Originally published on CNW

As the first African-American Republican woman in Congress, Mia Love brought a unique personal history and diverse résumé to the House. Love, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, was born in New York, studied theater in Connecticut, converted to the Church of Latter-day Saints, moved to Utah, and was a staunch proponent of small government.

Mia Love was born Ludmya Bourdeau December 6, 1975, in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents, Jean Maxime and Marie Bourdeau had fled the hostile regime of Haitian dictator François (Papa Doc) Duvalier in late 1974. They did not bring their older children to America, but after Mia was born, the family applied for citizenship and brought her two siblings over from Haiti.

The Bourdeaus moved to Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1981, where her mother worked as a nurse and her father took on several jobs to make ends meet. Later on, during her political career Love recounted her father’s words, “Mia, your mother and I never took a handout. You will not be a burden to society. You will give back.”

Bourdeau fell in love with the theater while attending Norwalk High School, where she graduated in 1993. She went to the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut, for its fine arts program and graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1997. While in college, she met her future husband Jason Love, a software engineer then on a Latter-day Saints mission. Mia Love converted from Catholicism to the Church of Latter-day Saints and moved to Utah in 1998. The couple has three children: Alessa, Abigail, and Peyton.

It was not long before she jumped into public service. In November 2009, she was elected mayor of Saratoga Springs, taking 59 percent of the vote and becoming the first African-American woman elected mayor in the state of Utah. Love served as mayor during the Great Recession’s crippling economic downturn, and early in her tenure she overcame a budget shortage of $3.5 million and managed to keep the municipal government solvent.

In late 2011, Love announced her intention to challenge six-term incumbent House Democrat James David (Jim) Matheson in the suburban congressional district that stretched south of Salt Lake City. She fell short of unseating Matheson by a mere 768 votes.

Love announced in June 2013 that she would seek a rematch with Matheson. “I’m better prepared, I’m a better candidate. Having gone through this, I understand the issues so much better, how campaigns work,” she said. In December, Matheson announced his retirement from Congress, and Democrats nominated Doug Owens, son of former Utah Representative Douglas Wayne Owens. Love downplayed the historic nature of her candidacy and instead focused her campaign’s message on her family’s story and her conservative record as mayor. Love won the election with 50 percent of the vote to Owens’s 46 percent. Love defeated Doug Owens again in the 2016 election and improved on her 2014 vote totals, garnering 54 percent of the vote.

Featured image: Santana Salmon

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