Mormon influence in Legislature is a source of unease
I am not anti-Mormon.
Three members of our family are LDS, and we all get along beautifully. The non-Mormons were disappointed, however, when we could not attend our granddaughter's wedding because they do not allow outsiders into the temple. But that's
The point of this column is a concern about the political clout of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Arizona.
An article in the Arizona Republic showed that slightly less than 5 percent of Arizonans are LDS. The actual number was 252,000 out of a total population of 5,100,000 in 2000. Yet, with only 5 percent of the population, look at their influence in the legislature.
The following are all Mormons:
• Ken Bennett is president of the Senate.
• Marilyn Jarrett is Senate whip, the number three spot.
• Jack Brown is Senate minority leader
• Jake Flake is speaker of the House.
• Eddie Townsend is House majority leader.
• Bob Robson is speaker pro tem of the House.
• Karen Johnson is chairman of the House Rules Committee – a very influential position because she controls which bills get to the floor of the House, and which die in committee. She has virtual power of life or death over every piece of legislation, as do Bennett and Flake.
• Russell Pearce is chairman of the House Appropriations
Committee, another very important position.
• Gary Pierce is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
This list amazes me!
Mormons hold about 80 percent of the most important positions, and several more are serving in the Legislature – mostly freshmen without chairmanships.
In addition to the state legislators, Matt Salmon barely missed being elected governor last November. Jeff Flake (Jake's nephew) represents Arizona in Congress.
Former House Speaker Jeff Groscost was the architect of the costly alternative fuels legislation. And who can forget foot-in-mouth adventures of our own Barbara Blewster?
This might make sense in Utah where 75 percent of the state is LDS, but it is not logical in Arizona where Mormons constitute only 5 percent. What's going on? Somebody please tell me because I don't know.
Because of their industrious and community spirit, Mormons generally are successful both in business and politics.
They and their issues resonate well with the public, and they usually don't discuss their religion unless someone brings it up.
The LDS are conscientious about voting – they vote solidly at election time. In the Legislature, they try to vote on every bill, and usually vote alike. Their politics are very conservative, both fiscally and socially. (The one Democrat is an exception.)
I'm sure that LDS doctrine influences their perceptions. And the church's viewpoint will be different from the general public's.
An example: A few years ago the voters approved Proposition 301 to enact a small tax increase for school improvements because the Legislature would not do it. Now the Legislature wants to undo that – the part that says all the money must go to schools.
Personally, I don't care what religion somebody else practices, public official or not, but I'm feeling very uncomfortable about one faith being so dominant in Arizona politics.
Perhaps we're willing to sit back and let the LDS run things – rather like billionaire Howard Hughes let his "Mormon Mafia" run things for him after he became ill. They're basically clean, honest, hard working people, so why not?
The best answer I can come up with is that their brand of political conservatism is too extreme for me.