I'm always saying in Washington if you can't blend in, you might as well stand out.
SOUTH JORDAN — Except for few a chairs and photos of her shooting a gun or teaching a treadmill class, Mia Love's campaign headquarters has not yet sprung to life.
But her bid for Congress is up and running.
The Saratoga Springs mayor has acted like a candidate, including two trips to Washington, D.C., for several months, but has not formally announced her intention to run in Utah's new 4th Congressional District. She plans to do so early next month.
"I am running for Congress, yes," Love said Thursday while waiting for furniture to arrive at her campaign digs situated between offices for a dentist and an eye doctor in River City Plaza.
A Republican, Love enters an already crowded GOP field including high-profile candidates Rep. Stephen Sandstrom and Rep. Carl Wimmer, along with lawyer Jay Cobb. And now there's an incumbent to contend with since Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson last week decided to jump from the 2nd District to the 4th District.
"You can send a whole bunch of Wimmers to Congress. You can send a whole bunch of Sandstroms to Congress. You can only send one me," Love said.
Being a conservative African-American woman sets Love, 36, apart from the other challengers. "I'm always saying in Washington if you can't blend in, you might as well stand out," she said.
But she said that's not what will get her elected. Rather, Love says, it's her budget-cutting experience as mayor and focus on limited government and family values that will resonate with voters.
"This is about leadership. It's not about throwing bombs or throwing messages out there and hope they stick. It's about tackling problems," said the first-term mayor who also served six years on the Saratoga Springs City Council.
Love said she is "rapidly" raising money in Utah and from some sources in Washington, though she wouldn't identify them. She also wouldn't address how much she thinks she needs to run a competitive campaign.
The daughter of Haitian immigrants who came to the United States legally, learned English and became U.S. citizens, Love was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Connecticut.
"They had $10 in their pocket and they worked their tails off," she said. Her father managed a paint company and her mother is a nurse.
Love said she identified with the Republican Party before she knew she was Republican.
"I grew up with that idea of personal responsibility," she said.
Love recalled her father joining her on her first day of orientation at the University of Hartford.
"He looked at me and said, 'Your mother and I have never taken a handout. We've done everything we possibly could to get you here. You will not be a burden to society. You will give back.' That sort of stuck in my head."
Love moved to Utah 14 years ago to stay with a friend for six months and started dating Jason Love, a recently returned LDS Church missionary she knew in Connecticut. She joined the church just before they were married. They now have two girls, ages 12 and 9, and a 4-year-old son.
Shooting and running — not necessarily at the same time — are among Love's passions.
She has a concealed carry permit and often packs a gun. Her husband introduced her to shooting on their first date. His first gift to her was a rifle.
Love also teaches a weekly treadmill class at a recreation center.
"I run. I run long-distance races. I run relay races. I run short-distance races," Love said, adding she really enjoys Utah's scenery. "Living here, how can you not run?"