Like many elections, it was a day of firsts. For the very first time, following yesterday’s midterms, there will be 100 women in the US Congress – and one of them will be Mia Love, the first ever black Republican congresswoman. Ms Love, who is 38, last night claimed Utah's 4th congressional district from the Democrats, and looks set to become one Washington’s most high-profile new faces, as the GOP seeks to shed its reputation as the party of old white men.
The mother of three spoke at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, when she was still the mayor of Saratoga Springs, a small Salt Lake City satellite. There, she suggested that she felt little political kinship with Barack Obama, America’s first black president.
“President Obama’s version of America is a divided one,” she said, “pitting us against each other based on our income level, gender, and social status.”
Ms Love was born Ludmya Bourdeau in Brooklyn in 1975, the child of Haitian parents who had fled the brutal dictatorship of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Brought up in Connecticut, she converted from Catholicism to Mormonism shortly after graduating from college, took a job as a flight attendant and moved to Utah, home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It was there that she met her husband, Jason Love, who took her to a firing range for their first date. The two were married in 1998; Love, a talented stage performer, reportedly turned down a role on Broadway that clashed with their wedding date.
US midterm results: state by state
Her first brush with politics came when she acted as a community spokesman to persuade property developers to spray regularly against the midges that afflicted the neighbourhood. From there she joined the city council, and by 2010 she was elected mayor.
Ms Love first ran for Congress in 2012 with support from fellow Mormon Mitt Romney, who at the time was campaigning for the Presidency. She was defeated then by the incumbent, six-term Democrat Jim Matheson. But Matheson retired from the seat this year, and on Tuesday Ms Love cruised past his prospective Democrat replacement, Doug Owens, winning the seat by more than three percentage points.
Her rise is remarkable not just because she is a black Republican woman, but also because she is a black woman in Utah, which is less than one per cent African-American. She is also a black woman in the Mormon Church, which is three per cent black, has long faced accusations of racism, and did not allow African-Americans to take part in all church activities until 1978.
Ms Love’s political views were shaped by her parents, she told the Republican Convention in 2012. “My parents immigrated to the US with 10 dollars in their pocket, believing that the America they had heard about really did exist,” she said. “When times got tough they didn’t look to Washington, they looked within.”
A staunch conservative, she has said that she stands for “fiscal discipline, limited government, and personal responsibility.”
She is also pro-gun, pro-life and anti-Obamacare. “I’m kind of a nightmare for the Democratic Party,” Ms Love told a reporter on the campaign trail earlier this year. “They don’t want me there. But I’m coming.”