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SALT LAKE CITY — Democrat Misty K. Snow, Utah's first transgender candidate to seek a statewide office, appears headed for a November showdown with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Snow was leading her opponent, Jonathan Swinton, claiming nearly 60 percent of the vote in Tuesday's Democratic primary, according to the ballots counted as of 10:30 p.m.
Swinton, 35, was the top vote-getter at the state Democratic party convention in April but fell short of becoming the party's nominee when Snow, a 30-year-old grocery store clerk, unexpectedly won enough delegate support to force a primary.
With positive polling at her back, Snow said she felt confident heading into Tuesday's primary.
"It looks like it's a pretty definitive lead, and we feel good about that," Snow said, voicing confidence she will hold the roughly 20 percent margin through the coming election canvass.
The race between Swinton and Snow is the first time Democrats in Republican-dominated Utah have had a statewide primary since 1992.
Utah hasn't had a Democratic senator in 40 years, and the party hasn't succeeded in other statewide races during that time.
If Snow's lead holds up, she will be the first transgender candidate in the U.S. to secure a major party's nomination for a congressional office.
Throughout her campaign, however, she has said she wasn't in the race to make a statement about gender identity or to make history. Rather, Snow says she cares about representing the working class.
Snow believes a win in the state primary, as well as her notoriety as a transgender candidate, will bring name recognition and fundraising moving forward.
"I actually think we have a pretty good chance of running a competitive race this time," she said. "We will need both of those (name recognition and fundraising) to beat Mike Lee in November."
Swinton, a conservative-leaning marriage and family therapist, is not known as a liberal Democrat, which caused discomfort among some party members. That surfaced at the state convention where Swinton's pro-life position on abortion created a stir among the more liberal members of the party. Some shouted expletives, screamed at him and even spit on his wife, he has said.