Mormons in Congress, Part 4

The latest in a series of guest posts from Kay Atkinson King.

(4) Arizona Primary Results – The Mormons Who Will Be in the General Election

On Tuesday August 28th, while the news media flitted between covering Mitt Romney’s coronation as the Republican candidate at the party’s National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and the relentless progress of Hurricane Isaac across the Gulf of Mexico making landfall on the Gulf Coast on the eve of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Arizona voters cast their ballots in the Democratic and Republican primary elections to select candidates for the November general election. 

Flake Wins Republican U.S. Senate Primary

LDS Congressman Jeff Flake won the Republican Senate primary with 69.3% of the vote, defeating LDS challenger Wil Cardon, who received 21.3%, and two minor candidates who together received 9.5% (Arizona Primary election results at New York Times).  The Republican U.S. Senate primary was basically a contest between the two Mormons.  Flake touted his 12 years of experience in the U.S. House of Representatives fighting for conservative values while Cardon, a wealthy businessman and political novice willing to spend millions of his personal fortune, proclaimed that it was time for an outsider to fix Washington.  Differences on the issues between the two candidates were minimal.  (See the discussion of the Arizona U.S. Senate primary – Mormons in Congress 2012: Part II).

Cardon significantly outspent Flake in the Senate contest.  In Federal Election Commission filings through August 8 (the most recent data available online) Flake reported raising $5,412,067 and spending $4,334,556 in the Primary, with none of the amounts from his personal funds.  Cardon raised $7,016,729 and spent $6,699,078 – one and a half times what Flake spent on the primary.  Most of the funds raised by Cardon were his own personal contributions – with $6,185,768 or 88% of the total raised.  (Open Secrets – 2012 Arizona Senate Race).  With access to figures that have not yet been made available online by the Federal Election Commission, the Arizona Republic reported, that “Cardon spent at least $8.7 million of his own money” (“Jeff Flake wins GOP primary for U.S. Senate,” Arizona Republic).

The line-up for the Arizona U.S. Senate general election now pits Republican Flake against non-Mormon Democrat Richard Carmona, a politically moderate physician, former police officer, and Surgeon General of the United States (2002-2006) appointed by President George W. Bush.  Carmona had no opposition in the Democratic Primary.  Flake and Carmona head into the general election with comparable cash on hand with Flake reporting $1,705,361 and Carmona reporting $1,754,794.  (Figures from filings Federal Election Commission filings available through August 8, 2012:  Open Secrets – 2012 Arizona Senate Race).  The latest head to head polling for these two candidates at the end of July shows the two in a 38% to 38% tie (Real Clear Politics).

In looking back on the hard fought Republican primary between Flake and Cardon, the question is whether that battle has weakened Flake for the general election.  Carmona is a credible candidate, and Flake has emerged from a bruising contest with only nine weeks to go before the general election.  Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who is retiring from the Senate and who endorsed Flake as his replacement, said Cardon’s attacks may have harmed Flake for the general election:  “‘His (Cardon’s) reputation has not been enhanced at all,’ Kyl told The Arizona Republic during an interview . . . . ‘He hurt Jeff Flake, which will not be good for the general election, and he divided the Republican electorate.’”  But Kyl also expressed the hope that the bruising campaign may have helped Flake: “I think it was sort of a dry run for Jeff since he’s never run statewide. . . . In some respects, he benefited from the challenge but, still, Cardon hit him pretty hard.”  (“Jeff Flake wins GOP primary for U.S. Senate,” Arizona Republic.)

An AP report on the primary results suggested that “Democrats are hoping the accusations of hypocrisy, broken promises and flip-flopping that marked the GOP primary weakened Flake and his bank account enough to give Carmona the best shot in years at taking one of the state’s two Senate seats. Arizona hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since Dennis DeConcini won his third term in 1988.”  (Jeri Clausing, Associated Press, “Flake wins Arizona GOP primary.”)

The end of the feisty contest has not yet led to a restoration of good relations between the two Church members.  On election night, “Cardon called Flake to congratulate him on the win, although he got the congressman’s voice mail. He then asked his supporters to line up behind Flake in the general election.”  Cardon in his concession statement said, “This is a tough night and a great night for me.  I’m really proud of how far we’ve come, how hard we’ve worked, and how much we’ve overcome. We all have to take defeats in life.” (“Jeff Flake wins GOP primary for U.S. Senate,” Arizona Republic.)

Salmon Wins Republican Primary for 5th Congressional District

In the Mormon vs. Mormon contest for the Republican nomination in the Arizona’s 5th Congressional District, former Congressman Matt Salmon defeated fellow Church member and former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams by 54.7% to 46.3%.  (Arizona Primary election results at New York Times.)  The two held similar conservative positions on issues (See the discussion of this race for the 5th Congressional District – Mormons in Congress 2012: Part 3).  Although the Democratic candidate in the 5th Congressional district did not have any primary competition, he is a 26-year-old college student who has thus far not reported raising any funds for the campaign.  The likely result in the general election on November 6th will be the return of Matt Salmon to Congress.

Salmon won the race despite the endorsement of Kirk Adams by Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and the feisty and outspoken Republican candidate for President earlier in this current election cycle.  Gingrich used the endorsement to settle a score with Salmon, who was “a key figure in ousting Gingrich from his House leadership post after Republicans did poorly in the 1998 elections.”  (“Salmon claims victory over Adams in 5th Congressional District race,” East Valley Tribune; “Gingrich endorses Adams over his old House rival Salmon, Arizona Republic.)

In the battle of endorsements between Salmon and Adams, Adams seems to have had a more Arizona-focused group of supporters.  Adams most widely touted endorsement was from LDS Congressman and Senate candidate Jeff Flake.  Another important endorsement was from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who showed up in Gilbert, Arizona, at a Kirk Adams event the day before the election (“Sarah Palin skips GOP convention to campaign for Kirk Adams in Gilbert,”  Adams was endorsed by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and retiring Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ).  Salmon had many more endorsements from national Congressional leaders (Senators Mike Lee [R-UT], John Thune [R-SD], Pat Twoomey [R-PA], Tom Coburn [R-OK] and Congressman Darrell Issa [R-CA]).  Salmon was also endorsed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, outspoken immigration foe Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, as well as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. (See candidate endorsements at and ).

Salmon and Adams also split endorsements from a pair of incumbent Arizona Republican congressmen facing each other in a nasty race.  Because of the way congressional districts were redrawn in Arizona earlier this year, incumbent Congressman Ben Quayle (R-AZ  2010- present) and Congressman Dave Sweikert (R-AZ 2010-present) both filed to run in the 6th Congressional District which leans heavily Republican.  Quayle (and his father, former Vice President Dan Quayle) endorsed Kirk Adams, while Sweikert endorsed Matt Salmon.  Interestingly, Adams and Quayle lost, while Salmon and Sweikert both won.

Kyrsten Sinema Wins Democratic Primary for 9th Congressional District

The winning Democratic candidate in the August 28th primary for the 9th Congressional District is Kyrsten Sinema, who was raised a Latter-day Saint.  She is a former member of the Arizona House of Representatives (2005-2011) and the Arizona Senate (2011-2012).  Born in Tucson, she received a Benson Scholarship to BYU, where she was admitted at age 16 and finished a bachelors degree in social work two years later.  She then earned a masters degree in social work, a juris doctors degree, and a Ph.D. in Justice Studies all at Arizona State University.  She teaches in Arizona State University’s School of Social Work, and has practiced as a criminal defense attorney.  (Kyrsten Sinema: Wikipedia; “Phoenix Democrat Krysten Sinema, Phoenix Magazine; Jim Small, “Rep. Kyrsten Sinema Central Phoenix Democrat, States Youngest Lawmaker, Is No Political Rookie,” Arizona Capitol Times; “Rep. Sinema champions alternative concepts,” Arizona Republic.)  Various biographic articles on Sinema clearly identify her as having been raised in the Church, but most imply that she is no longer a member, and she is openly bisexual (see “Gay candidates gain acceptance,” USA Today). Sinema was identified as one of Time Magazine’s up-and-coming under-40 civic leaders (“40 Under 40: Kyrsten Sinema,” Time Magazine).

Sinema has been outspoken on the issues in opposition to conventional conservative Arizona views.  She been a leader in efforts to deal positively with immigration and sponsored legislation in the Arizona legislature urging adoption of the DREAM act (“In Arpaio’s Arizona, They Fought Back,” New York Times; “HCM2004: DREAM Act; urging adoption,” Arizona State Legislature.)  She has also been a supporter of same-sex marriage in Arizona, and in 2006 was cochair of Arizona Together, which successfully worked for the defeat of Proposition 107, a voter referendum to the  state constitution to deny recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions (“Straight couples pivotal in gay marriage fight,” Arizona Republic).  (Two years later Arizona voters approved Proposition 102, a more narrowly drawn constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages than Proposition 107, which was approved.  Sinema was also a leading opponent of Proposition 102.)

Though Sinema has been outspoken and her views are contrary to those of the average Arizonan, the 9th Congressional District is one of the most politically balanced districts in Arizona as a result of the redistricting for the Congressional elections this year.  The district includes the entire City of Tempe, site of the main campus of Arizona State University, parts of Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler and nearby areas.  Congressman Ben Quayle’s home is in the current boundaries of the 9th Congressional District, but because the district is more politically balanced he opted to run in the much more heavily leaning Republican 6th Congressional District, and he lost in that primary race.  The areas included in the new 9th Congressional District voted 51.29% for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, but in the 2012 primary election, 38,383 votes were cast for the seven Republican candidates for Congress and 29,350 were cast for the three Democratic candidates (Arizona Primary election results at New York Times.).  Measures of partisan competitiveness of the district show it to be very closely divided ([Arizona] Congressional Districts – Compact and Competitiveness Measures).

Three Democratic candidates ran in the primary, and Sinema won with 42% of the vote, another state senator came in second with 31% of the vote, and a third candidate, the former State Democratic Party Chairman and a Clinton White House official, came in last with 27%.  Vernon Parker (apparently not LDS) was the winning Republican winning 23% of the vote among the seven contenders.  He is an attorney and a city councilman in Paradise Valley, one of the smaller towns in the congressional district.  The race will be close, and the campaign is likely to be interesting.  The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified Sinema as one of the handful of key candidates it will support (“DCCC adds 4 candidates to Red to Blue list,” The Hill).



  1. Researcher says:

    It almost restores one’s faith in humanity to learn that it is not always possible to buy a seat in the United States Senate.

    But then Arpaio is mentioned in the same post, and one remembers that the fight for a just and equitable society is the domain of idealists and dreamers and not that of politicians. (Speaking collectively, not individually.)

  2. I am Kyrsten’s visiting teacher. So yes, she’s still a member. At least on the books she is.

  3. I’m loving this Mormons in Congress series, thanks! It’s keeping me in touch with what’s going on back home while I’m working abroad.

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