Upset with Rep. Mia Love in the wake of a Trump administration, Marla Mott-Smith, a Democrat once more, to challenge Love for her seat for Congress.


by Rhett Wilkinson

After getting stiffed by her congresswoman, she’d had enough.

Marla Mott-Smith is a businesswoman and advocate who is socially liberal. She is running as a Democrat against Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), whose seat is up for grabs in 2018. The congresswoman rejected a town hall organized by Mott-Smith and other volunteers from Salt Lake Indivisible, a grassroots resistance group to President Donald Trump.

“We had a town hall organized,” she said. “All Mrs. Love had to do was show up.”

That event was March 11. Twelve days later, Mott-Smith’s campaign bank account was opened and she is meeting with Utah Democratic Party staff.

“It’s a split thing,” Mott-Smith said. “I feel passionate about helping the underprivileged, but being sure there is fiscal balance.”

As for the Love dismay, Mott-Smith and other organizers of the town hall for Utah’s congressional district 4 told Love District Director Laurel Price and other staff in the second of two meetings with them not only that the event was pre-organized.

Marla Mott-Smith, a Trump-resistance organizer, is running for U.S. Congress against Rep. Mia Love. (Marla Mott-Smith)

“We assured (Price) there would be peacekeepers and security,” Mott-Smith added, “and would be nothing like the (Rep. Jason) Chaffetz town hall.”

That Feb. 9 event saw a relatively raucous crowd that routinely booed Chaffetz. Some 1,500 folks couldn’t get into the function at Brighton High School, at capacity, after 1,000 did.

Mott-Smith was also bothered by the news in early March of two Kenyan immigrants being snatched by federal immigration officers for deportation. The move was made possible by a late-February directive by the Trump administration of more aggressive enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.

Idea factory

The March 11 town hall saw a cardboard cutout of Love on the West Jordan High School auditorium stage. And Mott-Smith announced her plans to challenge Love.

When she did that, “a big light came on” as to running as a Democrat because of her take on social issues, she said.

“When I look at my history and my advocacy and where my passion is, (the Democratic party) is where I belong,” she remarked.

Mott-Smith’s parents were “FDR Democrats,” she said and will run as a Democrat after working in politics as a member of each party.

“When I decided to run for Utah’s 4th congressional district, I knew I did not stand a chance as a Republican,” she noted. “I feel good being back to my roots — Democratic roots.”

On her campaign page, Mott-Smith has endorsed the goals of No Labels of finding solutions based on agreements of the Democratic and Republican parties; criticized Love’s distaste for Obamacare; said that background checks for guns are necessary; and implied protection of Medicare, of which the 79-year-old is a beneficiary.

“If the administration does not touch… my current benefits, when elected, I will not participate in coverage offered to members of Congress,” she wrote. “I feel strongly that congressional members should not have medical privileges that are not afforded to their fellow Americans.”

If the Trump administration changes Medicare benefits, Mott-Smith “may not have a choice” and may need to be covered with the plan offered congressional members, she said.

Personally speaking

Marla Mott-Smith, a Trump-resistance organizer, is running for U.S. Congress against Rep. Mia Love. (Marla Mott-Smith)

Mott-Smith’s history concerns Irish Catholic pioneers who in 1870 moved to Ojai, California. They bought a ranch in the Ojai Valley, 15 miles inland from Ventura, Calif., where Mott-Smith was born.

A deceased husband’s great-great grandfather made a “fortune” during the gold rush by picking up dirty laundry of miners and sailing to Hawaii to wash it. Another great-great-grandfather was the first dentist in Hawaii and became a consultant to the Hawaiian monarchy. He was appointed the ambassador to the United States and was in Washington, D.C. when the U.S. overthrew the regime.

Mott-Smith’s advocacy began at 11 years old after a man entered the family home and molested her. She then defended her younger sisters, she said.

“My mother probably put that in me,” she added. “My mother taught me to always stand up for and defend my younger sisters.”

Also, when she as a young, married woman living in Hawaii in the 1950s, Mott-Smith was sexually harassed by a company principal.

“I was afraid because I needed the job — I needed the money,” she said. “And he came on strong.”

Mott-Smith has three children, eight step-children, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Among the grandchildren, two are half-Hispanic, three are half African-American and the newest is Native American.

“As matriarch of (my) large and very diverse (family),” Mott-Smith remarked, “(I am) delighted to have several cultures represented.”

In business

Mott-Smith was encouraged by the president of Alliance Association Bank, one of her clients as the CEO of Community Association Consultants. The man is conservative but offered to make Mott-Smith the second Democrat to which he ever donated. AAB is a subsidiary of West Alliance Bank Corps, which was rated in 2016 by Forbes as one of the 10 best banks in America.

Besides her current business ownership, where she consults for community associations, community managers, builders, and developers, Mott-Smith has served voluntarily on five homeowner association boards.

In her native California, Mott-Smith was a founder and president of the Women’s Council of Ventura/Los Angeles Chapter of the Building Industry Association. Her team raised thousands of dollars to support a home for abused women. She was the second woman to be appointed to the BIA board, according to her biography.

Getting political

Mott-Smith continued her advocacy in Utah, where she assisted attorney Lincoln Hobbs in the founding of the Utah chapter of the Community Association Institute’s Legislative Action Committee. She advocated for the 400,000-plus Utahns who live in community associations. The goals of the LAC is to “educate the Utah Legislature and write and propose bills that protect and enhance the property values and rights of community associations in Utah,” according to Mott-Smith’s biography. The team she was on raised more than $40,000 to hire a lobbyist and fund operations.

Mott-Smith registered as a Republican a decade ago, when it aided in her LAC work. (She had a strong professional friendship with Michael Waddoups, the president of the Utah senate at the time, she said.) But she was a Democrat before that, not only in her first eight years in Utah but also in her earlier years in Hawaii, when she helped a state legislative candidate.

When she came to Utah in 1999, she noted “right-wing… oppression,” she said. Pointing out that Utah once voted strongly for Democrats, she said that “the pendulum has swung way too far the other way and it’s time for some more progressive thinking.”

“When state rights lead to taking away public lands and allowing mining to befoul our forests and drainage systems, and cost millions of dollars in lawsuits, something is drastically wrong,” she remarked. “Our leaders should be trying to bring all stakeholders to the table and figure out a win-win instead of spending our tax dollars on what seems to be a lost cause.”

Mott-Smith said her near-octogenarian status makes the timing “perfect” for her to run.

“I… may have enough money to last the rest of my life if I’m careful. I work hard at staying healthy, with only a few joint issues yoga helps keep under control,” Mott-Smith said. “I feel full of vim, vigor, and vitality and am invigorated by the young people in my life. They are our future and I think it will be in good hands.”

Mott-Smith pointed out that current U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, who represents Utah, is roughly the same age as her.

“It’s time he stepped aside,” she said. “When elected, I will serve no more than two terms. At that time, there will be a young, well-educated group ready to step forward. It will be a privilege if I can help mentor them.”

Before jumping into the race, Mott-Smith asked her conservative husband what he thought.

“I have never stopped you from doing anything,” he replied, “and I never will.”

 

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