On June 28, Misty K. Snow became the first ever transgender Senate candidate for a major party after winning the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Utah Senator Mike Lee in November. She easily beat her competition, Jonathan Swinton, 59.4 percent to 40.6 percent, reports Politico.
Snow won the primary by going far left of Swinton, who she criticized for supporting limits on abortion. As for Swinton, a marriage therapist, he was disappointed with the results and thought that he would have had a better chance in the general election in November. Snow had an uphill climb, since Utah hasn’t had a Democratic senator in four decades. That continued on November 8, as Senator Mike Lee won re-election with 67 percent of the vote, according to Associated Press projections. Snow earned 28 percent of the vote.
Here’s a look at Snow’s life and career.
1. Snow Started Living Openly as a Transgender Woman in 2014
Snow was born in Salt Lake City and works as a grocery store clerk. She started living openly as a transgender woman in October 2014, just a few months after she started hormone treatments.
“She has been through a lot in a pretty short time,” her mother, Linda Pace, told The Salt Lake City Tribune. “I just said people can be kinda mean. And she said, ‘I know that and I think it is a good time. That is what my gut says, I should do it.'”
Pace said that she is proud of her daughter and hope she wins. “Ultimately, my hope is that people that deserve rights get them, because I’ve seen a lot of barriers even with her process,” Pace said.
“I’m not running because I’m transgender. I just happen to be transgender,” Snow told the Tribune.
2. Snow Is a Progressive & Bernie Sanders Supporter
Snow decided to run because she was not pleased with Swinton, who called himself a “conservative Democrat” in an op-ed last fall. She describes herself as a progressive and supported Bernie Sanders. On her website, Snow says she supports a $15/hour minimum wage, wants to tax pollutants to help clean the air, wants to keep public lands open, calls for the federal legalization of marijuana and calls for Wall Street reform. She also wants legislation passed that would further expand LGBT equality.
“I want to present a real alternative to Republicans rather than someone who is going to run on being Republican-light,” she told the Tribune.
While on Good Morning Utah this week, Snow said she found she disagreed with Swinton and thought, “Why not me?” as his opponent.
Snow recently told KUER that Sanders inspired her to spend almost her entire federal income tax return of $1,200 to file to run for office. “I knew it was a crazy thing. I’m like, ‘What am I thinking? This is freaking crazy,’ but my gut’s telling me you gotta do it. It’s going to work out. And I did,” she said.
In the same interview, she said her background as a working-class progressive is what really matters in the election. “One of the things that really got me running was because I feel like there are a lot of issues that affect the working class that don’t get a voice in Washington,” she said.
3. Swinton Won the Most Support at the State Democratic Convention in April
If Snow decided not to run, Swinton would have won the nomination unopposed. At the Utah state Democratic party in April, Swinton earned the most votes, reports KSL. However, Snow emerged with just enough support to have a primary scheduled. It was the first Democrat statewide primary since 1992.
Still, Utah Policy predicted that Swinton, who had been running against Lee since last year, would still win the nomination.
In the Salt Lake City Tribune op-ed that caught Snow’s attention, Swinton wrote that he wanted a full investigation into Planned Parenthood.
“As a conservative Democrat, I am pro-life,” Swinton wrote. “I am as concerned about the accusations as anyone. I don’t want federal funds to pay for abortions. So, let’s get all the facts to have some leveraging power to support the decision-making process. Get the American people better evidence of what is happening besides a few videos floating around social media and the news.”
After he lost the nomination, he told the Salt Lake City Tribune, “We hoped more Democrats were really looking at the long game at this, trying to unseat Mike Lee.”
4. Snow Has a Major Financial Disadvantage Against Lee
Lee was elected Senator in 2010 with a wave of Tea Party support. A June poll by the Tribune and Hinckley Institute of Politics showed him with a 51-37 percent lead over Snow. But as Utah Policy points out, she also has a financial disadvantage. While Snow raised just over $6,000 for her primary bid, Lee has a $1 million war chest to finance his campaign.
Snow told The Deseret News that she hopes her victory this month and her growing name recognition as a transgender candidate will help her with fundraising.
“I actually think we have a pretty good chance of running a competitive race this time,” she told the Deseret News. “We will need both of those (name recognition and fundraising) to beat Mike Lee in November.”
5. Snow Wasn’t the Only Transgender Candidate to Win a Primary
While Snow is the first major party transgender nominee for a Senate seat, she is not the only transgender nominee running for the Democrats in November. That’s because Misty Plowright won the Democratic nomination to run against Rep. Doug Lamborn for Colorado’s 5th congressional district. The Denver Post reports that Plowright beat her opponent 58.1 percent to 41.8.
On her Facebook page, Plowright also congratulated Snow for her win in Utah.
“I would like to thank the voters of Colorado’s 5th Congressional District for their support throughout this race,” Plowright wrote on Facebook. “From the convention through tonight’s election this entire experience has been absolutely incredible and I have met wonderful people all over the district.”