SALT LAKE CITY — Politics were always a topic of discussion in the Jeffrey and Heidi Swinton home as they reared their four boys.
A lawyer and a journalist, respectively, and strong Republicans, the two parents read the papers, watched the news and talked about world and national events with their sons.
Mom and Dad weren't surprised when Jonathan Swinton, 35, decided to run for U.S. Senate. But they were shocked that he threw his hat into the ring as a Democrat.
"They still haven't quite figured me out on the Democrat thing," Jonathan Swinton said, quickly adding that his parents support his campaign.
Heidi Swinton said her son has carved his own path in terms of his interests and allegiances and built a strong foundation in what he believes, even in the face of challenges.
"I don't share all of his political ideals, but certainly respect why he stands where he stands," she said.
Her motherly advice to the first-time candidate: "I said, 'Jonathan, don't be so mean,’” as she lamented the nastiness that has marked the national political scene.
Swinton was the top vote-getter at the state Democratic Party convention in April but fell short of becoming the nominee. He faces Misty K. Snow in the June 28 primary election. The winner will take on GOP Sen. Mike Lee.
The first-time candidate lists education reform, air quality and immigration among the issues he believes Congress needs to deal with.
Swinton is not a liberal Democrat, which has caused him grief among some party faithful. He's more in the mold of former seven-term Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson and candidate Doug Owens, who is trying to oust Republican freshman Rep. Mia Love in Matheson's old district.
"I feel like the Democratic Party has a real interest in helping people who are in circumstances where they really need help. That's what I do all day professionally, and so I feel like my goals in fighting for people, helping people, align really well with much of the platform of the Democratic Party," he said.
Swinton is a marriage and family therapist, which is what he said Washington needs to fix its dysfunction.
Utah hasn't had a Democratic senator in 40 years, nor has the party done well in other statewide races during that time.
"In order for Democrats to win a race, we have to run different Democrats, and we have to run differently as Democrats, and that's what I'm trying to represent," he said.
Swinton is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who served a mission in London. His mother wrote LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson's biography. He owns three counseling clinics on the Wasatch Front. He earned an undergraduate degree at Utah State University and graduate degrees from Nebraska and Kansas State.
Swinton and his wife, Annie, a high school math teacher, live in Sandy and are the parents of young boys, one adopted from Taiwan and the other from China, which he said gave him a firsthand knowledge of why the U.S. immigration system doesn't work.
Annie Swinton described her husband of 13 years as incredibly thoughtful. He doesn't just feel bad for someone but does something about it, she said, noting he recently sent her struggling brother a book he thought would help him.
"He's a real person," she said. "He doesn't ever just say things that people want to hear."
That was evident at the state convention where Swinton's pro-life position didn't go over well, to say the least, with the more liberal wing of the party. Some people swore and screamed at him and even spit on his wife, he said.
"Had I lied about that, I would have avoided this primary," he said.
Scott Howell, a former Democratic state senator and U.S. Senate candidate, went through some of he same challenges when he ran for office. He described Swinton as a "no labels guy" when it comes to reaching across the aisle to find common ground.
"He will really show Utahns that they can vote for a Democrat who has values that represent the general community," he said.
Though Swinton said he's running a "bit of a maverick style" campaign, he doesn't stray far from the party line on issues such as public lands.
He favors the Bears Ears area in southeastern Utah being designated a national monument, even if President Barack Obama uses the Antiquities Act to do it. He considers Utah's threat to sue over control of federal lands a way for the state to "stick its tongue out" at the federal government. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, needs to take the Utah Public Lands Initiative back to the drawing board, Swinton said.
Swinton, who considered running as an independent, is not a fan of the extremes in either party, and said he has a "wllingness to compromise on all the big issues."
Fundraising hasn't come easy. Swinton had raised only about $13,700 as the last reporting period in early April. He has loaned his campaign $9,600.
"The party leaders are on board with me, but the heavy donors and people on the front line are still trying to decide what they think of me," he said.
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