Congresswoman Mia Love spent her first year in office keeping her head down, learning the issues in her assigned committees, and focusing on constituent services.
Ordinarily, none of that would be newsworthy. But Love seemed destined to be a high-profile media darling. She achieved instant celebrity status when she was elected in 2014 as the first female black member of the House of Representatives.
Avoiding publicity isn’t in the nature of most politicians. Love pulled off a rare feat – standing out by being low-key.
Richard Piatt, Love’s communications director, told me that Love made a conscious decision to focus on congressional work and constituent services, especially issues before the Financial Services Committee, rather than accept every request to speak out on national political controversies. Her committee work is very demanding, Piatt said.
Her efforts have impressed those in the banking industry, which is heavily impacted by laws and regulations emerging from the federal government.
I asked Howard Headlee, president of the Utah Bankers Association, for his impressions of Love’s first year in office.
“I couldn’t be more impressed with Mia’s performance on the Financial Services Committee,” Headlee said. “She arrives early, stays late and asks tough questions. She has earned the reputation as a tireless worker.” He said Utahns may not be aware of Love’s work because it’s complex and wonky. “But banking regulation is central to the economic prosperity of American families and the American dream.”
Headlee noted that Utah is the 4th largest banking state in the country, and banking is important to the state’s economic prosperity. Banks have operations and employees in nearly every community in Utah and are part of the fabric of business and commerce.
“Mia’s hard work on the financial services committee may not get her on TV every day, but it is critically important in the everyday lives of Utah families,” said Headlee. Two bills that Love introduced last year dealt with reducing red tape for community banks.
Piatt said Love learned early on that media opportunities “were more than plentiful.” She accepts her share of invitations for interviews, especially from Utah media. “Her approach to media is to do it by choice, strategically, to ensure she really is raising Utah’s voice in a way that is meaningful and advances critical issues and policies,” he said. “Falling into the D.C. trap of chasing and counting media hits can be time consuming and distracting.”
Love held a news conference recently to reflect on her first year in office. “My work in Congress is a direct reflection of conversations I have in the 4th District,” she said.She noted that she is returning $109,000 to the U.S. Treasury, funds that have been saved from her congressional office budget. She introduced six bills in her first year, and co-sponsored 106 more. None of her introduced bills immediately passed, but she plans to keep working on them.
Love faces a potentially tough battle for re-election. Doug Owens, a moderate Democrat who ran two years ago, is challenging Love again. He will likely be better funded and will have more national support in the 2016 race.