SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The first and only black Republican woman in Congress delivered a sharp rebuke Monday to President Donald Trump and her party’s relationship with African-Americans in her first remarks since her midterm defeat.
Mia Love was narrowly defeated by Democrat Ben McAdams for the suburban Salt Lake City House seat. The Associated Press called the race for McAdams on Nov. 20.
At a post-Election Day news conference earlier this month, Trump prematurely declared Love the loser, grouping her with other embattled Republican incumbents who failed to fully embrace him in their re-election bids.
“She gave me no love — and she lost,” Trump quipped.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Love said the president’s comments reflect the GOP’s larger failure to fully embrace minority communities, further solidifying their allegiance to Democrats.
“Because Republicans never take minority communities into their home and into their hearts, they stay with Democrats and bureaucrats in Washington, because they do take them home, or at least make them feel like they have a home,” Love said.
Her ouster came as the Congressional Black Caucus swelled to its largest numbers ever and Congress overall became significantly more diverse, adding a record number of women and people of color in the midterm elections.
“This is a matter of fact, that Republicans lost in this regard,” Love said.
Democrats flipped more than three dozen Republican-held seats across the country to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives this year, though the party lost two seats in the Senate.
Trump’s comments about Love “gave me a clear vision of his world as it is,” she said. “No real relationships; just convenient transactions.”
The White House did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
After the 2012 elections, the Republican National Committee said in an autopsy of the race: “If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity,” warning, “Unless the RNC gets serious about tackling this problem, we will lose future elections.”
The midterm elections featured racist rhetoric in several high-profile contests in states including Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Texas. Trump campaigned in competitive Senate races with a fearful message about dangerous migrant caravan and has raised the specter of voter fraud — both tactics that many minorities have found offensive.
Love said Monday she believes conservative policies are the best way to lift people out of poverty, but those messages have a harder time reaching minority voters.
“The problem is not the policy; it’s that we are never taken into hearts and homes,” she said.
Love says her defeat means she’s now “unleashed” to speak her mind. She declined to say if she will run again, or detail plans for the future.
She also took a shot at her opponent on Monday, calling McAdams a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and decrying the “horrible” criticism of her in the hard-fought race.
The McAdams campaign said he appreciated a congratulatory call she placed to him over the weekend and “it’s time to put the election behind us.”
Vote-counting was drawn out in the razor-thin race, and in the end McAdams defeated Love by fewer than 700 votes.
He was well-known in the district as the mayor of Salt Lake County and pitched himself as a moderate who could work with Trump, and is vowing to oppose Nancy Pelosi as House speaker.
Love, touted as a rising GOP star when she was elected in 2014, distanced herself from Trump during the race on issues including trade and immigration.
The daughter of Haitian immigrants who stood behind her on Monday, Love highlighted times she stood up to the president, like when Trump used an expletive to describe her parents’ home country.
Though Utah is deeply conservative, voters have long been uncomfortable with Trump’s brash style and comments about women and minorities. Her district also includes a large part of the suburbs of blue-leaning Salt Lake City.