Ben McAdams was drawn to the world of politics because of his upbringing.
He didn't come from a political dynasty or from old money.
Instead, he watched his mother, Susan, raise a family of six children on her own while working as a public educator.
"I've always had a passion for good public policy and the way it can benefit people's lives," McAdams said. "For public policy that recognizes the difficulties of working families and can provide assistance to them."
McAdams, 35, may now have that chance. Democratic delegates in Senate District 2 voted Saturday to send him to the Legislature to replace resigning Democratic state Sen. Scott McCoy. Delegates gave him 69 percent of the 107 votes cast Saturday afternoon. A formal appointment to fill the post is up to Gov. Gary Herbert.
While at Viewmont High School, McAdams served as the mayor of the West Bountiful City Youth Council. He served on his first partisan campaign in 1992, for Wayne Owens who ran for the U.S. Senate against Republican Bob Bennett. Bennett won the seat. McAdams became more heavily involved in politics from then on.
He was elected student body president at the University of Utah in 1999, and served as a Hinckley Institute of Politics intern in Washington, D.C., under President Bill Clinton and another Hinckley Institute internship in the Utah Legislature. He graduated from Columbia Law School and lived in New York for a few years, then returned to Utah three years ago.
His ability to tackle difficult situations has led to an ongoing joke in the office of Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, for whom McAdams is a senior adviser.
"Whenever we say 'Oh, this is going to be hard,' the next sentence is always, 'We should have Ben do it.'" Becker said. "He is just so creative in molding solutions."
McCoy, who is resigning from the Legislature to dedicate more time to his private law practice, was "very pleased" with the selection.
"I know he'll do an excellent job and the overall vote of the delegates shows they trust he'll do an excellent job as well," he said.
Arlyn Bradshaw, who also ran for the seat but finished in second place with 25 percent of the vote, congratulated McAdams on his win. During his candidate speech, the openly gay Bradshaw said his sexual orientation would help bring diversity and understanding to the Legislature.
McCoy is the only openly gay senator, and he said it was good for the Senate to have a face to associate with the state's gay population, but believes McAdams will represent the gay community.
"He's an involved ally and he'll fight for what's right for the community," McCoy said.
The first conversation McAdams said he had with his mother when announcing his run for the seat was to warn her that he will stand up for gay rights across the state, and she may catch some criticism from her neighbors in conservative Davis County.
"I value diversity," he said during his candidate speech to delegates. "We need to be friends and allies and that has been my passion and work."