Jim Matheson holds on for slim win over Mia Love after final vote tally

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 20 2012 7:19 p.m. MST

A relatively unknown mayor of Saratoga Springs, Love received unprecedented national attention for a U.S. House candidate. She appeared on numerous national news programs over the summer and gave a rousing speech at the Republican National Convention in August. She would have become the first black GOP woman elected to Congress.

The final tally brings an end to one of the most expensive congressional races in Utah history.

The candidates and their supporters spent more than $10.5 million. Outside groups such as the National Republican Congressional Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee mounted aggressive negative attacks against Matheson and Love, totaling $6.7 million. Matheson raised $2.1 million on his own, while Love brought in $2 million.

Political observers anticipated a close race one way or the other. Love expected to win and said she was surprised when she didn't. Matheson remained confident throughout the campaign despite falling behind in the polls.

Love tied her campaign to Romney and even obtained a personal endorsement from the GOP presidential nominee. But the so-called "Romney tsunami" didn't make much of wave for down-ticket Republicans such as Love.

A third-party candidate, Libertarian Jim Vein, played a spoiler role in winning 2.6 percent of the vote. A Democratic PAC paid for a late-hour telephone campaign that urged voters to eschew Matheson and Love in favor of Vein.

Matheson has now fended off six challengers — three of them narrowly — since wresting the 2nd District seat from a Republican 12 years ago. He jumped to the new 4th District this year after Legislature carved up his district when it redrew congressional boundaries last fall.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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