SALT LAKE CITY – In her bid to become the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, Mia Love is the GOP’s emblem of diversity this campaign year. She’s reluctant to embrace the role, saying she doesn’t let race or gender define her politics.
The 36-year-old mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, points to her policy stances as the reason for her success.
“I was elected mayor not because of my race or gender, not because I wear high heels, but because of the policies I put in place,” Love said in a recent interview.
Polling shows Love with a slight lead over Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, a six-term incumbent. The race is still too close to call.
In a party that has struggled for decades to attract black voters, the daughter of Haitian immigrants included subtle nods to civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in her speech to the Republican National Convention in August.
“Our story has been told for over 200 years with small steps and giant leaps,” she told the applauding delegates. “From a woman on a bus to a man with a dream, from the bravery of the greatest generation to the innovators and entrepreneurs of today, this is our story.”
Love has made much of her family story, a hallmark of her stump speeches: Her parents legally immigrated to Brooklyn in the early 1970s, she says, with just $10 in their pockets. She says her father – who has toiled as a painter, janitor and school bus driver – taught her never to ask for a handout. Her parents became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1984.
A married mother of three, a Mormon and a tea party favorite, Love is the only woman among 11 black Republican House candidates in the Nov. 6 election. She and Vernon Parker, who is running in Arizona, are seen as the most likely winners among nine black GOP challengers.
Republicans, like Love herself, have focused more on her conservative values and agenda than her race.