The Utah Democratic Party on Saturday voted in favor of electing as its new chairman an art dealer who is believed to be the first openly gay leader of a political party in the state.
Jim Dabakis, co-founder of Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, was elected to lead Utah’s Democratic Party, making him the first openly gay head of a major party in Utah.
The convention, held on Saturday in Salt Lake City, attracted more than 1,000 people. Dabakis handily beat his opponent for the top office, Robert Comstock, with a 528 to 71 vote. He will replace outgoing state chairman Wayne Holland Jr.
Dabakis said he wanted to focus on making the party inclusive to all races, genders, sexual orientations and religions. He called Mormons in Utah a “tremendous resource,” and invited them to join the Democratic Party for solutions to everyday problems and an alternative to the old-style of governance that is present in Utah.
“When I said all people, I meant all people,” Dabakis said. “I want to speak directly to the LDS people in our state. We want your spirit and we want to earn your votes.”
Dabakis said his sexual orientation was common knowledge, but came up during the nomination process.
“The whole gay thing just simply did not surface as an issue,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune. “People are broad-minded in Utah, and they want to know if you can do the job or not.”