Kelly Atkinson, 45, says he's paid his dues with 10 years of Democratic Party work in the Utah House.
He's balanced public budgets, he's made the tough votes on sensitive issues, and he's fought for working men, women and families, he says.But in addition, the married father of two grown sons says Democrats in the 2nd District should vote for him because he's the "moderate" Democrat who can win in November.
"I've won five (Utah House) races in West Jordan," says Atkinson, who leads the state's largest non-teacher public-education employee association. And West Jordan holds the key to winning the 2nd District, he says.
When former Rep. Karen Shepherd won the 2nd District in 1992, she carried West Jordan, says Atkinson. When Shepherd lost the seat in 1994, she lost West Jordan to Republican Enid Greene.
Atkinson says only he can put together the Democratic, liberal Republican and independent coalition that Democrats need to win the U.S. House seat.
"I won't lose (the seat)," he vows.
Aktinson grew up in poor conditions in Kearns. His divorced mother worked two jobs, a government clerical worker by day, a cocktail waitress at night. Atkinson had to fend for himself much of the time, and with a speech defect he wasn't succeeding in school.
"I had to get myself off to school. I didn't brush my teeth. I didn't comb my hair. I wore yesterday's clothes. They called me `smelly Kelly.' "
But his sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Graybill, cared for him. He taught him to wash his clothes and brush his teeth and got the diminutive Atkinson interested in running - "a sport I could succeed at."
"He changed my life, and that is why I love public education and want to give something back" to the community, says Atkinson.