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Will Mia Love be Matheson's strongest challenger yet?
Politics » Mia Love could present his most difficult challenge yet.

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Leading up to the convention, he said, Love came across as a "typical red-meat conservative."

Love might move to the center, Monson said, but it "does open the door for Matheson to paint her as too conservative and his regular ‘I’m-a-moderate’ approach that attracts Republican votes."

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"I’ve made a point of making sure everyone knows this is a big tent," Love said. "I’m not polarizing. Everyone’s welcome, and I’m certainly not focusing on every issue under the sun." Her campaign is emphasizing the federal debt and deficit, energy development and tax reform.

Matheson, meantime, has already sought to paint Love as an extreme conservative, pointing to her support for eliminating the Department of Education, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. She also wants to give states control of Medicare and Medicaid.

"I think he has to say what he needs to say to try to win the race. To me, there’s nothing extreme about what I’m trying to do," Love said. She said it’s part of the process of getting the nation’s budget in order.

"We’re not going to catastrophically just chop everything," she said. "Let’s be clear: I do believe there is a role that government plays. … I worked, for crying out loud, about nine years in government, but I think government should be limited."

Another issue they have sparred over — at least from a distance — is federal health reform. Love says Matheson voted against repealing the bill, while she would vote to repeal the federal health care reform every chance she got.

Matheson voted against the federal health reform when it passed and has voted to repeal portions of the bill. But he said a complete repeal would mean getting rid of good changes, like prohibitions on denying health care to those with pre-existing conditions.

"Everywhere I go in Utah, people don’t want that," he said. "Someone advocating outright repeal, they’re telling everyone in Utah who has pre-existing conditions, ‘Guess what? We’re going to take that right away from you,’ and I’m not going to do that."

Matheson will be banking on voters like Kathi and Homer Robertson if he hopes to win. The Robertsons are Scout leaders whom Matheson represented from 2001 to 2003, when redistricting last shuffled the boundaries.

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"We liked Congressman Matheson when he was our congressman before. Even though we’re pretty conservative, I like the fact that he puts Utah first," Kathi Robertson said. "We’re really glad to have him back. … He’s a proven commodity."

Homer Robertson said he’ll listen to Love, but "she will have to convince me."

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

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