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 FlakeFlake: Republicans don't speak out against Trump 'because they want to keep their jobs' GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials The 5 most vulnerable senators in 2020 MORE (R-Ariz.) could raise the number of Mormons in the upper chamber to seven, should he and Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerLobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play This week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report 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 ReidThe Trumpification of the federal courts Trump to rally evangelicals after critical Christianity Today editorial Left presses 2020 Democrats to retake the courts from Trump MORE (D-Nev.) or a Mormon president pro tempore and Finance Committee Chairman in Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals 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 LeeSenators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall 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 CrapoDrug price outrage threatens to be liability for GOP It's time for the Senate to advance cannabis banking reform On The Money: Senate chairman opposes cannabis banking bill | Panel advances Trump pick for Small Business Administration | Judge tosses NY state fraud charges against Manafort MORE (R-Idaho) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall Democrats vow to force third vote on Trump's border wall emergency declaration Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall 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: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel Overnight Energy: Critics warn latest environmental rollback could hit minorities, poor hardest | Coalition forms to back Trump rollback | Coal-fired plants closing at near-record pace 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 ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email 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 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 StewartGOP lawmaker offering bill protecting LGBTQ rights with religious exemptions House GOP wants Senate Republicans to do more on impeachment How House Republicans have stayed unified on impeachment 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.”