While off-year elections, like yesterday’s U.S. elections, are usually almost irrelevant, there was an interesting, if not important, race for those following Mormons in Politics—and the result appears to be the election of Jerry Lewis.
No, not that Jerry Lewis. The Jerry Lewis who is Mormon and who sought to dislodge perhaps the best-known Mormon state politician in the U.S.—Russell Pearce, current president of the Arizona State Senate. The current results of yesterday’s election, which are still shy of being official due to absenteee and early ballots, have Lewis defeating Pearce by a 53% to 45% margin.
Given that the two opponents in this Mormon v. Mormon race in a heavily Mormon district have nearly identical political positions (reports of their “debate” sound more like an “I agree” festival), this race was more about style and perception than substance. The Economist characterized the race as the Bully v. Mr. Nice Guy. Personally, I like the idea that among Mormons, at least in this case, nice guys don’t finish last.
Election day also gives me an excuse to review the other Mormons in politics—that is, outside of those in the presidential race, in which we are currently overloaded with Mormon candidates. Actually, we may be on the brink of having the first Mormon nominated by a major party. So, instead of looking at the presidential prospects, I hope, in a series of posts over a week or so, to look at the status of the Mormons in the U.S. Congress and, to a degree, in state government. I hope that you, like I, will be interested to know who is in office, who is running for what office, and something about their prospects.
Since I’m already on the subject, I’ll start with Arizona, which may also be the most complicated of situations.
Perhaps the biggest complication for members of the U.S. House of Representatives and for state legislators is the decennial redistricting process going on now. As a result, most, if not all, of these legislators face new district boundaries, sometimes radically different from what they have known for the past decade. 12 states either lost or gained one or more members of the U.S. House, making boundary changes there more radical and even occasionally leading to situations where two incumbents run for the same district.
Arizona’s growing population led to a gain of one member of the U.S. House of Representatives, giving the state a total of 9 following the 2012 elections. But drawing new boundary lines has not gone smoothly. After the state’s independent redistricting commission drew districts that gave Democrats somewhat better odds than they now have, the state’s Republican governor impeached the chair of the commission, throwing the redistricting effort into chaos and raising the possibility of a court-driven solution. As a result, who will run for what district, be it a U.S. Congressional district, a state senate district or state house district, is not at all clear.
Further complicating the picture is the retirement of U.S. Senator Jon Kyl and the subsequent announcement by Arizona’s lone Mormon congressman, Jeff Flake, that he will seek Kyl’s seat in the 2012 election. [If successful, Flake could increase the number of Mormons (and those of Mormon heritage) in the U. S. Senate to eight.]
Flake’s own seat in the U. S. House currently covers the heavily Mormon East Valley of the Phoenix metro area, which makes it possible, and perhaps even likely that Flake’s replacement may still be Mormon. Indeed, Flake’s predecessor in the seat, Matt Salmon, has indicated interest in running, as have several other Mormon politicians. From what I can tell, about half of those expressing interest in running for Flake’s seat are LDS.
Until the redistricting situation has been resolved, it isn’t possible to guess at whether the new U. S. House district might allow for another Mormon from Arizona in the House. Theoretically, the East Valley could be split into two separate districts, perhaps in an attempt to guarantee the new congressional seat to the Republicans. This perhaps unlikely scenario would make it more likely that a second Mormon could be elected. However, the plan prepared by the redistricting commission didn’t draw the boundaries that way.
Aside from the U. S. Senate and House seats in Arizona, there are a number of Mormons (or those who appear to be Mormon from the information available) in the current Arizona Senate and House. In the Senate, the Senate President was Russell Pearce, now apparently defeated. He could be replaced by the current Majority leader, Andy Biggs, who also appears to be Mormon. In addition, the 30 member Arizona Senate includes the following Mormons (or who appear to be Mormon):
- Sylvia Allen
- Rich Crandall
- Adam Driggs
- Jerry Lewis (who apparently has defeated Pearce)
- and Kyrsten Sinema, a gay former Mormon.
In the 60 member Arizona house, I’ve identified the following Mormons (or who appear to be Mormon):
- Cecil Ash
- Eddie Farnsworth
- Tom Forese
- Peggy Judd
- Justin Olson
- Justin Pierce
- Steve Urie
As always, I look forward to corrections and observations about this summary. I hope to have additional analysis in the next few days (but not every state will get its own post).