loud characters like Jim Dabakis who are always seeking the spotlight," Garrott wrote.

"I hope his entry means that Jim’s health has improved and I welcome him to the race. With the mayor’s office a four year term, I hope Jim can stay interested in Salt Lake City--or anything--for that long."

Garrott accused Becker and Dabakis of "speaking to the privileged few." He planned his own campaign announcement for April 18.

Biskupski said she spoke with Dabakis on Monday and welcomed him to the race. She and Dabakis are openly gay, and noted an LGBT mayor could be historic in Utah, of all places. Biskupski said both she and Dabakis agreed to keep their campaign civil.

"There's a lot of respect between us," she said. "We don't want division in the LGBT community."

Dabakis appeared at one of Biskupski's campaign events three weeks ago in which she criticized Becker over prison relocation plans. Dabakis, who hugged her when he stepped up to the microphones and stood alongside her, insisted he was not endorsing her campaign.

"You know, I really wanted him to support my candidacy," she told FOX 13. "I feel very strongly -- still -- that I will win this race, that the voters are very interested in me as a candidate."

Biskupski has run an aggressive campaign with billboards carpeting the city. Meanwhile, Becker's campaign said Monday it welcomed Dabakis to the race and looked forward to the August primary.

"I think having Jim in the race adds an element of fun and engagement," said Becker's campaign manager, Matt Lyon.

Dabakis brings to the race a lot of funding and fundraising power, but faces a hurdle with the polling popularity of Becker. The incumbent mayor also has a significant campaign war chest. Campaign filing records showed Becker with $314,000 on hand. Dabakis and Biskupski both told FOX 13 they had about $100,000.

The candidates are competing for an August primary and a general election in November.