Mormons in Congress 2012

It turns out that Mitt Romney is not the only Mormon looking for real estate in Washington, DC. We’re delighted to have Kay Atkinson King at BCC, with a series of guest posts on Mormons holding and/or running for office this year.

Kay King worked on Capitol Hill for 26 years – first as a legislative aide to Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), as chief of staff to Congressman Richard N. Swett (D-NH), as Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and as Director of Interparliamentary Affairs for the House of Representatives, appointed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).  Kay received her B.A. from the University of Utah and her PhD from UCLA.  She is the coauthor of “Mormons in Congress, 1851-2000,” Journal of Mormon History, 26:2 (2000), pp. 1-50.

Mormons in Congress 2012:

(1)  Introduction

What are the Prospects for LDS Members in Congress?

Now that Mitt Romney has become the presumptive Republican candidate for President of the United States – the buzz word du jour is “Mormon Moment.”  Everyone is using the term.  In my favorite newspaper, the Washington Post, the phrase is everywhere and discussion of Mormons is frequent.  Just a few:  “The Mormon moment is now” – April 16, 2012, (a wire story from LDS journalist Peggy Fletcher Stack);  “Mitt’s Mormon Moment” – May 7, 2012, (a Post report about Romney being asked about restoring the constitution and trying President Obama for treason, and responding with:  “I happen to believe that the Constitution was not just brilliant, but probably inspired”);  and even an oped by Michael Otterson, managing director of Public Affairs for the Church, “More than a ‘Mormon Moment,’” – March 15, 2012.

The term appears in the Dallas News posting in “Texas Faith:  The Mormon Moment” (April 24, 2012) which included comments from pastors, theologians, and the faithful of all religious varieties.  Newsweek certainly gave the phrase “Mormon Moment” its first big boost with its cover story a year ago (June 13, 2011) “The Mormon Moment:  How the Outsider Faith Creates Winners,” featuring the head of candidate Mitt Romney on the body of a Mormon missionary mimicking the adds of the Broadway play “The Book of Mormon.”

Writers and publishers of all kinds have caught the “Mormon Moment” wave and have given us a tsunami of books on Mormons.   The senior religion editor of Publishers Weekly moderated a panel discussion of scholarly book publishers focused on taking advantage of a news hook – “the Mormon Moment” – to sell books.  Baylor University Press is publishing LDS in the USA: Mormonism and the Making of American Culture and Princeton University commissioned a volume on the Book of Mormon: A Biography for its “Lives of Great Books Series.”  Random House commissioned and LDS Scholar, Matthew Bowman, to write The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith  (See the New York Times review), while Evangelical mass production author Stephen Mansfield has given us The Mormonizing of America:  How a Fringe Cult Emerged as a Dominant Force in American Politics, Entertainment and Pop Cultureavailable through Christianbooks.com.

While “Mormon Moment” hype is focused on Mitt Romney and the presidential race, the fact that a Mormon Democrat, Harry Reid (D-NV) is currently the Majority Leader of the United States Senate has shown that – just like Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists and Jews – Mormons can also have significant political differences with their coreligionists.  Harry Reid’s recent tough criticism of Romney for refusing to disclose his previous income tax returns is only the most recent and strongest criticism that has arced across the partisan divide among Mormons (“In Reid’s Taunting of Romney, Taxes Are Just a New Opening,” New York Times; “Harry Reid doubles down on Romney taxes; Romney campaign responds,” Washington Post).

The toxic exchanges between Mormon politicians, however, are not limited to the presidential race and partisan exchanges between Mormon Republicans and Mormon Democrats.  In Arizona this year, the two leading candidates in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat are both Church members and the campaign rhetoric has been equally as tough as the Reid-Romney exchanges.  In the same state, two Latter-day Saints are the leading candidates in the Republican primary for one of Arizona’s U.S. House seats.  In Utah, where most of the politicians (at least the successful ones) are Church members, there are many cases of Republican Mormon vs Republican Mormon, as well as frequent cases of Republican Mormon vs. Democratic Mormon.

Overview:  Mormon U.S. Senate Candidates in 2012

Mormons now in Congress and Mormons running for Congress continue a tradition of Mormon public service in national politics, and what they do is very much relevant to the White House contest.  The Latter-day Saints who have served in the nation’s highest legislative body for the past 162 years have paved the way for a Mormon candidate for the country’s chief executive.  Furthermore, a Mormon serving as Senate Majority Leader (Senator Harry Reid, D-Nevada) certainly makes the prospect of an LDS occupant of the Oval Office easier to imagine.

The Congressional elections this year provide some of the most interesting political drama in years for Mormon political junkies.  Going into the November 2012 election, there are currently six LDS U.S. senators – the highest number of Mormon senators ever, the election could bring seven Mormon senators, a new high.  But two of the races are not shoo-ins, by any means.  The number of LDS senators after November 6 could be seven, or it could be only five.

Arizona has never had a Mormon U.S. Senator.  This year, however, the Republican primary for the Arizona U.S. Senate contest (coming up August 28) is a Mormon-on-Mormon clash that appears to equal the intensity of the Obama-Romney fight, with additional elements of personal friendship betrayed.  The non-Mormon Democratic candidate for Senate, running unopposed in the primary election, is a strong contender.  The intensity of the struggle between the two Mormon Republicans might give the Democratic candidate a better chance at the Senate seat.

In Nevada – the only state other than Utah ever to have both serving U.S. Senators members of the Church – the two Mormon senators are of opposite political parties.  The junior senator, Dean Heller (R-NV), was appointed fourteen months ago to fill the unexpired term of the previous senator who resigned, and Heller faces a tough election challenge this November.  The Democratic candidate for Senate, Shelley Berkeley, who is Jewish, is currently a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and she has been endorsed by the Nevada’s other current LDS senator, Harry Reid, who is the Democratic Senate Majority Leader.

Utah’s senior senator, Orrin Hatch, handily won the recent Republican primary election, but getting through the primary and the election itself was far from a cake walk.  A comparison of the Republican Senate primary elections in 2010 and in 2012 says a number of things about the peculiarities of campaigns in Utah and about the current health and strength of the “Tea Party” movement.  If Orrin Hatch is reelected for his 7th term and he serves a few days over four years in office, he will become the longest-serving Republican Senator in history, and he is already the longest-serving LDS member of Congress.

Overview:  Mormons in U.S. House Contests

At the present, there are nine Mormons in the House of Representatives.  It is hard to tell at this point whether there will continue to be nine after the 2013 elections.  Making that more difficult is the fact that two members are retiring.  Congressman Wally Herger of California’s 2nd congressional district announced over a year ago that he will retire from Congress after serving his current 13th term, and no Mormon stands in the wings to compete for this House seat.  LDS Congressman Jeff Flake in one of Arizona’s congressional districts is running for the U.S. Senate, but two Church members are in a heated Republican primary to replace him.  One is the former Congressman whom Flake replaced in 2001 and the other is the former Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives.  Both are experienced politicians, and the primary promises to be a feisty fight.  The Republican primary champion is likely to win that House seat in November.

Utah will have a new Member of Congress, giving the state four congressmen.  This is the first election after the 2010 federal census, and Congressional districts have been reapportioned among the states to reflect new population data.  Utah will have a fourth House member, reflecting its growing population.  Chances are that Utah will maintain its 100% Mormon congressional delegation, so there will be at least one new LDS member of Congress.

At this point, it is a reasonable to expect that Latter-day Saint members of the U.S. House of Representatives will remain the same – 9 Mormons going into the November elections, and likely nine members will be elected.  But there will be changes in the cast of characters:  One less California Mormon, one more Mormon in the House from Utah, and almost certainly a new LDS face among the House members from Arizona.

Current Mormons in Congress

Before looking at the prospects for congressional Mormons in the November 2012 election, a quick comment on current Mormons in Congress might be useful.  The 112th Congress (January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2013) has 15 Mormon members.  The Congress began with five LDS members of the Senate and ten members of the House, but LDS Representative Dean Heller (R-NV) was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Senator John Ensign (R-NV), who resigned in May 2011.  The present six LDS senators is the highest number of Mormon senators ever serving at the same time.  The current LDS Senators are listed below in order of their length of service, and the two who are running for reelection to the Senate this year are indicated with an asterisk:

*Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) – took office January 3, 1977

Harry Reid (D-Nevada) – took office January 3, 1987.  Currently Senate Majority Leader, the highest ranking leadership position ever held by an LDS Member of Congress.

Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) – took office January 3, 1999

Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) – took office January 3, 2009

Mike Lee (R-Utah) – took office January 3, 2011

*Dean Heller (R-Nevada) – took office May 9, 2011.

The current nine LDS members of the U.S. House of Representatives in order of length of service are:

Wally Herger (R-California) – took office January 3, 1987.  Retiring January 3, 2013.

Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) – took office January 3, 1989.  Running for reelection this year.

Buck McKeon (R-California) – took office January 3, 1993.  Running for reelection this year.

Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) – took office January 3, 1999.  Running for reelection this year.

Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) – took office January 3, 2001.  Running for the open Arizona U.S. Senate seat.

Jim Matheson (D-Utah) – took office January 3, 2001.  Running for reelection this year.

Rob Bishop (R-Utah) – took office January 3, 2003.  Running for reelection this year.

Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) – took office January 3, 2009.  Running for reelection this year.

Rául Labrador (R-Idaho) – took office January 3, 2011.  Running for reelection this year.

Comments

  1. Thank you for the informative article. It is refreshing to know that four of the fifteen Mormon congressionmen are Democrats. How great it would be if a few of them were women!

  2. Thanks for this, Kay, very interesting! I noticed the lack of women as well (and I nominate Kristine to help remedy it).

  3. Kay King says:

    There is a real lack of Mormon women in Congress — only two Mormon women have ever been elected. Senator Paula Hawkins (R-Florida 1981-1987), who lost her reelection bid in 1986 and Representative Enid Green / Enid Green Waldholtz (R-Utah 1995-1997), who did not run for reelection after serving one term because of a scandal involving serious campaign finance irregularities involving her husband Joe Waldholtz embezzling millions from her father, which were used for her election.

  4. I did not know that there were so many Mormons involved in American politics at this level. Interesting article.

    Have there been many Mormon vs. Mormon contests and are they often ‘feisty’?

  5. Kay King says:

    Aaron, many of the Utah political races are Mormon vs. Mormon in both primary elections and in the general elections. Occasionally there is a Mormon on Mormon primary or general in Idaho. But beyond those two states, it is infrequent. That is what makes the Arizona U.S. Senate Republican Primary and the Arizona 5th Congressional District Republican Primary so very intresting this year. In the next couple of days I will be doing a posting on both races. I found those two races to be very interesting. The Arizona primary is August 28, so the races are going hot and heavy.

  6. Chris H. says:

    I hear there might be a fresh LDS face coming out of Wyoming.

  7. Though she isn’t active in the LDS church, Kyrsten Sinema is running for congress in the 9th district in Arizona. She’s a BYU alum and all her family are mostly very active mormons. She’s actually in my ward and I’m her visiting teacher. She has a good shot running as a democrat in an area that has tended to lean liberal, even though we tend to be a conservative state.

  8. anon for this one says:

    The 9th district is a shoo-in for the R candidate, whoever it shakes out to be. Thankfully, it’s not going to be Sinema. Just my .02 as a former classmate.

  9. We’ll see anon. I think you’re dead wrong. I think Kyrsten is awesome. She’s raised more funds than any other candidate in the district.

  10. Kay King says:

    **Chris H — I assume the “new LDS face” you are talking about in Wyoming is Chris Henrichsen, who teaches politics at Casper College and is the Democratic candidate for the Wyoming at-large U.S. House seat. He is a Church member who came west to study at the University of Utah and then taught at BYU, BYU-Idaho and Utah Valley University, before moving to Casper. Henrichsen is not the first Mormon to run statewide for Congress. Mormon Democrat Dale Groutage who is also LDS ran in the U.S. Senate race in 2006. He lost in the general election to incumbent Senator Craig Thomas, who received 70% of the vote in the general election. I’ll have more to say in a week or two when I take a look at the Wyoming U.S. House race. Wyoming is the third ranking state in the percentage of Latter-day Saints at 11%, but Wyoming ranks 50th in total population. In absolute numbers the number of Mormons there is not large.
    **bandanamom and anon — Kyrsten Sinema is an interesting candidate. She grew up in a Mormon family, attended BYU, was elected to the Arizona House three times and to the Arizona Senate once. Resigned from the Senate to run as a Democrat for Congress in Arizona’s 9th Congressional District. The Arizona redistricting created four districts with clear Republican majorities, two with clear Democratic majorities and three others (including the 9th District) which have a Republican tilt, but where a Democrat could win. The fact that no incumbent Arizona Republican congressman chose to run in any one of these three districts, suggests that there is indeed a chance for a Democrat. The information online are not clear about how Sinema regards herself in terms of Church membership, but she does come from a Mormon background. I will say more about her down the road. There is another strong Democratic candidate in the 9th District race, State Senator David Shapira, who is Jewish. Sinema will have serious competition in the primary election on August 28th.

  11. Kristine says:

    Kay–Chris H. is none other than Chris Henrichsen; he’s a regular around here :)

  12. Kay King says:

    Kristine — In politics, if you don’t toot your own horn, no-one else will do it for you! My husband hails from Wyoming, so I tend to give the Cowboy State special attention.

  13. Reblogged this on Mormons for Obama and commented:
    This post by Kay Atkinson King originally appeared on By Common Conset, a Mormon Blog on August 6, 2012.

  14. The only thing I will say about Kyrsten in regards to church is that she’s been fairly quiet on that subject. That said, I let her know I will support her as her visiting teacher by voting for her. Which is how I know that at least in terms of still being on the records of the church, she is. She’s also self-identified as being “out” as a bi-sexual. It’s a tough race, but I do think she has a good shot. She’s well respected in Arizona, even if only begrudgingly by many conservatives.

  15. Funny that the article doesn’t mention Scott Howell, the LDS Democrat running against Orrin Hatch. Howell could give Hatch a run for his money, but Scott needs the money to be able to do this. http://www.votescotthowell.com/contribute

  16. Emily — There is more to come. The Orrin Hatch – Scott Howell senate race is interesting, and the Hatch Republican convention and Republican primary strategy is also significant. I plant to do a more detailed blog entry on that topic in a week or two.

  17. Anybody needs to give Hatch a run–for money or otherwise.

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