While Republican opponents have criticized him and called him opportunistic for playing both sides of the aisle, Matheson says his independent streak is symbolic of his Utah district
"The electorate is so fed up with the partisan bickering right now and I share that frustration with them" Matheson says. "I think my opponent wants to put me in this box, but people in Utah know that is not who I am."
Responds his opponent Mia Love: "Matheson's got to please his Democratic friends, while also trying to save his job and it doesn't bode well."
Love is running on a platform of fiscal discipline, limited government and personal responsibility. She shares the views of the Tea Party, but says she's not fond of labels The conservative mayor of Saratoga Springs, fitness instructor, and mother of three surprisingly beat out other GOP competitors in the primary, winning 70 percent of the delegates at the state Republican convention. But the fact that Love could be the first black, conservative woman in Congress has led to a national media blitz.
"I have probably never seen more excitement about a challenger in my lifetime," Jowers says. "People are interested in her, they are intrigued by her life story."
As Love tells it, her parents came to the United States from Haiti with $10 in their pockets. Her mother worked as a nurse, while her father took several jobs including scrubbing toilets to make ends meet.
Love, who adamantly opposes social welfare programs like food stamps, school lunch programs, earned tax credits and federally subsidized student loans, says her parents never took a handout and instilled in her a sense of responsibility to "not be a burden on society" and "to give back."
Love supports shuttering the Departments of Education and Energy. She has said she would like to see Medicare and Medicaid revamped.
Love was born in Brooklyn and moved to Connecticut where she attended the University of Hartford and graduated with a degree in fine arts, a degree which she sometimes puts to use on the campaign trail when she occasionally sings.
After meeting her husband Jason, who was on a mission in Connecticut, Love moved to Utah and converted to Mormonism. She took her first stab at public office as a city councilwoman in Utah. After serving two terms, Love ran a successful campaign for mayor.
During her time in city government, Saratoga Spring's population exploded as the suburbs around Salt Lake City expanded. But when the housing bubble burst, property tax revenues plummeted. Love says her city was forced to make major reductions in the budget, which included major staff and service cuts. The city council also voted to raise taxes at the time.
As mayor, Love says she worked with the city council to lower the residential property tax and Saratoga Spring earned the highest bond rating available to a city of its size. Her slash not spend attitude is popular in Utah where voters believe the only way up is by your own bootstraps. "I am laser-focused on making sure we tighten our belts and get Washington to live within our means and make sure that we promote personal responsibility," Love says.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek says Love is the candidate the campaign committee has been waiting for for nearly a decade.
"Mia is a rising star," Bozek says. "She has proven herself."
A natural campaigner, Love spends a lot of time knocking on doors, fundraising and getting the word out about the state's new "vote by mail" program, which allows Utes to vote in the comfort of their own homes and could ensure Love gets her district's Republican majority mobilized. Still, a local Deseret News/KSL-TV poll showed Love lagging 15 points behind incumbent Matheson.
And Matheson has the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has already purchased nearly $400,000 of ad time from mid October to election day. Matheson has already raised more than $1.5 million. But in the second quarter Love was clipping at his heels, raking in $355,100 compared to his $361,500.