Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Todd Taylor, left, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, and Jim Dabakis, newly elected state party chairman, talk after the election announcements at the Utah State Democratic Committee Organizing Convention at the Salt Lake City Hilton in Salt Lake City on Saturday, July 16, 2011.

SALT LAKE CITY — Todd Taylor, who served as executive director of the Utah Democratic Party for 20 years — longer than any state political party director in the country — passed away in his sleep Monday night.

Taylor, 46, was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of Utah history and politics, said Justin Daniels, Utah Democratic Party political director, who worked closely with Taylor for several years.

"He was my mentor, my friend and my encyclopedia," Daniels said. "He will definitely be missed."

Taylor served as the executive director of the Utah State Democratic Party since 1992. He first became interested in politics when, as a chiropractor, he advocated for the Utah Chiropractic Association. He worked for many election campaigns, including campaign manager for Kem Gardner's gubernatorial campaign in 1992.

About nine months ago, he stepped down from day-to-day party operations to take a position as a senior adviser and strategic thinker to party Chairman Jim Dabakis.

"Todd Taylor was the soul of the Utah Democratic Party," Dabakis said. "His leadership, vision and dry sense of humor will be remembered and honored as long as we have Democrats in Utah."

Taylor served under several party chairs, including Meg Holbrook from 1997 to 2003 and Wayne Holland from 2005 to 2011.

“Todd Taylor was the institutional memory and the spirit of the Utah Democratic Party," Holbrook said. "Any Democrat that has been elected over the past 20 years owes part of that victory to Todd."

Holland added: “Todd Taylor was known across the United States as one of the brightest and most resourceful talents in our party at any level."

The cause of Taylor's death is not known, but may have been a heart attack, Dabakis added. His mother discovered Taylor dead Tuesday morning.

As a former schoolteacher, Utah GOP Congressman Rob Bishop remembers that Taylor was always willing to come to speak to his students about politics and party organization. Bishop was also a former Utah Republican Party chairman and recalled Taylor as "just a good, decent person" whom people in both parties will miss.

"He was always one of the people you just liked to be around," Bishop said.

His sudden death comes as a shock, Bishop added. "We’re sorry to see him go."

Numerous tributes to Taylor are being posted online, including Facebook and Twitter. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, said Democratic state lawmakers had "heavy hearts" over the passing of Taylor.

"He cannot and will not be replaced," Litvack said.