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 FlakeSenate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks Trump’s relationship with Saudi crown prince under pressure Graham urges McConnell to allow vote on bill to protect Mueller MORE (R-Ariz.) could raise the number of Mormons in the upper chamber to seven, should he and Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerElection Countdown: Florida fight ends with Scott, DeSantis wins | Dems see Sunbelt in play for 2020 | Trump to campaign in Mississippi ahead of runoff | GOP wipeout in Orange County | Ortiz Jones concedes in Texas House race Dem gains put Sunbelt in play for 2020 Cortez Masto named Dem Senate campaign chairwoman 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 ReidDems wonder if Sherrod Brown could be their magic man Nevada New Members 2019 Meet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time MORE (D-Nev.) or a Mormon president pro tempore and Finance Committee Chairman in Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGinsburg attends Medal of Freedom ceremony amid recovery from fall Utah New Members 2019 Congress braces for high-drama lame duck MORE (R-Utah).

ADVERTISEMENT

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 LeeGOP senator accuses fellow Republican of spreading ‘fake news’ about criminal justice reform bill Privacy legislation could provide common ground for the newly divided Congress Trump’s backing may not be enough on criminal justice reform 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 CrapoBanking panel showcases 2020 Dems On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle MORE (R-Idaho) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallWarren, 2020 Dems target private immigration detention center operators Hillicon Valley: Trump eyes staff shake-up | Amazon taps NYC, Northern Virginia for new offices | What it will mean for DC | Tech firms buck Trump on cyber pact | Defense official warns against hacking back Dem senators pressure FTC to investigate deceptive internet marketing to 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: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report Patagonia makes its first election endorsements with two Western Democrats Daylight Saving Time costs more than it's worth 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 ChaffetzUtah New Members 2019 Fox News contributor mocks Elizabeth Warren with photo at Disneyland Eric Trump blasts professor at alma mater Georgetown: ‘A terrible representative for our school’ 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 StewartTrump attacks fuel GOP fears about losing suburban women GOP lawmaker: Trump comments about Stormy Daniels 'unpresidential' Lawmakers fail to pass annual intel bill after key Dem objects 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.”