- Associated Press - Monday, February 3, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Republican Mia Love raked in half a million dollars at the end of last year in her bid to win the congressional seat being vacated by longtime Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson.

Love brought in $501,400 in the final three months of 2013, down from the $590,000 she raised in the previous quarter, new filings from the Federal Election Commission show. Most of that came from small donations from individual donors. Only $75,000 came from political action committees.

She continues to spend money nearly as quickly as she brings it in. She spent $472,000 last quarter, leaving her with $716,000 in her campaign coffers.

Matheson’s decision to step down after seven terms clears the way for Love and Republicans to win the only seat they don’t already have in the state. Political experts say it will be hard for Democrats to find a candidate who can knock off Love, the likely Republican nominee.

Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, has lots of campaign cash, political experience and name recognition after she nearly became the first black woman to represent the Republican Party in Congress in 2012 when she narrowly lost to Matheson in the most expensive House race in state history.

Utah’s 4th Congressional District covers a string of Salt Lake City suburbs stretching south along the Wasatch Front to Sanpete County.

So far, there is one Republican challenger to Love who has filed with the Federal Election Commission. That’s Bob Fuehr, a former U.S. West executive who loaned himself $144,000 and has $117,000 in his account at year’s end.

On the Democratic side, Doug Owens, a son of late Rep. Wayne Owens, has announced he’ll run in place of Matheson. Owens has said he will take a leave of absence from his Salt Lake City law firm to run. He hasn’t yet filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Matheson’s fundraising slowed at the end of 2013, with his quarterly total just $117,600. He didn’t spend much, leaving him with $743,000 in his coffers that he could use if he chooses to run for U.S. Senate.

Matheson left the door open for future runs for office, and many speculate he’s gearing up to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Lee in 2016.

In Utah’s other three congressional districts, the incumbents have major fundraising advantages over their challengers.

In the 1st Congressional District, Republican Rob Bishop has $79,000 in his account compared to $44,400 for Democrat Donna McAleer.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Republican Chris Stewart has $170,000, more than four times the amount gathered by Democrat Luz Robles, a state senator, who has $39,000.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Republican Jason Chaffetz finished the year with $165,500 in his account. No challengers have emerged to compete against Chaffetz this November.