Concerns about organizational snags in Mia Love's congressional campaign are buzzing around Republican circles and the party has stepped in to help steer the wheel and otherwise keep a close eye on the operation.
Love is the party's 4th Congressional District nominee after blowing away all her opponents at the Republican State Convention. She is challenging six-term incumbent Jim Matheson, the lone Democrat in Utah's congressional delegation, and her candidacy is attracting national attention, not only because Matheson is once again a high-priority GOP target, but because of Love's unique profile.
If elected, she would become the first African-American Republican woman ever elected to Congress. And local Republicans are understandably excited about the prospect of that distinction coming out of Utah. Love has tried to downplay her race and gender, insisting that policy differences should be the focus of the race.
She is an unabashed tea-party conservative who believes in small government, low taxes and states' rights. She has proposed deep cuts in federal spending, particularly in the area of entitlements.
Love, 36, is a relative novice in politics. She first won a seat on the newly incorporated Saratoga Springs City Council in 2003, then, six years later, became mayor of the small Utah County community.
The formation of her internal campaign structure has been bumpy.
She started out with charter school expert Kim Coleman as her campaign manager, but switched to a young political up-and-comer named Casey Voeks, who guided the campaign to a 70 percent victory in the convention.
Voeks and other key members of the campaign were replaced shortly after the convention when national congressional campaign veterans became interested in the race and saw potential in her candidacy. The ouster of key campaigners who had been successful caused some consternation inside the Republican tent. The new campaign manager, Matt Holton, was also young and relatively inexperienced.
But he came from the Mike Lee camp, and GOP politicians were feeling their oats after Lee's surprise 2010 victory to replace veteran Sen. Bob Bennett as Utah's junior senator.
Holton was an assistant to Lee's chief of staff, Spencer Stokes, who sold his successful lobbying business to his friend Steve Hunter when he took the full-time job with Lee in Washington. Hunter, by all accounts, is now the unofficial go-to guy in the Love campaign and has brought on direct-mail specialist Peter Valcarce as consultant.
But all does not seem well inside the campaign. Sources say there have been communication problems between staffers that have caused some rifts. Love has had to miss some interviews and appointments because of conflicts in her schedule. But she has been diligent in rescheduling and making good on her promises.
There have also been concerns raised about some of the advice the campaign has been getting from national strategists about the direction of her ad campaigns. Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee is raising enough money to keep her in the hunt with Matheson.
State Republican Chairman Thomas Wright said Love's campaign is doing fine. The party has become involved because of the unprecedented interest in her campaign, he said, and "all hands are needed" to keep up with all the demands.
One source close to the campaign said that some things have been going well and other things have been a mess. "But if you only have one woodshed, you've got to take the whole campaign to it."