NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — After a 1-point loss in Utah last year, Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love is actively laying the groundwork for a second challenge to the sole Democrat in the state's delegation, Rep. Jim Matheson.
In preparation for a bid, Love has hired former state GOP Chairman Dave Hansen, who was widely heralded last year for successfully managing the re-election campaign of Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Love and Hansen sat down with CQ Roll Call for an interview Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where she was scheduled to speak.
“We are looking at it very seriously,” Love said. “We are trying to get people engaged and going, and let them know that we have to start early so that we are not starting from behind.”
“Getting that message out takes a lot of effort, a lot of funds, so we want to make sure that we are defining ourselves before the opposition does,” Love said.
As the nominee, Love quickly gained national attention — including a coveted speaking slot at the Republican National Convention — for her unique background and potential to become the first black Republican woman in Congress. That looked to be a strong possibility in Utah’s redrawn and Republican-leaning 4th district, much of which was new to Matheson.
While Love held Matheson to under 50 percent, she underperformed compared to Mitt Romney, who was wildly popular in Utah, by nearly 20 points on the ticket. Some Republican strategists criticized her ads and poorly run campaign, while Matheson credited his established brand and own strong campaign team.
With Hansen on board, Love believes she has now assembled the best possible team.
Hatch entered the 2012 cycle vulnerable to a challenge from his right, but, along with a plan for winning convention delegates, the incumbent raised so much money early that it kept strong GOP challengers from entering the race.
Hansen’s challenge this time will be handling a competitive general election against a Blue Dog Democrat and veteran of difficult campaigns. Hansen said he is still evaluating consultants and, since Love won’t be on the air next week, has not decided on a media team. Love said she'll leave those decisions to Hansen, but she will enter this race from a different perspective.
“We have learned a lot from the campaign ... and I am coming from experience now,” Love said. “We were able to raise money, but it wasn’t until the very end. So we’re starting early, and that’s going to help.”