The Cache Democratic Party played host to U.S. Senate candidates Jonathan Swinton and Misty Snow on Saturday evening for a debate in advance of the June 28 Democratic primary, with the theme of compromise taking center stage.
Swinton, a licensed marriage and family therapist, announced his candidacy for Senate in the summer of 2015, while Snow, a grocery store cashier, entered the race in March of this year. After neither candidate received the required delegate majority at April’s Utah Democratic State Convention, the two have taken to the campaign trail to become the Democratic opponent to face off against incumbent Sen. Mike Lee this November.
“Thirty-nine years ago, the last Democratic senator from Utah left office,” Swinton said. “Right now, we have a great opportunity to change that. Senator Lee’s approval ratings are low. The Republican Party is fielding a horrible nominee for the presidency. People are tired of the bickering, obstructionist policies in Washington, and it’s time to end that cycle.”
In their opening statements, both candidate offered their credentials for the Senate. Swinton emphasized his background as a marriage counselor, noting his specialty was helping people vehemently opposed to working together reach compromises. Snow said she presented the best option to stir up momentum and excitement within millennial voters, saying her working class background and advocacy for progressive policy would make her the best fit for the party’s new generation.
“I’m running for Senate because our current representatives in the federal government do not represent the average person,” Snow said.
“They come from rich backgrounds or from law fields, representing the 1 percent. I understand what it’s like to live in poverty, to not be able to afford college and live in less-than-ideal conditions. We need to elect people who know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck.”
If Snow defeats Swinton for the Democratic nomination, she will be the first ever transgender Senate candidate from a major party. However, according to a poll published May 13 on UtahPolicy.com, the majority of Utahns remain undecided between Snow and Swinton, with 71 percent of respondents giving no preference to either candidate.
Each candidate agreed in their opposition to Mike Lee, citing his support from Super PACs as a method to buy votes. Each proposed the use of Constitutional amendments limiting the amount of money that can be spent in elections to limit the influence of funding in campaigns.
“Forty-one percent of money in Super PACs come from 50 people,” Swinton said. “We have 50 people trying to buy this election for Mike Lee. It’s an uphill battle, but we need to push for two Constitutional amendments, with one to set a limit on what can be spent and one to not allow Super PACs to spend all this money on elections. I refuse to accept help from a Super PAC.”
Each candidate also reinforced their definitions of religious freedom, stating the freedom to practice a religion of their choice should not interfere with the rights of those who do not share that religion.
“You cannot use your religious freedom as a way to exempt people from the same services as everyone else,” Snow said. “Those rights end where another person’s rights begin. All people regardless of race, gender identity and sexual orientation should have full equality under the law, and I will advocate against laws that try to take away those rights.”
However, the candidates clashed on their attitudes toward compromise with the Republican party. Swinton expressed a desire to draft legislation that would appeal to both sides of the aisle, working directly with Senate Republicans to soften their hard-line philosophies.
“As a marriage counselor, I’m here to tell you cooperation is almost always possible,” Swinton said. “The Declaration of Independence was the ultimate compromise, and we can still reach agreements like that today. Having Republicans in office is the reality we need to work with, and if both parties continue to not budge on what they want, we will continue getting nothing done.”
Snow, however, said nothing could be accomplished as long as Republicans remained in office, suggesting their lack of interest in compromising with Democrats leaves few options in working with them.
“We have to vote out as many Republicans as we can,” Snow said. “You can’t compromise with someone who isn’t interest in cooperating. I think we really need to make the case that Republicans don’t represent the working class the same way Democrats do. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t a compromise — it was a divorce. Sometimes a divorce is a good thing, and we need to divorce from Republicans.”
The candidates also disagreed Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Snow said Garland deserved the right to a fair hearing in the Senate, but said she would not support him because he would not overturn the 2010 Citizen’s United decision allowing the creation of Super PACs. Swinton disagreed, referencing the Federalist Papers in stating a nominee’s political ideology held less weight than their ability to adequately hold the position.
However, despite their disagreements, the candidates offered a handshake to one another following the debate, remaining united against Lee for November’s general election.
“Lee has a lot of money, but how much of that is from real people?” Snow said. “We’ve seen grassroots support here, and we need to continue to appeal to the people who would not be represented by Mike Lee. We can do better for the Utahn people, for the working class and for women, than someone who just represents Wall Street.”