'I'm in': Retiring state Sen. Jim Dabakis joins 2019 race for Salt Lake City mayor

By Katie McKellar, KSL | Updated - Dec. 11, 2018 at 11:57 a.m. | Posted - Dec. 11, 2018 at 9:35 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The 2019 Salt Lake City mayor's race is already shaping up to be a crowded one.

After mulling whether to join two other candidates already lined up to challenge Mayor Jackie Biskupski next year, retiring state Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, announced Tuesday via Facebook Live his decision.

"I say, 'I'm in,'" the senator said.

Dabakis, known as one the Utah Legislature's most outspoken Democrats, made his announcement while strolling in front of Rose Park Elementary School, where he said he had been "inspired" after volunteering weekly to spend time with kindergartners and fifth-graders.

"I have done nothing but talk education, education, education in the Legislature," Dabakis said, "because I believe we're letting our children down and we are not doing what we should be doing, particularly at-risk kids.

"The city doesn't directly deal with schools, but the atmosphere that's sent and the priorities," Dabakis continued. "Mayors ought to be doing things for the next generation as well as this week and this month."

Dabakis early this year announced he wouldn't run again for the Utah Senate, after six years representing Salt Lake City.

Now, Dabakis has his eyes on the mayor's seat, joining former Salt Lake City Councilman Stan Penfold and businessman David Ibarra in the race, still about a year away.

"It's going to be a fun year in 2019," Dabakis said. "I hope that you'll consider well your vote."

It's not the first time Dabakis has eyed the seat. He was briefly a candidate in 2015, but withdrew and endorsed Biskupski.

Biskupski has said she plans to run for a second term next year.

Dabakis said he's not "running against anybody," but rather "I'm running for my vision and my view of the city."

"I hope a bunch of other people will get in. This ought to be democracy at its best," he said. "If you're thinking about getting in, jump in the water."

Dabakis said Salt Lake City's mayor should do three things: be a "great ambassador" for the city, know how to run a "$300-million-a-year business," and be thinking "many years ahead."

Dabakis said the mayor needs to "constantly" lobby the Legislature on issues like air pollution, transportation and affordable housing. As mayor, Dabakis pledged to seek out "the best professionals humanly possible" to help run the city.

"One thing I've learned in politics is issues are really important, but it's the heart and soul of the candidate that you need to know," Dabakis said. If you know where somebody is on a checklist of issues, that’s good, but if you know where somebody's heart is, if you know where their integrity is, then whatever the decision will be, and you might not always agree with them, you can depend that they're going to do the right thing."

Behind Dabakis, there might already be a fourth candidate for the mayor of Utah's capital.

David Garbett, who recently left his position as executive director of the Pioneer Park Coalition, has filed to open a personal campaign committee to raise money for a possible bid, but hasn't officially announced a campaign.

Katie McKellar

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