SALT LAKE CITY — Coming off her address at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love indicated that she was "seriously" considering challenging Rep. Jim Matheson for his congressional seat in 2014.
"We are looking at it very seriously," Love said to CQ Roll Call. "We are trying to get people engaged and going, and let them know that we have to start early so that we are not starting from behind."
Love, who was touted by conservatives as an up-and-coming politician during the 2012 election season, narrowly lost out to Matheson in the newly created 4th Congressional District. The campaign between Love and Matheson was lively, to say the least, with national Republican members coming to Utah to raise funds for Love's campaign.
Love has since hired former Utah Republican Chairman Dave Hansen, who helped Sen. Orrin Hatch win re-election last year. Love said she is now working to lay the foundation for another run against Matheson by reaching out to donors early.
"Getting that message out takes a lot of effort, a lot of funds, so we want to make sure that we are defining ourselves before the opposition does," Love told Roll Call.
In 2012, the candidates' combined spending amounted to $11.2 million, which is the most expensive race in Utah history.
Matheson, however, said he's not too worried about the 2014 election, saying he's more focused on doing his job than worrying about an election almost two years away.
"I'm not surprised, but I also think it's awfully early to be talking about the election in Nov. 2014," Matheson said. "My focus is really on doing my job. I think that's what people want from their elected officials, to work at their job and not campaign the whole time."
"That election's a long ways away and I'm just going to work hard on my job," Matheson added. "I'm all ready receiving a great response as I go around (my) district and meet with so many people, and I think that's a real positive. That just makes where I'm going to be in a much stronger position two years from now than where I was the last election."
Matheson said his campaign next year will have less external "variables" that made it difficult for him to be re-elected in 2012.
"Mitt Romney was a really strong candidate at the top of the ticket in Utah. None of those factors are in play this time. In fact, I'm at the top of the ticket this time. There's no statewide races in 2014," Matheson said. "I think that's a great position for me to be in; it takes away a lot of the coattail effect, and party effect that everyone tries to use against me when I run for office. Looking ahead to this next race, I'm in a good position."
Earlier this year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targeted Matheson as a "vulnerable incumbent" in 2014. The Party added Matheson to the "Frontline" program, which is designed to protect vulnerable incumbents by increasing attention through fundraising and other efforts.
Although Love will not have the presidential election to increase voter turnout, her campaign will likely garner more national attention as Republicans attempt to keep their hold on the House and pick up seats in the Senate.
Over the weekend, Love was introduced at CPAC as a conservative woman that "liberals check at night under their bed" for. Addressing those in attendance, Love urged conservatives to continue to fight and have confidence.
"Some wanted to turn tail and run the other way. Some wanted us to change our values and our principles. Others said let's pack up, hold off for four years and regroup," Love said. "Tempting as that may sound, that is not what we do as freedom-loving Americans. But if we keep things in perspective, if we have confidence in our ability and our principles, that will allow us to get up and climb again."
Love spoke briefly about her November defeat, saying it was a "tough night." In the weeks before Election Night, Matheson had a lead in the polls; nevertheless Love's campaign was optimistic about her chances, believing that victory was in sight.
"We faced great opposition during the course of the campaign. Yet, we remained positive," Love said. "We had a solid plan. We were ready for the task, and we were willing to persevere."