Democratic candidates go head-to-head in primaries for chance to unseat Sen. Mike Lee

Posted at 2:48 PM, Jun 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-28 16:48:32-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Both are democrats and both want to unseat Republican Senator Mike Lee, but the similarities between democratic candidates Jonathan Swinton and Misty Snow mostly end there.

Snow could become the first transgender woman in Utah to win a major party nomination for the U.S. Senate.  It would, perhaps, be a first for the entire country.

“We always assume that the people who are really concerned about me being trans are the same type of people who wouldn’t vote for someone with a ‘D’ next to their name,” Snow said when asked if being transgender was having a major impact on her campaign.

If Snow claims her party’s support, the bigger task awaits: convincing a traditionally conservative state to vote a transgender democrat into office.

Snow may not get that far.  She faces Jonathan Swinton, a self-described Mormon democrat, in Tuesday's primary,

“There is room for a Mormon in the democratic party,” said Swinton.

Swinton is also new to politics, but as he touts in his campaign, he is not new to compromise.  He is a marriage counselor who founded his own practice.  It has grown to include offices in Sandy, Bountiful and North Ogden.  As a marriage counselor, he says, finding common ground is part of his daily life.  He believes it makes him uniquely suited to represent the state of Utah in our nation’s capital.

However, he may need to find common ground within his own party on the traditionally hot button issue of abortion.

“I don’t agree with abortions by convenience,” Swinton said.

He does back abortions as an option in cases of incest, rape, danger to the mother or when a fetus is not viable.  Though the stance could be described as pro-choice, Swinton says he has no plan to take on Roe vs. Wade.

“I think as a legislator, I can be much more productive on helping women and helping to reduce abortions than renewing a fight that hasn’t gone anywhere for almost a half century,” said Swinton.

He favors working toward equal pay for women, better family leave and better access to healthcare and contraceptives as a means for reducing abortions.

“On issues that democrats care about, such as women’s reproductive rights, I’m pro-choice,” said Snow, drawing a distinction between herself and Swinton.  Though passionate about several women’s issues, Snow says her top priority lays elsewhere.

“So many people they’re not making enough to pay for their rent, or feed their families and they’re just scraping by,” said Snow.

Snow is a cashier at the Harmon’s grocery store in Taylorsville, and she says her working class lifestyle gives her firsthand knowledge of a struggle many feel.  She backs raising minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Swinton, a business owner, agrees minimum wage should rise, but not as much.

“I’ve suggested a raise to $10 or $12 an hour.  I think it’s a much more realistic number that won’t have unattended consequences,” said Swinton.

Swinton and Snow will learn their fate when Utah democrats head to the polls on June 28.