Misty K. Snow is not your average U.S. Senate candidate. She's only 30 years old, she didn't attend college, and she doesn't have a politician's pedigree—she currently works as a grocery store cashier in Taylorsville, Utah.
She's also transgender. And this week, Snow won the Utah Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate by 20 points, becoming the first-ever transgender candidate to have a legitimate shot at becoming a U.S. senator.
Utah is not exactly known as a bastion of progressive values — it has not had a Democratic governor since the mid-1980s, for example. But Snow says the state has an under-appreciated libertarian streak. So she didn't view her transgender status as an obstacle when she decided to run for higher office earlier this year.
"I didn't think [being transgender] would hurt me," Snow told Fusion in a phone interview after her primary win. "I actually thought it would help, because it's good for name recognition and would get me a lot of press attention…and I'm going to need both if i want to win in November."
Snow is part of a wave of progressive candidates running for office on the coattails of Bernie Sanders, whom Snow has supported in the Democratic primary. (In fact, another transgender woman, Misty Plowright, just won a House Democratic primary in Colorado).
Indeed, Snow said she is not ready to endorse Hillary Clinton yet; she fears the former New York senator is too much of a hawk on foreign policy, and would be too beholden to Wall Street interests.
"We need more working-class people in government," she told me. If elected, Snow said she will work to pass a $15 minimum wage for the entire country, as well as try to institute mandatory paid maternity leave, an issue she feels will resonate strongly with voters in Utah, which has the highest birth rate in the country. And she hopes to promote clean energy and enact stricter environmental controls that would improve air quality, an issue that has long plagued the Beehive State.
Snow also supports federal legislation that would make it illegal for any business or institution to discriminate against an LGBT person.
But it was clear in speaking with her that she wants to be seen first and foremost as a progressive politician who happens to be transgender, not a transgender politician. She noted she would not be the first successful queer politician in Utah, pointing out that Salt Lake City just elected a lesbian mayor.
"People are nice here," she said. "I do not think they're going to have real problems with it."
Still, the past two years have been transformative for Snow. She only began taking hormone treatments to transition in 2014, and began living openly as a transgender woman that October. She did not file to run for Senate until the day before the state's official deadline.
Her passion to help the working class, and her opposition to incumbent first-term Republican Senator Mike Lee, has kept her motivated.
"[Lee] is probably the second most loathsome guy in the United States Senate behind Ted Cruz," Snow recently told The Tribune, noting he was partially responsible for the 2013 partial government shutdown initiated to kill the Affordable Care Act. "He is wrong on every issue I care about. He is a horrible guy."
Snow faces a tough battle to unseat Lee; a poll in early June commissioned by The Salt Lake Tribune showed Lee holding a 51% to 37% lead over Snow.
But her 20-point win over Swinton in the primary has led Snow and her supporters to believe that she has a reasonable chance.
"[Voters] don't care about identity," she told me. "They care about what politicians are going to do for them and their families."
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.