Mia Love breaks the GOP mold, but can she win?
By Mark Z. Barabak
May 29, 2012, 5:03 a.m.
If Mia Love hadnít been born 36 years ago to a pair of near-penniless Haitian immigrants, she might have been invented in a laboratory by scheming Republican scientists.
A small-town Utah mayor and big-time congressional hopeful, Love is conservative, black and Mormon -- not your typical candidate ingredients, but that makes her profile all the more compelling in a year when the nation's first black president is seeking reelection against a candidate bidding to become the nation's first Mormon chief executive.
Her candidacy practically cries out: Exclusionary? Not the Mormon Church! Not the Republican Party!
GOP leaders say her election is one of their top priorities, and inside the Beltway there's already chatter about Love's future (of the bigger, brighter variety.)
For now, though, her focus is more modest: chasing away Utahís lone congressional Democrat, Jim Matheson, the son of one of the most popular governors in state history. If Love wins, she would make history of her own, becoming the nation's first black Republican congresswomen.
She spoke by telephone as she headed from a meeting of local mayors to a campaign stop in Salt Lake City.
Q: Youíre the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, population roughly 18,000. Where is that?
A: Itís about 30 minutes south of Salt Lake City ... on the west side of Utah Lake.
Q: You were born in Brooklyn and raised in Connecticut. How did you wind up in Utah?
A: I introduced my roommate to a young man that I'd met serving a (Mormon) mission in Connecticut and I tried to set them up. I was only supposed to be in Utah for about six months and in the process of setting them up, he and I ended up getting together and six months turned into 14 years.
Q: African Americans are just 1% of the population statewide and .5% in Saratoga Springs. Is it ever strange or awkward living in a place with so few black people?
A: No ... Utah is home, I feel at ease here. But, also, I donít have a victim attitude. If somebody does something, or is short with me, I don't assume it's because I'm black or female.
Q: Like a lot of immigrants, your parents struggled after arriving in the United States. For a time, your father scrubbed toilets and your mom cleaned houses to support you and your siblings. How did they shape your political views?
A: I didn't know it was shaping my political views until a lot later in life. I guess the bottom line is if my parents can work hard and make a life for myself and my sisters and brothers, then we have to allow other Americans to achieve that dream also. I believe that we would be doing a disservice to all Americans if weíre trying to provide everything for everyone. I don't believe we ever have enough money if we're going to provide for everyone from cradle to grave.
Q: You worked for a time as a Continental Airlines flight attendant. What's the worst or most unusual thing you ever experienced at 36,000 feet?
A: There are many, many horror stories that I could talk about. ... One of the things I realized working as a flight attendant, some people do not believe that there are rules or laws that you have to abide by once you're up in the air.
Q: You've said you don't want to "use the race card" for political advancement. Have you ever experienced racial prejudice, or felt race was an impediment to your goals?
A: I never have said, 'This didnít happen to me because of what I look like.' Itís important for me to teach my children that they are going to make a life for themselves. It's not going to be because of anything other than what they're able to accomplish in life and their character. ... I am no victim and I don't allow anyone to put me in a box."
Q: You got into politics because of the debate over removing the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. Do they say the pledge before City Council meetings in Saratoga Springs?
A: We do.
Q: On your campaign website you talk about some difficult choices you made as a councilwoman, including big cuts to balance the city budget. It says some of the municipal employees who were laid off were people you would see "at church and at the grocery store." What did you say when you ran into those people?
A: Just to let you know, I was elected after that with 60% of the vote. There was a lot of support there in terms of what we had to do. There's no way, if I had to provide a job for every single person, the city would never have enough money. I have to ask myself three questions anytime I'm about to make a new commitment as a mayor ... Is it affordable? Is it sustainable? Is it my job? In other words, is it what I was elected to do, or constitutional? ... If it doesnít fit (those) criteria, then I donít address that."
Q: You've endorsed the notion of limited government and said, "I've tried to stay out of everyone's personal lives and their property." Whatís your position on abortion and same-sex marriage?
A: I'm obviously really focused on ... fiscal discipline, limited government, personal responsibility. But I can tell you, I am 100% pro-life and I do support marriage between a man and a woman.
Q: The Mormon Church doesn't have the best track record when it comes to African Americans. Up until 1978, the church banned black men from its priesthood. At times, the church also barred black men and women from certain temple ceremonies. Have you ever experienced bias or felt unwelcome in the church?
A: No, never. I've never felt unwelcome in the church, or else I wouldnít be part of it.
Q: Do you take any pride in President Obama's election as the countryís first black president?
A: I respect the man, and I certainly respect the office. But I believe that the greatest honor I can do him and the American people is to judge him based on policy, and we do not agree on policy.
Q: What would the election of the first Mormon president mean to the country?
A: I can't speculate on that.
Q: You've said if elected you plan to join the Democratic-dominated Congressional Black Caucus and, in your words, "take that thing apart from the inside out." What do you have in mind?
A: It's, again, trying to promote what I believe are the principles of judging somebody by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. ... To me, itís not about singling Americans out because they live in black communities or Asian communities or white communities.
Q: You and your husband have three kids between ages 5 and 12, but you still train for and run marathons. Whatís your best time?
A: Most of those we do for fun. I do a lot of half-marathons and my half-marathon was about 1:40.