Mia Love, Jason Chaffetz drawing new attention to Utah at GOP convention

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 29 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Utah delegates Tim Bridgewater of Provo, (center) and Brent Bishop of Farmington, (far right) have their picture taken with former Utah Governor Michael Leavitt, (left) while on the Republican National Convention floor Thursday night on the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum at the Republican National Convention. Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

TAMPA, Fla. — Utah is getting plenty of attention during this week's Republican National Convention, and not just because of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's ties to the state.

One day after her well-received convention speech, 4th District congressional candidate Mia Love sat down Wednesday with a number of national media outlets, including CNN and The New Yorker magazine.

And Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, continued his duties as a key Romney surrogate, appearing with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Romney's son, Josh, at a breakfast meeting of the GOP delegation from North Carolina, a swing state.

Gov. Gary Herbert seemed to relish the attention Utah is receiving. He was able to bring one of the nation's highest-profile Republicans, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, to speak to Utah's delegation Wednesday at a breakfast meeting that was closed to the press.

"It's kind of a little like 'Mayberry R.F.D.' all grown up," Herbert said. "We are growing up, and we are a lot more sophisticated. We are probably a good example for other states. Maybe it's our time."

Herbert, too, has been fielding interview requests from the likes of the New York Times.

"We're glad to have Utah step up and be noticed and set the good example," he said.

Even as the governor was answering questions from a group of Utah reporters, an out-of-state journalist asked him whether Romney should be talking more about his Mormon faith.

"I think he needs to talk about his values, and he needs to talk about his principles and what he's going to do to turn this country around," Herbert said. "But I don't think people are so concerned about what his denomination is. They're concerned about his principles and values."

Utah delegate Carlene Walker, a former state senator and now chairwoman of the Visit Salt Lake convention and visitors bureau, was stopped on the floor of the convention for an interview by a TV station in Mexico.

"They were asking me what a Republican woman looks like," Walker said. "I pointed out Mia. Mia is not your standard Republican woman, but she is the face of a new spectrum of Republican women."

Love, who would be the first black GOP woman in Congress if she defeats Utah's lone Democrat in Washington, Rep. Jim Matheson, in November, had already been attracting national attention even before she was given a speaking slot.

But after giving a speech repeatedly interrupted by cheers, chants and applause Tuesday night, Love could hardly walk through the halls of the convention without being stopped.

Walker said she had to wait to get to her seat on the convention floor because members of the Hawaiian delegation were crowded around Love, presenting her with leis.

"They said, 'We want you to be elected. We loved your speech last night.' She's a rising star," Walker said of Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs. "She's the new face of the Republican Party."

Later, after Love made a live appearance on KSL-TV from above the convention floor, 13-year-old Clarke Patrone of Connecticut thrust a notebook at her and asked for an autograph.

"She signed it, 'Mia Love. Stay involved,'" Patrone said. He watched her speech after being told by his father, a GOP donor, that she was "a great, young conservative from Utah and a rising star in the party."

Patrone said he was "really moved by her message," citing the story of her parents immigrating to the United States with little more than determination.

"It was a great example, especially for young people," he said. "It really fired everyone up in the hall."

The young man said he gave Love a standing ovation.

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