SALT LAKE CITY — In a wide-ranging speech that included swipes at President Donald Trump and other fellow Republicans, outgoing Rep. Mia Love on Monday called her successor in Congress a "wolf in sheep's clothing."
Speaking from a teleprompter at the Utah GOP headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City surrounded by her family, Love confirmed that she called Rep.-elect Ben McAdams, D-Utah, to congratulate him on winning the 4th Congressional District race.
But she also slammed him for negative campaigning, saying the "character assassination tactics" he used to make a "false case" against her have "so stained the state" that Utahns should expect future elections to be similar.
"Victory is theirs. I believe we have elected a wolf in sheep's clothing. But the question remains, at what cost to the people of Utah? There is a cost and we will pay it," Love said.
McAdams told the Deseret News that it is time to move on from the election.
"It was a tough campaign, I think, on both sides. And she certainly ran a very, very negative campaign. I also understand that campaigns are about differences. But governing is really about what brings us together," he said.
McAdams said he is open to talking to Love, but that it's up to her.
"Really, this is about what's good for the people of Utah and for this country," he said. "I think people are tired of partisanship and finger-pointing and blaming. It's time to just move forward."
McAdams, the Salt Lake County mayor, tweeted Saturday that he had received a call from Love. He had first declared victory on Nov. 19 after results released that day showed he had regained the lead he'd held since Election Day.
He said in the tweet that she called to "graciously congratulate me on the outcome of the election. I thanked her for her service to our state and country. I wish her the best. There’s a tremendous amount of work to get done and we need bipartisan unity to do it."
But Monday, when McAdams was asked whether Love expressed the same concerns to him in that call that she did in her news conference, he said they "had basically the same conversation on the phone."
He said, however, he is trying to focus on the positive.
"I'm putting myself in her shoes. I'm imagining it's a tough position to be in, so I'm empathetic and understanding of that," McAdams said. "The election's over. It's time. I'm ready to get to work for the people of Utah."
Love also targeted the news media for what she called "uneducated, unfair, irresponsible stories. My ethics, my record lied about, tarnished and repeated over and over again on TV right in front of our children."
She criticized Trump for telling reporters that she lost the Nov. 6 election because she gave him "no love," spurning his offers of support. The president did record a robocall for Love that went to a limited number of voters.
"What did he have to gain by saying such a thing about a fellow Republican? It was not really asking about him to do more, was it?" she asked, saying the president's comments gave her a "clear vision of his world as it is."
The president's world, Love said, is "no real relationships — just convenient transactions. That is an insufficient way to implement sincere service and policy." She said she and Trump would have to talk.
Love, the first black Republican woman in the House, also said her re-election and Trump's comments "shine a spotlight on the problems Washington politicians have with minorities and black Americans. It's transactional. It's not personal."
With her Haitian-born parents behind her, Love said, "We feel like politicians claim they know what's best for us, from a safe distance. Yet they're never willing to take us home" and into their hearts.
As a result, she said minorities "stay with Democrats and bureaucrats in Washington because they do take them home. At least they can feel like they have a home. I've seen the cost (to) conservatives for not truly taking people into their hearts."
Love, who has had a national profile since her first run in 2012, said it was Democrats who "saw newly elected black members and women to Congress in this election. This is a matter of fact that Republicans lost in this regard."
She took on Democrats for making poverty "tolerable rather than temporary," urging minority voters to look to conservatives. "I am a Republican. I know conservative policies work. They lift everyone."
Love said she now feels "unshackled" and will continue to speak out on a number of issues, including protecting the unborn, although she took only a few questions Monday and did not offer details about what her future plans might be.
Asked if she would run again in 2020, Love said, "I don't know. I don't know. We'll see." But she said, "The good news is, I am not going away."
She said she is "always asked, 'How can you be a black member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Republican, and a woman in the state of Utah.' I will always proudly say, 'Follow the sun. It is a warm, compassionate place.'"
McAdams won the election by only 694 votes, just 21 votes beyond the margin that would have allowed Love to request a recount. He will be the only Democrat in Utah's congressional delegation.
Love lost her first race for Congress in 2012 to the last Democrat to represent Utah in Congress, now former Rep. Jim Matheson. After Matheson retired in 2014, Love went on to win the 4th District seat then and again in 2016.
In 2012, Love was given a coveted speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, where now Utah Sen.-elect Mitt Romney was nominated as the party's pick for president.
Her mentors in Congress included outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who did not seek re-election. Ryan and other prominent Republicans have held fundraisers for Love in Utah.