Politics, especially today, is rough-and-tumble, and often downright nasty.
So that raises a question: Can a really nice guy, a true idealist and one of the most altruistic people you'll ever meet, win a seat in Congress?
Devin Thorpe, a Democrat running in the 3rd Congressional District, is trying to find out. And he actually thinks he has a path to victory if arch-conservatives peel enough votes away from incumbent Congressman John Curtis.
Thorpe is actually a neighbor of mine, a friend for over a dozen years. He has spent most of his life doing nice things for other people in ways big and small. He's always the first to volunteer for neighborhood or church service projects. He never seeks recognition.
His passion for the last several years has been, in his words, "trying to solve big problems," including poverty, climate change, and global health. He has been a writer, publisher and public speaker, focusing on social enterprises and enlightened entrepreneurship. He motivates corporate leaders to solve societal problems, not just make money. He has traveled the world, teaching and lecturing.
Thorpe has published many articles in Forbes magazine, has a successful podcast, and is a wizard with social media. He has interviewed numerous business leaders, including Bill Gates, about solving societal problems. He hasn't gotten wealthy in these endeavors, but it has been a fulfilling life.
He didn't ask me if he should run for Congress. He just did it. I probably would have told him he's crazy - in part because I wouldn't want to see him hurt and because he's too nice for the nasty world of politics.
He said he's running because after a decade of trying to solve big problems, he's frustrated that more progress hasn't been made. After a lot of consideration, he concluded that he'd have a much bigger bully pulpit, and a lot more influence, as a member of Congress.
And he believes he can win. Here's his strategy: A third party conservative candidate in the 3rd District could win as much as 18 percent of the vote, Thorpe believes. The far right voters in the district don't like Curtis, so they will vote for the third party candidate.
Thus, "I may only need 41 percent to win, and I think Joe Biden can get into low 40s in the district." A Biden voter should be a Thorpe voter, he believes. "It's a much lighter lift to get Biden voters to vote for me than to convince a bunch of Republican in Provo. I definitely see a path to victory."
Thorpe doesn't mention the name of his opponent, Rep. Curtis, but he acknowledges that Curtis is a good person and a moderate politician whose basic political philosophy might not be much different than his own.
The difference, Thorpe says, is that Curtis' votes don't align with his moderate political demeanor. He may be a moderate, but he doesn't vote the way, Thorpe says. "He feels the pressure of his party." If Curtis doesn't vote as a conservative on litmus test issues he will be challenged from the right and may be ousted in a primary.
"I have more flexibility than he does," Thorpe said. "I can vote against my party and still stay in office." Thorpe also argues he will have more influence in the House as a member of the majority party.
Thorpe is not a political novice. He worked for Sen. Jake Garn in the Senate Banking Committee some 30 years ago, worked for the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative, and has been involved in economic development.
He is declining corporate PAC money, and he doesn't enjoy asking for money, but he says he'll have enough funding to run a good campaign. He will make a TV buy in October. "It won't be a big buy, but it will be enough."
Thorpe is very effective with social media, having built a powerful social media platform over a decade. He has produced 200 videos for the campaign and has a bigger Twitter presence than Curtis.
He loves campaigning and meeting people all over the district. He's put some 9,000 miles on his Chevy Bolt electric car, and knows all the places to charge up, even in rural areas.