SANDY, Utah — Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love is back in the ring and ready for round two against Congressman Jim Matheson, and Matheson said he’s ready to take on the Republican who lost to him by only 786 votes in the 2012 election.
In a campaign event held Wednesday at the Salt Lake Community College campus in Sandy, Love appeared energized and upbeat as she addressed a few dozen supporters at a luncheon and hosted others in a town hall meeting.
Love said she’s confident things will be different this time around.
“We have a great campaign staff,” Love said. “We have people who know how to do this.”
Love has hired former Orrin Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen to head up her sophomore attempt at Congress.
Utah’s Fourth Congressional District is still relatively fresh political terrain. Created after the 2010 Census, it has a strong majority of registered Republicans, but Matheson, Utah’s most tenured congressman in D.C., managed to eke out a victory over the charismatic mayor, who drew strong national attention.
Before the two competitors get to a second round, they have to earn their party nominations.
That could explain why Love invited one of the most controversial former Congressmen in America to keynote a fundraiser and town hall meeting to kick off her campaign.
“I call him a good friend,” Love said of former one-term Florida Congressman Allen West as she introduced him at a $250 a head luncheon.
West, also a retired Army Lt. Colonel, is most famous for making provocative statements about Democrats, most notably saying in a town hall meeting, that 78-81 members of Congress in the Democratic Party are members of the Communist Party. His rationale: communists started calling themselves progressives in the early 20th Century, and there are about that many members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
West also made headlines for saying that President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should “get the Hell out of the country” for supporting what West sees as economic policies that encourage dependence on government.
Asked about whether she agreed with West’s statements, Love suggested it was a question of style.
“Phrasing is something that I’m not going to get into,” Love said. “Whether I agree or disagree with his phrasing, I say things a little differently. I do everything I can to make sure I understand where people are coming from.”
“He represents everything that is wrong with our politics today,” Matheson said of West.
It was a statement Matheson’s campaign had also included in an email fundraiser that West brought up in a conversation with FOX 13 News.
“I think it was kind of underhanded and nefarious for someone such as Jim Matheson to send out a very hateful email against me on Veterans Day,” West said. “I served 22 years to this great nation to ensure that Jim Matheson can live with the freedoms and liberties that he enjoys, and he couldn’t give me one day, Veterans Day?,” West said.
The email from the Matheson campaign was dated Tuesday, Nov. 12, the day after Veterans Day.