Mormons on cusp of new powerful era

Next year could be a banner one for Mormons in the nation’s capital, with their numbers and influence likely to grow whether or not Mitt Romney is elected president. 


Rep. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeOvernight Regulation: Senate moves to strike Obama-era internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs Senate votes to block internet privacy regulations MORE (R-Ariz.) could raise the number of Mormons in the upper chamber to seven, should he and Sen. Dean HellerDean HellerRed-state Dems in Supreme Court pressure cooker This week: House GOP faces make-or-break moment on ObamaCare Shutdown politics return to the Senate MORE (R-Nev.) win in November.

Depending on who controls the Senate, it will have either have a Mormon Senate majority leader in Harry ReidHarry ReidThis obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all Sharron Angle to challenge GOP rep in Nevada Fox's Watters asks Trump whom he would fire: Baldwin, Schumer or Zucker MORE (D-Nev.) or a Mormon president pro tempore and Finance Committee Chairman in Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (R-Utah).

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And if Romney wins the White House, not only will the United States have its first Mormon president but a number of prominent Mormon Republicans might be selected for plum administration positions.

“I wouldn’t be surprised, especially in a Republican administration, to see members of my faith well represented,” Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeOvernight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes Healthcare fight pits Trump against Club for Growth MORE (R-Utah), a rising Tea Party star who is Mormon, told The Hill. 

“I don’t think that Mormons will be necessarily any more or any less represented in a Romney administration than they would in others…. But sometimes people tend to hire other people that they know, that they’ve worked with in the past.”

There are currently 14 Mormons in Congress: Sens. Reid, Hatch, Heller, Lee, Mike CrapoMike CrapoSenators war over Wall Street during hearing for Trump's SEC pick Overnight Finance: Biz groups endorse Trump's Labor pick | New CBO score coming before health bill vote | Lawmakers push back on public broadcasting cuts Senate Banking panel seeks proposals for economic growth MORE (R-Idaho) and Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Tech: FCC chief says media isn't 'the enemy of the people' | Fallout from Comey's testimony | Google apologizes for ads near extremist content | US preps electronics ban on some flights FCC head: The media is not the 'enemy of the people' Overnight Tech: Dems grill FCC chair | Senators move to crack down on robocalls | House bill would roll back internet privacy rule MORE (D-N.M.), and Reps. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Wally Herger (R-Calif.), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Rob BishopRob BishopRepeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate Congress should stop trying to diminish public lands The Hill's Whip List: 34 GOP 'no' votes on ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (R-Utah), Jim MathesonJim MathesonWork begins on T infrastructure plan New president, new Congress, new opportunity First black GOP woman in Congress wins reelection MORE (D-Utah) and Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOvernight Cybersecurity: House Intel chair says surveillance collected on Trump transition team House Oversight grills law enforcement on facial recognition tech Oversight committee asks White House, FBI for Flynn records MORE (R-Utah).

Those numbers are likely to grow some in the fall. 

Flake, who traveled with Romney during the Iowa caucuses, is the frontrunner in both his primary and general election, though another Mormon, businessman Wil Cardon (R), is giving him headaches in the primary. Heller is locked in a tight race with Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.).

Flake’s old House seat will be filled by a Mormon, either former Rep. Matt SalmonMatt SalmonWestern Republicans seek new federal appeals court Arts groups gear up for fight over NEA What gun groups want from Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) or former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams (R). Chris StewartChris StewartIntel leaders express regret over Russian hacking response A guide to the committees: House GOP lawmaker who compared Trump to Mussolini will vote for him MORE, a Mormon Republican, is considered a lock for a newly-created House seat in Utah. Mia Love, the African-American mayor of a small Utah town and a highly touted recruit running against Matheson, is also Mormon.

On top of that, if Romney wins the presidency there are a number of Mormon Republicans who are in line to gain political power. 

Chief among them is former Utah governor and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt (R), a close Romney ally who has been tapped to head Romney’s transition team. He has been mentioned as a possible White House chief of staff.

A number of prominent Mormons have been major Romney donors — the types of people who often wind up getting offered ambassadorships. 

These include Bill Marriott, a longtime family friend of Romney’s, and Kevin Rollins, a former partner of Romney’s at Bain & Company. JetBlue founder David Neeleman and Credit Suisse banking division CEO Eric Varvel, both Mormons, are on Romney’s finance team.

“A lot of these folks are very dear friends of his — they’ve known each other for decades now,” Hatch said. “I know every one of them and I don’t know of one of them that wants anything from their donations.”

But Hatch, who was an early Romney backer in 2008 and received Romney’s support in his contested Senate primary this year, said there was a natural tendency for anyone to bring along people they know and trust.

“Let’s face it, you do tend to want to bring some people with you that you know very well, that’s just a natural thing. I don’t care who it is, people all feel the same way,” Sen. Hatch said.

“Should Romney win and bring some of his people into the government, there will be a lot of people who are devout Mormons in positions of power,” said Paul Hatch, a longtime Republican strategist who grew up Mormon in Utah. 

“As far as ambassadorships, Romney really does have a very strong donor base among Mormons that he’s cultivated since he ran in 1994 against Ted Kennedy for Senate.”

President Obama has appointed Mormons to serve in his administration, including former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R), who served as his ambassador to China. He also tapped Larry Echo Hawk, a former assistant secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

Sen. Mike Lee noted that President Reagan named a number of Mormons to top positions, including Lee’s father, Rex, who was Reagan’s first solicitor general.

“While he was there he happened to hire one or two people who happened to be members of the Mormon faith, but that was not a conscious decision of ‘I’ve got to get more Mormons here,’ ” he said.

One of them was Terry Crapo, the brother of Sen. Crapo, who Rex Lee picked to be his deputy but died of leukemia before he could take the job.

“They had gone to [Brigham Young University] together,” Sen. Lee said. “It wasn’t about Mormonism — he was just one of the people he knew, an exceptionally bright lawyer.”

Paul Hatch, who ran Leavitt’s gubernatorial campaign and is now a consultant for Love’s campaign, said that devout Mormons tended to spend more time involved in church activities than those in other religions. He cited the church’s policy of having lay clergymen rather than full-time ministers as a reason. 

“For a lot of people the Mormon Church becomes the center of their life. It’s more than going to Temple on Saturday or Mass on Sunday for an hour. People’s social circles are centered on their religious experience, particularly in Utah,” Paul Hatch said. 

While Romney had a highly active life outside the church, he had also been heavily involved in its operations in Massachusetts, he added. 

“Mormons are often who Mormons know — that’s who they’ve worked with, who they’ve built trust with, and the natural result is they’d bring in some of those people as staffers and assistants.”