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 FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least CBS News in talks to hire Flake: report MORE (R-Ariz.) could raise the number of Mormons in the upper chamber to seven, should he and Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 Progressive strategist says changing demographics will help Dems 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 Mason ReidOvernight Defense: Trump rejects Graham call to end shutdown | Coast Guard on track to miss Tuesday paychecks | Dems eye Trump, Russia probes | Trump talks with Erdogan after making threat to Turkey's economy Harry Reid on Iraq War vote: 'It tainted my heart' Harry Reid urges senators to push for more UFO research MORE (D-Nev.) or a Mormon president pro tempore and Finance Committee Chairman in Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump praises RNC chairwoman after she criticizes her uncle Mitt Romney Romney sworn in as senator Lou Dobbs lashes out at Romney over Trump op-ed: ‘He is a treacherous fool’ 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 LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGrassroots political participation is under attack in Utah and GOP is fighting back Romney sworn in as senator Both sides play blame game on first day of shutdown 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 CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoDeutsche Bank targeted by Dems over Trump ties Senators offer measure naming Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi slaying Banking panel showcases 2020 Dems MORE (R-Idaho) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate in last-minute talks to find deal to avert shutdown  House-passed stopgap measure in Senate limbo Consumer groups accuse Google of marketing inappropriate apps toward children MORE (D-N.M.), and Reps. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Wally Herger (R-Calif.), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal Grijalva backs Bishop over current acting Interior Secretary Dems question legality of park fees during shutdown MORE (R-Utah), Jim MathesonJames (Jim) David MathesonTrump EPA eases standards for coal ash disposal Utah redistricting reform measure likely to qualify for ballot Trump's budget targets affordable, reliable power MORE (D-Utah) and Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzTop Utah paper knocks Chaffetz as he mulls run for governor: ‘His political career should be over’ Boehner working on memoir: report Former GOP lawmaker on death of 7-year-old migrant girl: Message should be ‘don't make this journey, it will kill you' 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 SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonArizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate Arizona governor faces pressure over McCain replacement MORE (R-Ariz.) or former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams (R). Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartAnother GOP lawmaker calls on Steve King to resign over white supremacy comments Hatch suggests 611 for new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline GOP lawmaker on Khashoggi killing: 'Journalists disappear' all over the world 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.”