Mia Love says election loss surprised her, but she's mum on future

Published: Monday, Nov. 12 2012 12:00 p.m. MST

See the video interview on KSL.

SALT LAKE CITY — Though still holding out hope of becoming a congresswoman, Republican Mia Love doesn't sound like she'll be running into the sunset even if last Tuesday's elections results stand up for Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson.

"We still have some votes we need to count. It's not all set in stone until the (Nov.) 20th, so we'll just wait. It's still a pretty close race," Love said.

The Saratoga Springs mayor broke a weeklong silence Monday since her stinging loss last week to Matheson in Utah's new 4th Congressional District.

Love said the outcome "absolutely" surprised her. It appeared to be her contest to lose as most polls had her leading the six-term incumbent going into Election Day.

She acknowledged her campaign didn't see some things coming that might have turned the tide. She also said she doesn't intend to back down from a chance to make a difference in the nation.

In the state's most contentious and expensive congressional campaign, Matheson bested Love by 2,818 votes last Tuesday. After some late votes trickled in from Sanpete County, the difference now sits at 2,646.

There are more than 64,000 provisional and mail-in ballots — mostly in Salt Lake County, along with Utah, Sanpete and Juab counties — that won't be counted until the official canvass Nov. 20. It is not known how many ballots belong to 4th District voters. State elections director Mark Thomas said it's unlikely for Love to overtake Matheson.

Love, who will be in Disneyworld next week, won't be around for the final count.

The Saratoga Springs mayor faces re-election next year. She hasn't ruled out running for a second term or seeking another public office in the future. But Love said she can't stand by and watch politicians avoid taking positions and not solve problems.

"I'm not interested in just staying on the sidelines," she said. "I'm interested in going in, bringing some solutions forward and making sure we're moving in a positive direction."

Love, 36, said she intends to continue to promote Utah and conservative values. She has several out-of-state speaking engagements lined up, including with a GOP women's group in Ohio this week.

"I'm going to take some time with my family also and regroup and see what happens," said the married mother of three children. "If we have an opportunity to go out and make a difference, I think it's our obligation to do that. … No matter what that outlet is, I'm going to do everything I can to preserve this country."

An avid runner, Love mulled the past and the future as she trekked through a favorite canyon last week for the first time in a while.

"It was me time," she said. "It was time for me to file things in the right place and then move on."

The first-time congressional candidate acknowledged her campaign didn't foresee the impact of third-party candidate Jim Vein or the high voter turnout in the Millcreek area, where an incorporation question drew residents to the polls. Salt Lake County's east side traditionally leans Democratic.

But she also pointed to what she called "distractions" and "distortions" that "might have put a seed of doubt in people's minds."

"I think there's a lot of deception that goes on in politics. It's the same thing that's happened with Mitt (Romney) outside of the state," she said. "Anybody who listened to the ads would think they would get mugged in Saratoga Springs."

Love became a Republican sensation after winning the party's nomination in April. She would have been the first black Republican woman elected to Congress.

"She was caught in a great but difficult situation," said Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

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