Mia Love, first black Republican woman in Congress, is 'solid gold' for GOP

Mia Love is one of three newly elected black Republicans heading to Congress, increasing the number of elected black Republicans in Congress to ... three.

Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune/AP
Republican candidate for Congress Mia Love poses for a picture with supporter Emily Russell as she canvasses neighborhoods in Riverton, Utah, Monday to get out the vote before Election Day. She won her race Tuesday.

For the first time in U.S. history, voters are sending a black Republican woman to Congress.

And Mia Love, the former small-town mayor in Utah who won a narrow victory in the state’s open Fourth Congressional District Tuesday evening, added noticeable buzz to the Republican celebrations over their election-night shellacking of Democrats across the country.

Indeed, Ms. Love, the Brooklyn-born daughter of Haitian-American immigrants, is poised to become an important symbol for the GOP as the party seeks to broaden its appeal among blacks and other minorities, who typically vote overwhelmingly Democratic. She is the first Haitian-American of any party to be elected to Congress.

In Texas, too, voters are sending the state’s first black Republican to Congress since Reconstruction, narrowly electing Will Hurd, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, to the House of Representatives. Both will join Sen. Tim Scott from South Carolina, who was appointed to his post in 2012 for retiring Sen. Jim DeMint and then elected last night, as the only three black Republicans in Congress. There are 43 black Democrats in Congress.

But there is a palpable excitement about the election of Love in Utah, one of the most conservative states in the country – and one which has a minuscule black population of only 1.3 percent.

“An African-American congresswoman is solid gold for the Republicans,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told the Telegraph, a British newspaper. “They have enduring, deep problems with both minorities and women across the country, so I guarantee you they will feature Mia Love prominently.”

And Love, the former mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, who often wears her hair in the kind of urban-style braids more likely seen in Brooklyn than the Beehive State, tells a classic, almost Obama-like American story of overcoming odds and achieving great heights through hard work and perseverance.

Her parents escaped from Haiti in the early 1970s, naming their daughter Ludmya Bourdeau after she was born in Brooklyn’s immigrant neighborhoods.

“My parents immigrated to the US with $10 in their pocket, believing that the America they had heard about really did exist,” Love told the Republican National Convention in 2012, the year she unsuccessfully ran for the seat she won Tuesday. “When times got tough, they didn’t look to Washington, they looked within.”

A Roman Catholic and former flight attendant, Love later converted to Mormonism and moved to Utah, where she met her husband, Jason Love. The couple say their first date was at a gun range, and they married just three months later. They now have two daughters and a son.

It’s a story of self-reliance, hard work, and family that resonates well with conservative Republicans across the country – and forms a big part of the congresswoman-elect’s campaign speeches.

On the stump, she often quotes her father: “Mia, your mother and I never took a handout. You will not be a burden to society. You will give back.” She has also relentlessly attacked the president, saying, “President Obama’s version of America is a divided one – pitting us against each other based on our income level, gender, and social status,” she says in campaign speeches. “His policies have failed!”

It’s a message Republicans have been hammering for most of Mr. Obama’s tenure – but coming from a young black woman with deeply conservative views, many believe, will add a new credibility to a party often stereotyped as one of angry white men.

“Thank you for the trust you have placed in me,” Love told supporters Tuesday evening. “I will work every day to be deserving of it. Regardless of who you voted for today, I hope you know that I am going to Washington to represent everyone in the district and invite you to engage with me in finding real solutions to the challenges we face as a country.”

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