Marla Mott-Smith is preparing to challenge U.S. Rep. Mia Love, R-Saratoga Springs, in the 2018 election.
Though Mott-Smith, a Democrat and South Jordan resident, is still working on finalizing the formal paperwork to file for the 4th District congressional seat, she said there is no going back now.
“I’m pledged to do this,” Mott-Smith said. “I feel it’s the right time of life for me.”
With her children and grandchildren all living in other states, Mott-Smith said now is an ideal time to run for office, because she will be able to devote herself wholly to it.
Mott-Smith moved to Utah in 1999, after having grown up in California and lived in Hawaii. Though she now considers herself a progressive liberal, she said she has previously registered as a Republican voter, and voted for Republican candidates.
“A moderate in Utah can’t accomplish anything,” Mott-Smith said. “They don’t have a chance, either a moderate Democrat or a moderate Republican.”
She became involved with the groups Salt Lake Indivisible, and later Utah Indivisible, which have vocally called for more town halls from Utah’s congressional delegation — all of whom are Republicans — following the November election of President Donald Trump.
From there, Mott-Smith said, she became involved with a group specifically focused on getting an in-person town hall with Love.
After multiple meetings with a member of Love’s staff, and still not getting the in-person town hall they sought, Mott-Smith said she started to “build up a head of steam.”
“There is a little anger driving me,” Mott-Smith said.
So, at an event the group held without Love in attendance, Mott-Smith announced she would be entering a race that is possibly the most susceptible to a Democratic takeover in the Republican stronghold that is Utah.
In 2014, Democrat Doug Owens lost to Love by about a 5 percent margin. In 2016, a rematch between Love and Owens saw Love come out on top by about 10 percentage points. Prior to Love, the seat was held by Democrat Jim Matheson.
Though she is still in the process of developing her official platforms, Mott-Smith said she would like to see her candidacy focus on listening to her constituents. Specifically, she mentioned her concerns about Utah’s ability to manage land currently under federal control, and the benefit she sees in a single-payer health care system.
And when it comes down to it, Mott-Smith said, one of the biggest differences between her and Love is that she would not blindly support an administration, as she feels Love has.
“She never had to vote on the replacement and repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” Mott-Smith said. “But all indications were that she would support that.”
“I’m strong and I think for myself,” she added. “I ask a lot of questions, and that is what I will do for my constituency.”
Though her anger drives her for now, Mott-Smith said she doesn’t want it to drive her forever. The first thing she said she would do if she won would be to meet with people from the other side of the aisle and ask how to work together.
“The anger of the progressive movement has been a puzzle to me,” Mott-Smith said. “Anger will drive me, but it will also burn me out if I continue in an angry manner.
“I’m hoping the progressives will see what they can do peacefully, and I hope that anger will burn out in a good way.”
Mott-Smith is currently a consultant for Alliance Association Bank, a role she says she will continue in. She has a history of acting as a consultant for developers, community associations, community managers and builders, and is the founder of Community Association Consultants.
Mott-Smith’s experience in managing and consulting for HOAs has given her a solid background in legal and tax matters, she said, which will be useful if elected to public office.
With the 2018 election still more than a year and a half away, Mott-Smith said her No. 1 priority for now is getting organized. She is currently meeting with political strategists, finalizing paperwork to make sure she can legally accept donations, and fine-tuning her platforms.