Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
FILE - Salt Lake City Councilman Derek Kitchen speaks at the grand opening of the Community Connections Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. In the middle of his first term on the Salt Lake City Council, Derek Kitchen announced Tuesday he's running for outgoing Sen. Jim Dabakis' Utah Senate seat.

SALT LAKE CITY — In the middle of his first term on the Salt Lake City Council, Derek Kitchen announced Tuesday he's running for outgoing Sen. Jim Dabakis' Utah Senate seat.

“I am running to be a strong voice for the residents of Salt Lake City in the Utah Legislature,” Kitchen said in an emailed announcement Tuesday. “Many of the issues I’ve been working on in the City Council also need a champion on Capitol Hill.”

Kitchen, who was first elected to the City Council in 2015, joins University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless and attorney Nadia Mahallati, who have also filed declarations to gather signatures in their bid for the Senate District 2 seat.

The pool of candidates comes after Dabakis, who has served six years in the Legislature, announced last week he would not seek re-election this year.

Kitchen said Dabakis' announcement came as a "surprise" last week, but since then he's been mulling a run after receiving encouragement from supporters to "throw my hat in the ring."

“One thing I’ve learned in my service in the Salt Lake City Council is that the Utah Legislature plays an important role in the big decisions facing Salt Lake City," Kitchen said. "From addressing homelessness and crime in our downtown to the long-range economic development effort in the northwest quadrant, it’s clear that Salt Lake City residents need to have strong representation in the Utah Legislature. I’m running to be that voice.”

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Kitchen, who is openly gay, gained a high profile in the state as a plaintiff in the federal court case that ended up overturning Utah's same-sex marriage ban. Dabakis is also openly gay.

Kitchen said he intends to both gather signatures and seek the Democratic Party's nomination at its convention in April.

Kitchen said he's built "incredibly strong relationships with Republicans and Democrats alike" in the Legislature, and he hopes to bring leadership to Capitol Hill that he said Salt Lake City is "desperate" for.