Bristol Labour mayoral candidate Marvin Rees didn't choose an easy contest to become the party's choice, standing against its city council leader, his deputy, an ex-councillor and a former MP.
However, he was successful in a city-wide ballot of Labour Party members and enters the final days of the campaign as the bookies' favourite to be Bristol's first executive mayor.
Triumph over adversity is nothing new for Rees, who was born in the St Pauls area of the city, the son of a Jamaican father and white Welsh mother from Merthyr Tydfil.
"It was a challenge," he comments laconically, reflecting on subsequent years in Long Cross in the mainly white Lawrence Weston council housing estate before moving with his mother and sister to inner-city Easton.
He credits his family with ensuring that he grew up with a "heavy sense of what's fair and just" and was encouraged to do well in school before he left Bristol for Swansea University to do politics and economic history and "reconnect with his Welsh roots," which made his Merthyr granddad very happy.
Rees has continued to study in between employment since his student days, having completed masters in black American history and economic development.
He has been intent on making a difference in his various jobs, working for the faith-based Tear Fund relief and development charity, the Jubilee 2000 debt cancellation campaign and the Black Development Agency, concerned with black-led voluntary sector community organisations.
Radio journalism with BBC Bristol and Radio 4 also enthused him and left its mark.
"I went to work for BBC, having been impressed by people such as John Pilger," he recalls, wanting to be the "voice of the voiceless."
This linked with his work for Jubilee 2000, which was "very formative. It was the issue of how you take an issue that could be abstract like international finance and the World Bank and put it into people's front rooms and make them feel passionate about it.
"I love that idea of how you turn political questions into stories that people can really engage with."
Rees moved on to public health, working on a programme called Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health, in the aftermath of the 2004 death of Afro-Caribbean patient David "Rocky" Bennett in a Norwich clinic, before taking over as director of the Bristol Strategic Partnership.
"This was about bringing component parts of the city together to work better, because when a place doesn't work it's the poorest and most vulnerable that pay the highest price," he explains.
"So getting a place working is good."
Rees accepts that those opposed to a mayor replacing the present system had valid concerns over democracy, but, in his view, "localism is an illusion."
He contends that "strong local government" is needed "to defend local communities against central government, big corporations and global trends."
And he believes that the idea of representing five local streets means that "you're on your own. You'll be torn apart. We need an intermediary institution that we can invest in and hold accountable."
So, after returning to public health, working as a programmer at Frenchay Hospital, part of the North Bristol NHS Trust, he tossed his hat in the ring to be Labour's candidate for mayor and was "surprised" to be selected.
"'Surprised' is such an inadequate word. I thought I was credible, but I knew there were four other fantastic candidates."
Although it was an individual ballot, local unions were supportive of Rees, with Unite South West regional secretary Laurence Faircloth declaring: "Marvin stood out from an impressive field of candidates as the person best placed to represent working people and their families across the city."
The city is currently controlled by the Liberal Democrats but, given the Nick Clegg-induced toxicity of that brand their candidate Jon Rogers is unlikely to carry the day, despite the party's time-dishonoured tactic of claiming that it's a two-horse race between Rogers and Rees.
Wealthy businessman and former Liberal Democrat councillor George Ferguson ditched the party and is standing as Bristol First, getting off to a flyer on the basis of being non-party and thereby supposedly more independent-minded.
Rees doesn't mention Ferguson by name, but he expresses frustration at those "who just offhand do down politics without offering any hope."
He understands that wealthy people can avoid the consequences of a dysfunctional political system, adding: "Perhaps they can buy themselves out of the consequences of bad politics, but if you can't buy yourselves out, you need politics to work for you.
"That means we have to get people engaged and that's the world view we put forward."
As the campaign draws to a close, it may be that the major challenge to Rees will come from Tory George Gollop, with the Liberal Democrat tailing them, Ferguson and Green candidate Daniella Radice, the only woman in the 15-strong field.
Rees has issued a recent call to his supporters to give their second vote to Radice, agreeing with South West TUC that the two parties pushing for a living wage should co-operate on this issue.
He also paid tribute to the Green candidate's policies on environmental issues, voicing his determination that Bristol should be "a sustainable city with zero waste to landfill."
"I will make it easier for people to recycle. I will put the power of the mayor's office behind attempts to make Bristol a zero food waste city and to eliminate food poverty," he told the Bristol Post.
"I will establish 'Bristol Food' to support local produce markets and encourage sustainable food procurement in the public and private sectors."
So what are Rees's priorities in this election?
"We want to make Bristol a living wage city. If you work, you ought to be able to live a dignified life. We need to stop the state subsidising poor pay through housing benefit that people have to claim when they're not paid enough," he declares.
"We need to build houses for people. We're pledging 4,000 houses. It's a challenge, it's a stretch, but I think we have the backing of a number of key institutions in the city to make that happen."
Childcare is another major issues, because "we want to stop people being locked out of the workforce, locked out of starting their own businesses."
Rees is very critical of public transport in the city, which he sees as "unaffordable and unreliable."
He wants a "new deal" to look at all transport needs, including pedestrians, cyclists, buses, car-users, trains and external forms such as Bristol airport.
Apprenticeships will also be a big one for a Rees administration because "Bristol's future and comparative advantage is going to be in developing the workforce that the world needs and wants.
"All my values on poverty and inequality don't matter if people aren't working, so we have to equip our workforce to attract investment so we have a viable economy in the future."
Rees's policy priorities didn't emerge from the ether. He and his supporters have been engaged in conversations with people "from all parties and none with expertise in areas such as housing, children, transport, healthcare and so on.
"We asked them to come and talk to us. We said we won't tell people you support us. We just want to talk," he says.
If successful on Thursday, Rees intends to continue inviting the broadest sections of Bristol society to come round the decision-making table.
He has already won support from the local rugby union and both football clubs for his proposal that Bristol should bid to host the Commonwealth Games.
European bantamweight boxing champion Lee Haskins, who defends his title in Belgium next month, regrets not being able to do so at home because Bristol has no suitable venue.
"I know a few candidates are signing up to an arena but I believe only Marvin Rees has the real commitment to deliver it," said Haskins.
Rees is proud of his campaign's success in building a coalition, insisting: "We're not claiming to be messianic politicians coming to solve the city's ills. We're saying that we can create an environment in which we can all come together."
He highlights two campaign slogans - One mayor, 430,000 leaders and A city called to action - recalling that Labour grew out of an effort to organise working people to have a political voice in a system that didn't have any space for them at the time.
"That's what this is about for me. That's why I'm in the party. That's the inheritance we bring to the table. That's our integrity as a party to stay true to that."
If the bookies are proved right, as they usually are, the people of Bristol might be on the verge of an exciting period in their history after the mayoral election result is declared early Friday morning.