SALT LAKE CITY — A Democratic candidate has stepped up to challenge first-term Republican Sen. Mike Lee.

Jonathan Swinton, a Sandy marriage and family therapist, immediately went after Lee in announcing his first run for elected office, calling the senator "uncooperative."

"Mike Lee has shown time and again he is more willing to shut down the government than to collaborate to reach solutions. His divisive approaches hinder productivity and add to the current dysfunctional culture in Washington," he said.

Swinton, 34, said he would not play into partisan norms and would work with colleagues to find amicable solutions that meet the needs of everyone.

"Washington needs a relationship counselor, and that’s what I am," he said.

Swinton, who owns seven counseling clinics on the Wasatch Front, said he works with gridlock everyday in his office and has found that cooperation is almost always possible.

He said he wants to restore a common sense approach to Washington where everybody is too far to the right or too far to the left. Most voters, he said, are somewhere in the middle.

"I'm trying to appeal to that. I'm not an extremist," Swinton said.

Lee welcomed Swinton to the race and said Utahns deserve a vigorous campaign.

"Over the last six years, I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats on an agenda to help struggling Americans find a job and get an education, lower the cost of living for working families, and level the playing field for small businesses by ending corporate welfare," he said in a statement.

Lee said he looks forward to a thoughtful dialogue about his agenda and other solutions to reform Washington to put government back to work for the American people.

Swinton said politics has interested him for a long time. He said he speaks often to his legislators and has served as Democratic state delegate.

Swinton, who has filed his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission, said he doesn't intend to put his own money into the campaign. He said he anticipates small donations from "everyday" people as well some contributions from bigger donors.

A native Utahn, Swinton graduated from Utah State University and earned master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Nebraska and Kansas State University, respectively. His wife, Annie, teaches high school math. They have a 5-year-old son.

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