SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mia Love hasn't made much of the obvious difference between her and the other candidates in Utah's new 4th Congressional District.
Asked whether she thought she might face racial and gender barriers in the campaign, she didn't immediately answer. Rather, she turned to supporters at a news conference announcing her candidacy who shouted a resounding "No."
Love said she was elected Saratoga Springs mayor with 60 percent of the vote "because people care more about what happens in their lives, what happens in their back pockets and what happens in their lives than they care about the color of someone's skin."
The conservative first-term mayor formally launched her bid for Congress on Thursday in Mrs. Gorham's third-grade classroom at Saratoga Shores Elementary School.
If elected in November, Love would be the first black Republican woman in Congress and Utah's first black representative. She said she would join the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., should she win.
"Yes, yes. I would join the Congressional Black Caucus and try to take that thing apart from the inside out," she said.
Though officially nonpartisan, the caucus has been more closely identified with the Democratic Party.
"It’s demagoguery. They sit there and ignite emotions and ignite racism when there isn’t," Love said. "They use their positions to instill fear. Hope and change is turned into fear and blame. Fear that everybody is going lose everything and blaming Congress for everything instead of taking responsibility."
The caucus isn't the only thing Love said she would dismantle in Washington. The departments of education and energy must go, she said. States, she said, should take back those duties along with health care.
Love, 36, has made several trips to Washington and secured backing from some heavy hitters in Congress. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Paul Ryan have all made donations to her campaign, she said.
Fundraising, she said, is going well. "I'm really happy with the trajectory," she said.
Love enters an already crowded GOP field including high-profile candidates state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom and former state Rep. Carl Wimmer, along with lawyer Jay Cobb. And there's also an incumbent to contend with since Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson decided to jump from the 2nd District to the 4th District.
A Deseret News/KSL-TV poll last month showed Love running behind Sandstrom and Wimmer among Republicans. She also trails Matheson by 17 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup, the poll shows.
Love, a married mother of three, said she chose a school to kickoff her campaign because she wants to help children achieve their dreams.
"I will not stand by and leave a legacy of debt and dependency," she said. "I am here to tell the children in this community, the children in this state, the children in this country, you will have a voice in Washington."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company