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Love clinches GOP nod in 4th

Mia Love pulled a major upset on Saturday, winning the Republican Party nomination in Utah’s 4th District, advancing to face U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson in November.

"Jim Matheson should be pretty frightened right now. He should be pretty scared," she said after clinching the nomination. "He’s never gone against a candidate like me."

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Love who won 70.4 percent of the vote, said she was hoping for the outcome, but wasn’t making any bold predictions. Wimmer captured 29.6 percent of the vote.

Wimmer, a co-founder of the Patrick Henry Caucus, focused on states rights, had campaign for the office for more than a year, resigning his legislative seat to make his bid. He had broad legislative backing, the endorsement of Sen. Mike Lee, and the backing of legislators and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

But Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, had said coming into the convention that she was the front-runner.

"Today we have an opportunity to do something very special. Today we can start breaking a pattern," Love exhorted delegates before the final vote. "Today we can start bringing Jim Matheson home. Elect one nominee today, so we can take this fight to Jim Matheson tomorrow."

With the endorsement of her competitors — former Rep. Stephen Sandstrom and attorney Jay Cobb — and the backing of Mitt Romney’s son, Josh Romney, she managed to muster the 60 percent threshold needed to avoid a primary.

If elected to Congress, Love, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, would be the only black Republican woman in Congress.

Shurtleff, endorsing Wimmer before the final round of voting, urged delegates to back proven conservative.

"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 to Love as a "novelty" drew boos from many in the audience. 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 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. Privately, a number of Republican insiders were fuming over the slight.

Wimmer said he will be back in politics, and later took to the stage in a show of support to endorse Love.

"I am surprised. We expected to do very well, but no regrets at all," Wimmer said after the vote. "We ran a good race. I’m very proud of the people who supported me."

Love has already won support from Republican House leaders. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the leading Republican budget hawk all gave money to Love early in her campaign.

Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Love would be a strong advocate for the "failed status quo in Washington."

"Jim Matheson has changed and does not reflect the values of Utah families. He’s Obama’s biggest supporter in Utah, voted for his failed stimulus and opposes the repeal of ObamaCare," Sessions said in a statement.

-- Robert Gehrke

Twitter: @RobertGehrke



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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