HRC Blog

Utah Elects First Openly Gay Party Leader

The Utah Democratic Party elected Jim Dabakis, an openly gay man, as its new state party chairman Saturday during the party’s state convention in Salt Lake City. Dabakis, an art dealer and co-founder of Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, is believed to be Utah’s first openly gay man to lead a major party.

Dabakis defeated Robert Comstock, 528 to 71 votes. He will replace three-term party chairman Wayne Holland Jr. His sexual orientation did not surface as an issue during his nomination because "people are broad-minded in Utah, and they want to know if you can do the job or not," Dabakis told the Salt Lake City Tribune.

He also made a point to reach out to the Utah-based The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints, who seek to be a part of the "normal, moderate, reasonable" Democratic Party in light of splintering in the GOP between the Tea Party and more moderate Republicans, Dabakis said to the Tribune.

Delegates also narrowly elected Brian Doughty, who is also openly gay, to replace state Rep. Jackie Biskupski, the House’s only openly gay member, along with Jim Judd as vice chairman, Paul Pugmire as secretary, and Rob Miller as treasure.

Currently Rick Palacio of Colorado and Ray Buckley of New Hampshire are the only other openly LGBT statewide party chairs in the country.  Both are Democrats.  Bob Kabel, who is also openly gay, is the Chairman of the District of Columbia Republican Committee.

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