If you’re interested in compelling personal stories, Mia Love seems almost too good to be true. She’s a first-generation Haitian-American, a devout Mormon, a wife and mother, and a Republican candidate for Congress in Utah. And last night she gave a rousing speech at the Republican National Convention that has many insiders calling her the next big star of the GOP.
Love is the mayor of Saratoga Springs, a town of 17,000 near Salt Lake City. In her race for Congress this fall, Love is up against Jim Matheson, a six-term Democratic representative who remains popular in the state. In a lengthy profile for Religion & Politics, Max Perry Mueller writes that Love’s gender may make her a tough sell in her home district: “In a religious culture where gender roles are divinely prescribed—with fathers designated as the breadwinners and mothers responsible ‘for the nurture of their children’—some voters may have a hard time sending Love, a mother of three young children, to Washington.”
But that was before Love’s big speech last night, in which she slammed President Obama — “Mr. President, I’m here to tell you the American people are awake and we’re not buying what you’re selling in 2012” — and spoke movingly about her own background and the American dream:
The America I now is grounded in the determination found in patriots and pioneers. It’s found in the Olympic athletes and every child who looks at the impossible and says, ‘I can do that.’ That’s the America I know.
The crowd went wild.
Mueller traces Love’s career from homemaker to (maybe) Congress, and identifies her as a rising star in the party. She had planned to stay at home with her kids, but a neighbor encouraged her to run for city council, where she was a forceful budget-cutter. When residents petitioned for a library to be built in town, Love said the money wasn’t there, but encouraged the efforts of local Mormons to raise funds for the project in their churches. “You see,” she tells Mueller, “when you just get government out of the way, the people do it themselves, and they take more pride in it because they own it.”
Eventually she became the first black woman mayor in Utah, and if she wins her election in the fall, she’ll be the first black Republican woman in Congress. This may be the first time you’ve heard the name Mia Love, but it probably won’t be the last.