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It has only been about a month since Doug Owens lost to Rep.-elect Mia Love in a closer-than expected contest, but the Democrat is already hinting at a potential rematch.
"I would definitely consider doing it again if things lined up," he said Friday in a Tribune interview. "I'm definitely interested in the issues and I enjoyed the campaign."
He wouldn't commit to running against Love in 2016, saying he would look for a race that was "winnable," at the same time he downplayed a potential run for Senate while reiterating his interest in national political issues.
Owens performed better than many prognosticators expected, losing by 7,500 votes in a conservative district. He even held the lead through most of election night, before Love, the first black Republican woman to win a congressional seat, pulled out the victory at the end.
He entered the race in early 2014 after Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, decided against seeking another House term, and at that point Owens was largely written off. National campaign handicappers, like the Cook Political Report, said it was a strong Republican seat due to its conservative tilt and the fact that Love, was a widely known candidate. She had almost defeated Matheson in 2012, coming just 768 votes short, and in the process built a nationwide fundraising juggernaut, built largely off of her status as a prominent black Republican.
National Democratic groups offered Owens no help, though he was still able to raise money from labor unions and donors within Utah. Post-election campaign finance reports released late Thursday showed he amassed $860,000 in his contest, a respectable amount for a congressional race in Utah, but far eclipsed by Love's $5 million-plus haul.
What was surprising is that in the waning days of the race, the same national Democrats who ignored Owens' candidacy early on began throwing money at him. He collected checks from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and about 10 other House Democrats. That money came as polls showed Owens within striking distance.
He believes if he had money to start his ad campaign earlier in the year, it may have made a difference, but he said he wasn't frustrated by the late support from party elders.
"It is nice that they thought I was going to win," Owens said.
He called Love "a good candidate" and said he isn't harboring any grudges. "I got beat fair and square."
Love's campaign manager Dave Hansen was surprised that Owens would talk about a potential rematch so quickly after the election, but said, "We'll be ready for him."
And that will likely mean that Owens would be at a significant financial disadvantage if he runs against her in 2016.
Love spent all but $370,000 of the $5.2 million raised for the campaign. No Utah congressional candidate has ever raised more. The bulk of that money, $2.8 million, came in such small amounts that she didn't have to identify the donors on campaign finance reports.
"We've got about 36,000 donors who gave money during this cycle. That's a huge number for a congressional race," Hansen said. "But she has the appeal."
And that appeal is a combination of her race, her gender and her fiery personality.
"It's not like another middle-aged white male running for Congress in some state out West," said Hansen. "It was a chance to make a statement and a lot of people wanted to be a part of it."