- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - With a lead on name recognition and an established campaign team, political observers say former Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love is well-situated to lead the pack of eight candidates vying to replace longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson.

Love, who narrowly lost to Matheson in 2012, faces two fellow GOP challengers this year. If she wins this November, she’d become the first black, female Republican elected to Congress.

“It is her race to lose,” said Quin Monson, director of Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. “She’s got easily, the name recognition, the funding, the experience, campaign staff and a clear path once she gets the nomination.”

Tim Chambless of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, noted that in 2012, Love was going up against a seasoned political veteran and only lost by fewer than 800 votes.

“Before she campaigned from the perspective of a small-town mayor,” Chambless said, “in contrast to Jim Matheson, who had been doing the job for a dozen years.”

Both Chambless and Monson said Love, who has had high-profile speaking engagements and appearances on cable news shows, seems poised to win the Republican nomination.

The two other candidates in the Republican field this year are Bob Fuehr, former telecommunications executive from Salt Lake City, and Jennifer A. Johnson, the founder and manager of an investment company.

Fuehr acknowledged the hurdle he faces with Love when he launched his campaign last week with two billboards around the Salt Lake Valley that say “What About Bob?”

Love “has to be considered the favorite if you chose one name right now,” Chambless said, particularly when looking at the political leanings of the district.

The 4th Congressional District, which leans Republican, covers a string of Salt Lake City suburbs stretching south along the Wasatch Front to Sanpete County.

In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney won the district with 68 percent of the vote.

Matheson, the son of a popular former Utah governor, has stayed in Congress as a moderate and aligned himself with the fiscally conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats.

To replace him, “a Democrat would have to attract a substantial number of Republican voters,” Monson said. “Matheson got elected kind of as an aberration.”

With Matheson’s decision not to seek an eighth term this year, the most high-profile candidate on the Democratic side is attorney Doug Owens.

Owens, like Matheson, has a last name familiar to Utah politics. He is a son of the late U.S. Rep. Wayne Owens, a Democrat who represented Utah in Congress from 1973 to 1975 and again from 1987 to 1993.

The key difference is that Matheson built a reputation as a moderate, while Owens is an unknown, Monson said.

“I wouldn’t put the probability if Owens getting elected at zero,” he said. “But I would put it pretty low.”

But Chambless said he wouldn’t discount Owens and political experience he may have gleaned from his father.

Financially, the picture will be clearer next month when an initial round of fundraising reports is due.

Love had more than $700,000 in available campaign cash at the end of last year, according to her most recent campaign filings.

Except for Fuehr, who had a little more than $100,000 on hand at the end of December, fundraising reports are not available for the other candidates, who jumped into the race late.

Beyond Love, Owens and Fuehr, other candidates in the race include Democrat Bill Peterson and Libertarian Jim Vein, who ran for the seat in 2012.

Collin Robert Simonsen, a Constitution Party candidate, and Tim Aalders, an Independent American candidate, are also running.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide