Will it be Allen West part two in female form?
Should she win in November, Mia Love, 37, would be the first Black female Republican elected to the House in U.S. history. That would be quite a milestone – just like over the weekend when she shocked the political world by winning the Republican nomination over two well known former state legislators, Stephen Sandstrom and Carl Wimmer — both White males. And in Utah, at that, a state where only 0.9% (yes – that’s less than 1%) of the state is African American.
Love is currently the Mayor of Saratoga Springs, UT, with its population of over 17,000 and a Black population that’s even less than the statewide population: 0.60%. For some observers, Love seemed like a long shot despite her ascent to office in Saratoga Springs. And, she was also one of the most underfunded during the primary campaign, placing 4th in a pack of 6 – she raised only $120,000 as of the last Federal Election Commission report compared to candidate Carl Wimmer’s $300,000.
It’s safe to say no one predicted that Love would win. Most in the political world were focused on the fate of longtime Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) during Utah’s GOP convention as he battled against a tea party insurgency that threatens to make his six terms history.
Love will now challenge Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson in Utah’s new 4th Congressional district. Suffice to say, she will have a lot of catching up to do in the fundraising category as Matheson has already amassed a $1.2 million war chest. The most recent polling out of the 4th Congressional district didn’t consider Love would be a contender – a December Deseret News/KSL-TV survey showed Matheson beating Sandstrom or Wimmer by over 50 percentage points in a hypothetical November match-up.
At this weekend’s Utah Republican convention the state’s Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff, said critically of Love: “You have to please pick a person with a proven record who can beat Jim Matheson this fall. Not a novelty.” He later apologized to the daughter of Haitian immigrants who grew up in Brooklyn, New York.
Additionally, there were 26 freshman who entered the U.S. House in 2011 with no previous political experience. Mia Love was a member of the Saratoga Springs City Council before being elected Mayor. If elected to Congress she would be the only Mormon female, too.
Love told Utah’s Deseret News in January she would join the Congressional Black Caucus and shake things up — much like the claim made by Rep. Allen West before he arrived in Congress in late 2010. Quoting Love, she would, “… join the Congressional Black Caucus and try to take that thing apart from the inside out.” She said of the CBC: “It’s demagoguery. They sit there and ignite emotions and ignite racism when there isn’t, they use their positions to instill fear. Hope and change is turned into fear and blame. Fear that everybody is going lose everything and blaming Congress for everything instead of taking responsibility.”
Love has not responded to requests from Politic365 for an interview. However, a Republican strategist with knowledge of the campaign, speaking on condition of anonymity, argues that Love may not want the extra spotlight. “I expect thousands of dollars to flow to her opponent if she becomes more known on a national level.”
“Nothing scares the Democratic National Committee more than a candidate like Mia, because she threatens their assumption that Blacks will always be loyal to the Democratic Party,” said the source.
Democrat Jim Matheson, 52, was first elected in 2000. The Cook Political Report once said he currently, “holds the distinction of representing the most Republican district in the nation represented by a Democrat.” That would appear to give Mia Love an advantage in the race. Rep. Matheson won with only 50.67% of the vote in 2010 and the newly drawn fourth congressional district he and Love will be running in provides a new political opportunity for Love. There are currently two Black Republicans in Congress, Florida’s West and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Chief Congressional Correspondent, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus. She is heard every Tuesday on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WHUR and WPFW in Washington DC. You can e-mail her at LBurke007@gmail.com follow her on twitter at @crewof42.
— Managing Editor Charles D. Ellison contributed to this report