The closely watched congressional race in Utah's 4th district was tight, but Mia Love prevailed in the end, and in a big way. Love has become the first black female Republican to serve House. She is also the first Haitian American to be elected to Congress.
Earlier this year, Love, former mayor of Saratoga Springs, was expected to win the 4th district's House seat by a landslide, but by early October, her opponent, Democrat Doug Owens, an attorney in Salt Lake City, was closing in. A Brigham Young University poll released Monday actually showed Owens in the lead, while other polls showed Love still five points ahead.
Experts attribute Love's success in part to her ample campaign funds; in mid-October, she had five times more cash on hand than Owens. Love put the money to use on ads and a final push to get out the vote.
This isn't Love's first time at the rodeo. She first ran for the seat in 2012, when Utah got a fourth House spot and the district was created. She lost to six-term conservative Democratic congressman Jim Matheson, who, after being kicked over to a new district, won by 768 votes.
Predicting reasons that Love would win in the 2014 election, Utah Policy noted that Love was the Republican candidate in a thoroughly red state and that she only had to win over those 768 voters who went the other way last time.
Love, 39, is originally from Brooklyn and the child of Haitian immigrants. As a Newsweek profile noted, in Utah and especially while campaigning, she is often the only person of color in sight (and also the only black Mormon).
Love's race was among several that promised to bring more women of color to the House of Representatives. When Tuesday's midterm elections arrived, North Carolina had already elected democrat Alma Adams to fill an empty house seat, and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and Marilinda Garcia (R-NH) were running to join their ranks. According to The Huffington Post, women of color hold only 4.5 percent of the 535 seats in Congress.
But when asked, Love downplays the importance of her race and expresses little tolerance for identity politics. She has said of the Congressional Black Caucus that she would “try to take that thing apart from the inside out," stated that black Democrats "ignite racism when there isn’t [any]," and Newsweek reported her saying that, "Racism is only a problem today ... as long as people allow themselves to be victims."
Regarding the breakthrough for diversity that her victory would represent, her campaign told The Huffington Post, "While Mia understands the historical implications of this election, [...] Congress should reflect not only the diversity of the country but also a diversity of ideas."