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Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis will take on a second role this winter, that of state senator in downtown Salt Lake City's District 2.
Party delegates from that Senate district, lauded repeatedly Saturday as the state's "most progressive," chose Dabakis over outgoing Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon in the race to replace Ben McAdams, who resigned after being elected Nov. 6 as Corroon's successor.
"I see myself as a peacemaker, not a bomb thrower," said Dabakis after the 67-61, second-round win over Corroon in the County Council chambers.
With Republicans holding a 24-5 advantage in state senate seats, there had been debate within the Democratic Party about what was in its best interest to be cooperative with the GOP majority, or more pugnacious in defending Democratic values.
Dabakis pledged to do both just as he will run the state party and be a state senator at the same time.
"If you worry about me just being a bomb thrower and not understanding how to negotiate and bring people together, you need not worry," said the fiery party chief, known for his willingness to attack the Republican establishment.
"I am a peacemaker, although I will occasionally pull out a quiver [of verbal arrows]. It helps to make the peace," he said, warning Republicans that they will hear from him if they attempt to increase the sales tax on food. "Double the sales tax on food if you like because you have the votes. But don't expect to do it with silence from the Democrats. I'm willing to be a warrior when you need it."
The softer-spoken Corroon had said the party would be better off if he were in the legislative trenches and Dabakis was free, as his party's chair, to throw "grenades" at the Republicans when an issue warranted hardball politics.
"Why not have two of us instead of one?" he asked.
Corroon picked up former County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson's endorsement after she and three other candidates were ousted in the first round of voting. But he didn't pick up all of her votes, which he needed to overcome Dabakis' 12-vote lead after the first round.
Dabakis, who is openly gay, credited his victory to Senate District 2 being the "most progressive, liberal district in the state, my kind of people." Knowing his district residents are so forward-looking enables him, he said, to "speak on more progressive issues that other [senators] couldn't."
For starters, he plans to introduce legislation as soon as possible to require funding for public education to rise automatically with growth in the state.
After making that announcement Saturday, he turned to McAdams and quietly said he wanted to talk soon about education funding. Dabakis also said he planned to contact state Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, simply because "he's my friend."
Dabakis doesn't expect any difficulty serving in the state Senate while running the party, noting that most legislators have jobs in addition to holding office. "I'll keep my day job," he said.
Jim Dabakis • 48
Peter Corroon • 36
Jenny Wilson • 29
Brian Doughty • 12
Robert Comstock • 4
Jon Watkins • 0
Dabakis • 67
Corroon • 61