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Many Republicans were shocked Saturday when Attorney General Mark Shurtleff seemingly dismissed Mia Love — the first black woman nominated for Congress in Utah — as a "novelty."

"You have to please pick a person with a proven record who can beat Jim Matheson this fall. Not a novelty," Shurtleff said.

The reference drew boos from many in the audience and outrage from many Republicans.

Republican National Committeewoman Enid Mickelsen said she had an angry confrontation with Shurtleff over the comment.

"At first I didn't believe it," Mickelsen said. But Shurtleff, she said, didn't back away from the comment.

"He said, 'Enid, what else is her appeal?' And I lost it," Mickelsen said.

"I told him he embarrassed the state and as the attorney general of the state he should know better and he would be humiliated by this nationally," Mickelsen said. "It was a terrible thing to say."

A tearful Shurtleff said later that he apologized to Love for what he said was "a terrible choice of words."

He said he was trying to draw a contrast between the record of the newcomer Love and the more seasoned Wimmer.

"It breaks my heart," said Shurtleff, who wrote a book about the life of Dred Scott. "I think anyone who knows me knows it hurts."

Love declined to address the comment.

— Robert Gehrke Twitter: @RobertGehrke