State Senator, Senate District 2; Minority Caucus Manager
Salt Lake City, Avenues, University
Jim Dabakis came to Utah from Massachusetts to attend college in 1971. Going to Provo was a necessity as there are no good institutions of higher learning in Massachusetts. He has called Utah home ever since.
Dabakis was involved in radio and television from 1976 to 1989. He worked for all three major network television stations in Salt Lake City as well as numerous talk radio stations. Dabakis was recognized with national awards during his time as a journalist and talk show host. He was a guest on several national television shows including NBC’s Today Show, CBS Nightly News and CNN. Dabakis was known as “Mr. Democrat” during his 13 years on Utah talk radio. Starting as a volunteer intern at a small radio station, Dabakis eventually ended up as a partner with a small chain of stations that he sold in the mid-1990’s.
Sensing opportunity in 1989 with the imminent collapse of Communism, Dabakis quit on-air broadcasting and moved to Eastern Europe with his partner (now husband) Stephen. He spent most of the next 20 years in Russia, China and living abroad, successfully developing a business around his passion—art. As Communism was collapsing, Dabakis began funding bright, emerging capitalists. Jim Dabakis has met a payroll every week, for 30 years, although he admits in the early years there were times when it was not easy. “Several times I asked our employees to hold their checks over the weekend while I hustled up cash.”
Dabakis is passionate about equality and was the Chair for the Utah Pride Center and the founding Chair of Equality Utah.
Jim has remained an active Democrat through the years, giving support and encouragement to office holders and candidates. He began his political service as a volunteer for candidate Scott Matheson during his first run for Governor of Utah in 1976. In July of 2011, Jim was elected Chair of the Utah Democratic Party. He called that full-time job (which paid $1 a year) “one of the most engaging, fun, challenging and exciting thing I have ever done. I love Utah Democrats!”
In December of 2012, Dabakis was appointed to the Utah State Senate. Delegates selected him to fill the unexpired two-year term of Mayor Ben McAdams. Senator Dabakis is serving on the Executive Appropriations Committee and Senate Rules Committee. Additionally, he is also a member of the Senate Education Standing and Interim Committees, and the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee. Running for re-election for a four-year term in 2014, Dabakis received 75% of the vote and managed to raise over $146,000 for his campaign without accepting a dime from any PACs, corporations or special interests. He received contributions from more than 1,150 private citizens – which is a record number of contributors.