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Saratoga Springs • Mayor Mia Love formally launched her bid for Congress on Thursday, promising to cut taxes, balance the budget and ensure children today have a shot at the American dream.
To do that, Love said she would draw on her experience as mayor, where she erased a $3.5 million budget shortfall, saving the city of some 18,000 residents from bankruptcy experience she said sets her apart from other Republican contenders.
And, she said, she believes she is the candidate with the best shot to force Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson into retirement.
"We are no longer going to allow politicians to kick the can down the road," she said. "We are no longer going to allow this out-of-control spending. We are no longer going to stand for it."
Love, who filed for the office last month, has some heavy hitters in her corner. In addition to a number of tea-party activists who attended her announcement, she said she has received campaign contributions from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the leading Republican budget hawk.
Love joins a field of Republican contenders in the new 4th Congressional District that includes Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem; attorney Jay Cobb; and Rep. Carl Wimmer, who formally resigned from the Legislature on Thursday. His resignation is effective Jan. 9.
"I think the 4th District is by far the most compelling race in Utah for 2012," said Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. "It's a fascinating convention fight that I think is almost guaranteed a primary, and the winner has to go against the most formidable Democrat in Matheson."
In order to balance the budget while cutting taxes, Love said she would start by abolishing the Department of Education and the Department of Energy, delegating their responsibilities to the states.
She said she would slash regulations and open up federal land to energy drilling.
Love recounted how her parents fled Haiti with $10 in their pocket, settling in Brooklyn and making a life for themselves.
"I had a front-row seat for two people living the American dream," she said. "I will not stand by as we leave our children a legacy of debt and dependency."
She said she would be a voice for today's children, to ensure they can succeed, "the same way my parents realized their dream."
Love, who became the first black female mayor in the state when she took office in 2009, would become Utah's first minority to serve in Congress and the only black woman on the Republican side of the aisle.
But she said she does not expect her race to be an issue in her campaign.
"I was elected with 60 percent of the votes in this city because people care more about what is happening in their lives, what is happening in their back pockets, what is happening in their homes than they care about the color of someone's skin," she said.
Love said that, if she is elected, she would gladly join the Congressional Black Caucus a group of black Democratic lawmakers and Republican Rep. Allen West, of Florida because she would want to destroy it from inside.
"It's demagoguery. They sit there and ignite emotions, they ignite racism where there isn't any," she said. "They use their positions to instill fear. 'Hope and change' has turned into fear and blame."
Love, 36, is the mother of three. She graduated from the University of Hartford with a degree in fine arts. She was elected to the Saratoga Springs City Council in 2003 and has served as its mayor since 2009.
Jowers said any of the three elected officials have a good shot at winning the nomination. Wimmer has been at it the longest and won support and financial backing from outside groups. Sandstrom has the ability to self-fund and has led on immigration.
"Mia Love's greatest advantage and disadvantage is she has not yet been pigeonholed as much as Wimmer and Sandstrom," Jowers said. "She won't get some of the automatic votes that are just sitting there, but I doubt many people have crossed her off the list."