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Frustration led Misty K. Snow to consider her first political campaign. It wasn't targeted toward incumbent Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah — she had written him off long before — but at his only announced Democratic challenger, Jonathan Swinton.

In a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed in September, Swinton described himself as "a conservative Democrat" and said Congress was right to investigate Planned Parenthood, but shouldn't shut down the government over the issue.

Snow, 30, thought Utah Democrats deserved a more liberal candidate and, as the months went on and no one else emerged, she began to think "Why not me?"

She talked to her mother, Linda Pace, whom she lives with in Salt Lake City and, as moms are wont to do, Pace began worrying.

"She has been through a lot in a pretty short time," said Pace. Snow began hormone treatments in early summer 2014 and began living openly as a transgender woman that October. "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 told Snow to listen to her instincts, and she's proud her daughter not only launched her campaign but has forced Swinton into a Democratic primary in late June.

"I hope she wins, but she has learned a lot and I think it has been a good thing for her," Pace said. "Ultimately, my hope is that people that deserve rights get them, because I've seen a lot of barriers even with her process."

Snow wants to make one point clear: "I'm not running because I'm transgender. I just happen to be transgender."

She's running because she's a progressive, a proud supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and a working-class Utahn who is advocating for paid maternity leave, a $15 minimum wage and a single-payer health-care system.

"I want to present a real alternative to Republicans rather than someone who is going to run on being Republican-light," Snow said, taking a jab at Swinton.

She has tougher words for Lee, the first-term tea-party senator.

"He is probably the second most loathsome guy in the United States Senate behind Ted Cruz," said Snow, citing the 2013 partial government shutdown stemming from a strategy to kill the Affordable Care Act pushed by Cruz and Lee. "He is wrong on every issue I care about. He is a horrible guy."

Snow had strong opinions on Lee and Swinton, but she didn't know much about how to run a campaign. She had no experience within Democratic circles, no idea how to raise money or attract volunteers.

That didn't stop her from filing for office on March 16, the day before the filing deadline.

She started to attend a few gatherings, delivering a strong series of progressive policy statements in a rapid-fire delivery.

Hannah Kuhn Hausen, a University of Utah political science student and a state delegate, saw Snow speak at the Salt Lake County Convention and felt drawn to help.

She's now serving as Snow's campaign manager, a volunteer position. Kuhn Hausen is setting up meet-and-greets and trying to organize fundraisers, but has to work around Snow's job schedule.

For more than 13 years, Snow has worked as a cashier at the Harmons Grocery in Taylorsville, the same store where her mother also works. Snow got the job as she was wrapping up her high school years at East High. She hasn't gone to college, in part because it was expensive and in part because she didn't know what type of career she wanted to pursue.

"I guess I want to be a legislator," she said with a laugh.

Snow's plan is to use her vacation time to take a few days off each week to campaign, but regulars will still see her at the store in her regular 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift a few times each week.

Shelly Johnson is one of Snow's supervisors at Harmons and has watched Snow light up as customers mention her Senate campaign. She's also watched Snow's transition to living as a woman, and overall says people have been understanding. Snow agrees, saying her transition was "a scary thing to do."

"Work was accepting for the most part," she said.

As their shifts near their end and the grocery store empties out, Snow and Johnson have had time over the years to talk.

"She's got a view on just about everything, whether you agree or not," Johnson said. "And she knows a lot, too. She's really smart."

Relying heavily on her criticism of Swinton's position on abortion, Snow and her allies rallied enough support at the party's state convention to force a primary and send her into a quick campaign-building mode.

Kuhn Hausen and a small group of Sanders volunteers met to discuss potential campaign events – everything from a major fundraising day to a road trip around the state.

Among the attendees was Sophia Hawes-Tingey, a 2016 national Democratic delegate who ran for Midvale City Council in 2015. Like Snow, Hawes-Tingey is a transgender woman. They didn't know each other before this Senate race.

"I don't think the transgender people in general are getting the representation they need in leadership positions," said Hawes-Tingey. "Part of my vision is to see transgender people running for office at all levels of government in all 50 states."

If Snow wins the primary, she'll be the first transgender person to run statewide in Utah. Snow mentions the ongoing debate in states like North Carolina about which bathrooms transgender people should be allowed to use as an example that people like her are not treated equally. She said she'd advocate for full equality for LGBT people and women. She also promises to use her campaign to push for renewable energy, legalized marijuana and free college education for all.

She said she's modeled her campaign on Sanders' presidential bid, saying that the Vermont senator has taught her: "If you want to change the dialogue, you have to talk about issues that some people have never heard of — a living wage, ending corporate welfare. You create political will to make those changes possible." Twitter: @mattcanham