Monday, November 5, 2012

"Shoe less" Mia Love

Mia Love isn't wearing shoes.  The mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, a woman who is on the precipice of knocking off 6 term congressman Jim Matheson, to take her seat in one of the most vaunted chambers in American politics, is barefoot.  Love knows I am coming.  The mayor has just been tapped by the Republican National Committee to speak at the nominating convention for Mitt Romney in Tampa, Florida, and our assignment desk has arrange for me to show up with a camera at Love's new and spacious Saratoga Springs home.  She is dressed like a congresswoman might dress, Orange power blouse, brown power suit, but no shoes, and no socks.
Mia Love speaks at the Republican National Convention

Love is an indefinably disciplined candidate who seldom, if ever veers off script.  Even in casual conversation, she, sometimes with awkward adherence, will not drift from her talking points.  "Man this must be exciting, and nerve wracking as well," I attempt to make small talk as photographer Matt Michela sets up lights in anticipation of our interview   Love, isn't going to break from character, "it's an opportunity to talk about real issues that affect real Utahn's," she recites, unwilling to express giddiness  fear, or awe, about the surreal world in which this once unknown mayor from a tiny Utah town has now been thrust.   

During our interview  Love is confident, energetic and bold, if not repetitive.  The answers I hear today, do not vary significantly from the quotes she's given to other newspaper reporters and TV journalists in the past.  

When I ask her if race, (Love is black, the daughter of Haitian immigrants) may have been a factor in her selection as a speaker at the Republican National Convention, she pulls out a soundbite I've heard before, "Saratoga Springs does not have the highest bond rating in the state of Utah because I'm black," she repeats.  I understand her reluctance to veer from script, at the time, she is 15 points behind the incumbent  and she certainty doesn't want to utter a gaffe that would end up destroying her then slim chance of knocking off Matheson in November.

"What do you think about Todd Akin's comments?" I ask, referring to the Missouri Republican, who had just made that infamous "legitimate rape," statement that was exploding into a full-fledged media disaster for his run for the US Senate race in the "Show-me State."  

It was a question the mayor hadn't received in the past, and one for which she was not prepared, "Well we don't know what happens in a person's personal life," Love wanders, searching for an answer, before shutting down the meandering word grasp and finally concluding, that she doesn't adhere to Akin's views.
Congressman Jim Matheson

As Matt removes the lapel mic from Love's collar, I flopped down casually onto her large leather sofa, "We might be sending someone to cover your speech," I  announce, to which a man with a shaved head,  and oddly ornate button-down shirt whose been standing nearby, silently texting and emailing on his smart phone, finally interject curtly, "who?"  Probably Decker," I say benignly, referring to our eccentric, political reporter, Rod Decker, a surly  disheveled  yet thoroughly entertaining, and wildly competent reporter.  Decker is a Utah institution, he  doesn't delivery his stories as much as he bellows them into his microphone, peaking the VU meters on the control board back at the station.  "We've got nothing to say to him," announces the bald man.  "Listen," Love says, eyes burrowing into mine, "if you are fair to us, you will get your access.  If not..." Love trails off, leaving the rest of her  sentence a mystery for me to interpret as I will.  

"Well," I say to the woman who may be the next representative from Utah's 4th District, "You'll find, if you win, some stories will be positive, some stories will be negative, but in the end, the coverage will even out and be fair overall."  Love just stares at me, unconvinced  unmoved, and silent at my answer.  

"well," I slap me palms together, "it's nice to meet you mayor, good luck in Florida." I turn and head towards the large, heavy oak front door of her home. "What time will this be on?" she asks, "Four, Five and 6 PM," I answer.  "OK," she moves in closer, eyes locked on mine, "I'm going to watch them all," she warns, "each and every one of them,"  her eyes squint, then she smiles, "have a good day," she announces as she rustles her bare feet across the pile carpet and escorts me to the door.

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