Jim Dabakis resigned from the state chair of the Democratic Party on March 24 due to health problems. The Democratic Party is now looking for a new candidate to fill the position.
Anna Thompson is the communications director for the Utah Democratic Party and said Dabakis’s health problems developed quickly but refused to comment further regarding his well-being.
She said while Dabakis has resigned from the chair, he will seek re-election for his Utah Senate seat.
“As it stands now, the party staff will stay on and keep things moving forward,” Thompson said. “Jose Valadez, our intrepid vice chair, will serve as acting chair.”
Thompson said the party will vote for a new chair on April 26 at the state convention in Salt Lake City.
The chair has the responsibility of being the face and the voice of Democrats across the state.
“In an election year, you are working with a lot of candidates, you are traveling the state, you are going to county conventions and you are kind of acting as that most prominent voice on the behalf of the party,” Thompson said.
Vince Wickwar, chair of the Cache County Democrats, said the chair of the Utah Democrats is also involved in getting candidates on the ballot and raising money for the party. He said Dabakis set a high standard for the incoming chair by being an effective spokesman, which in turn brought in money to expand the paid positions for the party.
“Jim was very, very good at raising money which then can be used to employ people. The staff has gone from three people to 15 since he was in office," Wickwar said. “He has attracted a number of young people with a strong political background who are good at analytically looking at what is needed in the party.”
Rob Miller, the former treasurer and vice president for the state Democratic Party, officially announced his candidacy for the chair Monday morning. Because of his years of experience as Wayne Holland’s vice president, Miller said he is qualified to fulfill the Dabakis’s open position.
“I have helped bring forth probably the majority of major candidates and traveled them all across Utah,” Miller said. “I have probably been to more county conventions than any officer, excluding Wayne Holland, in the last decade.”
Holland was the chairman of the party from 2005 to 2011.
Wickwar said Miller is well known in Utah because of how many Democrats he has gotten on the ballot.
“He mans the phones back at headquarters calling people all over the state asking people to run,” Wickwar said. “He is probably the most effective person we have had doing that in the last decade and has done in it on a number of the elections.”
Miller said while Utah is a mostly Republican state, Democratic politicians such as Scott and Jim Matheson and Jan Graham have been received well.
“I want Utah to remember when they elect Democrats, they love us,” Miller said.
He wants to attract not only those who do vote, Miller said, but those who should vote to the Democratic Party.
“With this unfortunate situation with Jim Dabakis having to resign, I am qualified to do the job and I am excited to do so,” Miller said.