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Paul Rolly: Will Mia Love learn from past errors?

Published May 18, 2013 6:33 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love's announcement at the Republican State Convention Saturday that she once again will run for Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson's 4th Congressional District seat spelled deja vu in more ways than one.

The obvious back-to-the-future story is that Love was the Republican foe of Matheson in 2012, vanquishing several Republican opponents in the GOP state convention only to lose by fewer than 1,000 votes.

But another ghost from the past is Casey Voeks, the recently elected chairman of the Utah County Republican Party, who many saw as a victim of national GOP maneuvering the last time Love became the party's candidate.

Voeks was the original manager of Love's campaign, leading a team of young, energetic volunteers who by all accounts did a great job in driving their candidate to the nomination and eliminating at the convention other hopefuls whose campaigns were staffed with more seasoned strategists.

But after Love secured the nomination, the National Republican Congressional Committee became actively involved, not only with its money, but taking over campaign strategy and deciding who would run things.

The Washington, D.C., folks were uncomfortable with the youth and inexperience that Love had surrounded herself with (Voeks is 24) and decided that many of those passionate youngsters had to go.

The most prominent casualty was Voeks, who after tirelessly guiding Love to the nomination, got kicked to the curb. After he so unceremoniously was stripped of his job, he left Utah to run a Republican congressional campaign in Arizona. His candidate won the GOP primary, but lost to a Democrat in the general election.

Voeks is back and defeated the incumbent chairman, David Atkinson, at the recent Utah County GOP convention.

At the time of the NRCC-inspired reorganization of the Love campaign last year, there were hard feelings, not just among those who were kicked off, but in several segments of the party which believed the young volunteers had been underappreciated and mistreated. But that was then.

Love and Voeks are fine with each other. In fact, Voeks told me that as recently as Thursday Love was asking him for suggestions on who would be best to put on her campaign team for 2014.

One of the issues that Voeks ran on in his race for chairman was that the Utah County Republican Party did not do enough for Love. He vowed to work hard for whoever is the Republican nominee. At the moment, the nominee likely will be Love.

After many of the volunteers who steered Love through the convention were let go and the national party became more involved, the campaign for several weeks was in disarray. State Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright and his executive director, Ivan Dubois, became directly involved, even providing space in the party's headquarters for the Love campaign.

This time around, Love has hired former Republican State Chairman Dave Hansen as a consultant to her campaign. Hansen is one of the most seasoned political strategists in Utah and last year was instrumental in getting Sen. Orrin Hatch through a hotly contested convention and primary toward re-election to his seventh term.

The NRCC, sensing blood because of the several close elections Matheson has had over a seven-term span, already is peppering the Utah media almost daily with anti-Matheson press releases, an indication the national group once again will be very much involved.

But Hansen has the street smarts and the clout to keep at bay national political types who, more often than not, seem to hamper rather then help local campaigns get the message out. —