This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Will he or won't he? Not even Jim Dabakis knows for sure.
But the fact that the Utah state senator is seriously and quite publicly considering running for mayor of Salt Lake City has opened a rift between Dabakis and another of Utah's most prominent gay politicians: Jackie Biskupski.
The pair stood shoulder to shoulder March 16 on the steps of City Hall, where Biskupski, a former state lawmaker who earlier announced her mayoral candidacy, held a news conference blasting two-term Mayor Ralph Becker for endorsing a sales-tax increase linked to the relocation of the Utah State Prison. It appeared as though Dabakis was supporting her.
But this week, the dynamic Dabakis, a former state Democratic Party chairman, said he was seriously considering the mayor's post himself.
The news stunned Biskupski.
"I'm hurt by it," she said Wednesday. "I'm not the kind of person who would be angry about this. But I am frustrated."
She agreed with Dabakis, however, that he had not officially endorsed her.
Among Biskupski's concerns is that a Dabakis candidacy would split the voter base they share. That, she said, could pave the way for a third term for Becker.
"I'm confident women will come my way, and women will continue to support me," she said. "And I'm a more attractive candidate [than Dabakis] to liberal Democrats as well as moderate Republicans."
Biskupski said she has talked with Dabakis and will continue to talk to him. "It will be interesting to see what he does," she said. "I'm still hopeful he will come on board" her campaign.
For his part, Dabakis said he has great respect for Biskupski, as well as City Councilman Luke Garrott, who also has declared his candidacy for mayor.
But both lack financial backing needed to compete with Becker's hefty campaign fund, Dabakis said.
"This is an uphill race against a mayor who is reasonably popular," he said. "This is going to take a candidate who can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars."
It will require a well-funded campaign to hold the mayor accountable for his actions, Dabakis argued, citing the tax-increase proposal and the bicycle lanes on 300 South that he said have angered the business community.
"No mayor," Dabakis said, "should be allowed a third term without a strong challenge."
Concerning Biskupski's comments about splitting a shared base, Dabakis said any notion that either campaign would be rooted in sexual orientation would be demeaning. "I'm certainly not the gay candidate," he said.
He added that Biskupski had invited him to her news conference, but his attendance in no way signaled an endorsement.
Dabakis said he will make his decision on the race in a "short period of time," but would not elaborate. One question he is weighing: Can he, at age 61, run a campaign that will require long hours, seven says a week, until Election Day? And, if successful, does he have the energy for the day-to-day rigors of the mayor's office?
"I'm a sprinter, not a marathoner," he said. "I have to ask myself, 'Where can I be of best service?' "
Garrott said the answer is clear: Dabakis belongs in the Senate, where "he has done good work."
But the councilman said he is offended by Dabakis' insinuation that he and Biskupski are lightweight candidates based on campaign fundraising.
"If he thinks he can buy an election in Salt Lake City, he's got another thing coming," Garrott said. "We are very cognizant that the mayor and Dabakis have a lot of money. We will make that work against them."
Garrott added that he has supported Dabakis in the past but doesn't think he is right for City Hall.
"Jim is a big-picture guy," Garrott said. "The inconvenient details of governance don't seem to interest him much."
The mayor's campaign manager, Matt Lyon, who worked for Dabakis when the senator was Utah Democratic Party chairman, said he and Becker also hold Dabakis in high esteem.
The charismatic Dabakis would bring an added dimension to the mayor's race, Lyon said, but Becker remains confident he can run a strong campaign for re-election.
Lyon added that he "didn't buy" the notion that gays and lesbians would vote en masse for a candidate based on sexual orientation.
"Ralph has a strong record in the LGBT community," he said. "I don't get the sense there is a lock on that community."
Further, Lyon said, Becker continues to have strong support from business people.
In the meantime, the other candidates and political junkies are hanging on Dabakis' next move.