SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two years after losing by less than 800 votes, Republican Mia Love secured a seat in the U.S. House Tuesday, making her the first black female Republican ever in Congress and giving Utah an all-GOP congressional delegation for the first time in 14 years.
Love held off a tough challenge from Democrat Doug Owens for a victory in the Republican-leaning 4th Congressional District. She won by a 50-47 percent margin.
Love, 38, wiped away tears as party officials announced her victory at a Republican election night party in Salt Lake City. She took the stage surrounded by her husband, children and parents. She drew wild applause from revelers at the event when she said her win defies naysayers who suggested a black, Republican, Mormon woman couldn’t win a congressional seat in Utah. The state’s population is more than 91 percent white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Love said she plans to join the Congressional Black Caucus and make sure it’s opening up opportunities for everyone. Though she didn’t emphasize her race in the campaign, she acknowledged the significance of her election.
“It just shows that Utah doesn’t care about skin color and race,” Love told The Associated Press days before the election. “I think that’s positive for Utah.”
Her win was redemption after narrowly losing to Democrat Jim Matheson in 2012. Months after her loss, she announced she would run again, jump starting her fundraising and efforts to make sure voters know her name.
She expected to face off against Matheson again, but the seven-term congressman decided not to run, opening the door for Love.
Utah’s three other Republican incumbent U.S. representatives — Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart — all scored comfortable victories over their Democratic challengers
Love said that all-GOP delegation will give Utah residents a united front that will push back against President Barack Obama’s policies. She promised to hold more town hall meetings than everyone else and stay in close contact with the district’s voters.
“This is about making sure that we get good policies in place and I’m hoping that we do everything that we can to amplify Utah’s voice,” Love said.
Owens, 51, took solace in the fact that he lost by just 3 percentage points despite having far less name recognition and money in his political debut. Despite the loss, The Salt Lake City attorney said he would absolutely run again in 2016.
His father, Wayne Owens, represented Utah in Congress as a Democrat from 1973 to 1975 and again from 1987 to 1993.
“I feel good about it. We came from a place where nobody thought we could have a serious fight and I think we did,” Owens said. “We’ll be back, we’re not done yet.”
Here’s a look how the other congressional races turned out:
1st Congressional District
Republican Rob Bishop won a seventh term in Congress by defeating former business executive Donna McAleer for the second consecutive time in Utah’s 1st District, which includes the northernmost parts of Utah, including Ogden and Logan.
Bishop is in line to become chairman of a House committee that oversees federal lands. That’s an important position for Utah, a state where two-thirds of the land is owned by the federal government.
“We need development of public resources on public lands, not only for the economy, but for the education needs of the state of Utah,” Bishop said.
2nd Congressional District
Republican Chris Stewart breezed past Democratic state Sen. Luz Robles to win a second term in Congress. He’ll represent Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, which covers a large portion of the state, including most of Salt Lake City west to the Nevada border and south to the Arizona border.
Stewart, a former Air Force pilot and author, told voters during the campaign that Washington needs his military experience and business acumen. He said he hopes a Republican majority in the Senate means more bills will pass.
“Some of the things we’re working on are just not moving beyond the House,” he said. “We’re very frustrated and a lot of the American people are frustrated.”
3rd Congressional District
Three-term Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz easily beat political newcomer Democrat Brian Wonnacott to win another term in the 3rd District.
Chaffetz serves as the chairman of a national security subcommittee and has led a high-profile investigation into a Sept. 19 security breach at the White House where a man with a knife climbed the fence and made it inside the building.
Chaffetz is a top contender to take over as chairman of the full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He said Tuesday he should know within weeks about whether he’ll get the seat, and he wants to hold the administration accountable.
“It’s a target-rich environment,” he said.