Moderate Democrat Jim Matheson of Utah announced on Tuesday that he would not be running for re-election to Congress. Matheson held onto his seat in 2012 against Saratoga Mayor Mia Love by a fraction of a percent. With Love pulling together a higher-profile campaign team, raising more money, and battling in a tough climate for Democrats, maybe Matheson saw the writing on the wall. Maybe he didn’t want to lose future political capital by losing his congressional seat. Who knows why he was retiring, but it was a seat the GOP had a good shot of winning before his retirement announcement.
Mia Love handily won the nomination in 2012, and the tea party and establishment approved candidate should do so again in 2014. And since Matheson was a bit of a rarity in Utah – an electable Democrat – a serviceable opponent in the general election also seems unlikely. This means Mia Love is now the heavy favorite to flip the seat and join the next US Congress.
Love’s election would be notable for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is that she is a black female Mormon Republican from Utah. But beyond her party affiliation, if elected she will become one of the few black members of congress elected by a majority white constituency in a nation where minorities are mostly elected in districts designed to do so. Close to 90% of her congressional district is white.
Other black candidates winning in majority white districts included tea party congressmen Allen West (R-FL) and Tim Scott (R-SC) in 2010. Scott has since been appointed to a vacant US Senate Seat and is expected to easily win re-election in 2014. We are still a long way off from being a color blind nation. Would we be talking about the 4th congressional district in Utah if Love were not black? Probably not. But it’s still important to get to a point where majority white constituents elect minorities and minorities will also elect white representatives. Can we get to the point that it doesn’t matter? Hopefully one day…