Matheson cast Love as a right-wing extremist who wanted to cut programs for special needs children and old people. Love called him a liberal Obama follower who says one thing in Utah and does another in Washington. Both saturated the airwaves with commercials that made the other look sinister.
Love often described herself as a "wife and mother, first and foremost." But she's also a gun-toting, tea party conservative mayor of a small town who wanted to be called congresswoman. The national and state GOP backed her campaign with big money and big name support.
The Matheson-Love matchup was one of the hottest and most closely watched congressional races in the country. It drew unprecedented national and even international attention for a Utah congressional seat, largely due to its potential for a historic moment in U.S. history.
It also was the most expensive U.S. House contest in Utah history, with total spending surpassing $10 million. The runaway spending led to one of Utah's nastiest political ad wars in recent memory.
At least two dozen PACs, superPACs and other groups poured more than $5.6 million into the race for and against both Matheson and Love, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks Federal Election Commission financial reports. The campaigns and their supporters inundated the airwaves with one of the nastiest TV ad wars ever in Utah politics.
Those backing Love shelled out $2.9 million, while those supporting Matheson put down $2.7 million. All but about $1 million of the total between the two came in the form of negative or attack ads.
The candidates themselves also built substantial war chests. Matheson raised $2.1 million, while Love raised $2 million, much of it coming after her well-received speech at the Republican National Convention in late August.
Love stitched her campaign to the coattails of Romney, Utah's favorite adopted son.
The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Love entered the race as a relatively unknown mayor of Saratoga Springs. Despite Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff referring to her as a "novelty," she upset two well-known former state lawmakers to easily win the GOP nomination at the state convention.
As the new darling of the Utah Republican Party, Love quickly made a name for herself on the national political stage, especially with conservative bloggers and news outlets. A parade of GOP stars, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, House Speaker John Boehner and eventual vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, made their way to Utah to raise money for her.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche
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