SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Jim Dabakis, an outspoken Democrat from Salt Lake City, announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election this year after serving six years in the Legislature.
"The citizen Legislature works only if people serve with 100 (percent) energy — then get the hell out. I leave ever optimistic about Utah’s future," Dabakis tweeted, also expressing that he's "grateful to the people of SLC for allowing me to represent them."
Dabakis told reporters he hasn't "ruled anything in or out," including a run for Salt Lake City mayor next year. Mayor Jackie Biskupski, also a Democrat, has said she plans to seek a second term.
Asked about the possibility of facing Dabakis, Biskupski said, "Jim and I are friends, and he would tell me to stay focused on working on behalf of the city and not worry about anybody who might be running down the road.”
In an email to supporters, Dabakis pledged to keep working to change Utah.
"Clearly, the war for a reasonable Utah has not been won. I will continue to lead our army of 60,000 forward-looking people all across our beloved state," he said, promising to be even more active on social media.
During his six years in the Legislature, Dabakis said he "left nothing on the table," singling out his work on the LGBT nondiscrimination law passed in 2015, as well as arts and culture organizations, and being "a fierce watchdog" for public lands.
"It has been my job to be the Senate voice for so many people, all across Utah, who feel as if they do not have representation, those that feel our system is rigged against people like them," he said.
Dabakis won the seat vacated in December 2012 by now-Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams after his election to the county post in a special election, beating then-Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and others.
In 2011, Dabakis became the first openly gay leader of a state party as chairman of the Utah Democratic Party. He is a co-founder of Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center.
Dabakis continued to serve as the state Democratic chairman until 2014, when he stepped down for health reasons. He was elected to a four-year term that November.
Dabakis said his decision not to run again was made during the three-day holiday weekend but was something he had thought about for some time. He had filed with the state to gather voter signatures for a place on the ballot.
Dabakis said whoever replaces him in Senate District 2 "needs to be a loudmouth," but he wasn't interested in suggesting who should succeed him. He said he timed his announcement "to give other people an opportunity to get in."15 comments on this story
Dabakis joked during the Senate leadership's daily media availability that he would work to defeat "almost all of them" but also said he appreciated his relationships in the Senate, even though he knew they were "irritated with me regularly."
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said Dabakis "has raised the voice of opposition at times. We welcomed that. He represents a constituency that needs to be heard." He said he wished Dabakis would stay.
Dabakis said he was sad there's not another gay person currently in the Legislature. That's important, he said, describing an instance where a conservative lawmaker responded to a gay slur directed at Dabakis by shouting he was a senator.
Contributing: Katie McKellar