Utah Senator: Democrats have forced out moderate Mormons
By Andy Howell
Standard-Examiner staff firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s news to Steve Olsen.
Olsen, a bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was recruited by Democrats to run against Republican incumbent Rep. Rob Bishop in Utah’s 1st Congressional District. As part of his campaign, Olsen, a former community columnist for the Standard-Examiner, has penned a pamphlet entitled: “Why Most Utahns are Democrats But Just Don’t Know it Yet.”
Olsen was surprised by Bennett’s comments and said he would never use that type of rhetoric to describe the national Republican party. However, he believes there are plenty of Republicans, especially in the South, who hold anti-Mormon sentiments.
Bennett made his comments this week to the Standard-Examiner's editorial board. The Republican senator also told the board that he feels Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a good chance of being elected president in 2008 despite his Mormon roots.
Romney has been mentioned frequently as a Republican presidential hopeful in 2008. Bennett said he has been told by political insiders that Romney is the candidate U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., fears the most. Sen. Clinton is considered by many political pundits as the Democratic front-runner for her party's nomination.
A Los Angeles Times poll conducted this summer, though, indicated that 37 percent of those questioned said they would not vote for a Mormon candidate. But Bennett thinks the poll results will be an advantage for Romney.
"I think many evangelicals will vote for Romney just to show the media they aren't bigots," Bennett said.
Bennett pointed out the Republican nominee for governor of Oklahoma, Ernest Istook, is a Mormon and that state is part of the Bible Belt.
Bennett also said that Romney is emerging as a viable alternative to the other top Republicans mentioned as possible presidential contenders: Arizona Sen. John McCain, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He said bloggers have begun calling these three the "adultery caucus." All three have had failed marriages.
As for a matchup between Romney and Clinton? Bennett says it would be no contest.
"Mitt beats Hillary easily," he said. As for Utah Democrats, Bennett says the party has chased away Mormon moderates and is now a party of extremists.
"The Democrats can't bring themselves to have a big enough tent," Bennett said.
Bennett said he has heard from longtime Democrats who feel the party has been taken over by anti-Mormons.
Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, called Bennett's comments "offensive." He said the Democratic Party reflects the demographic makeup of the state with about 70 percent of its members considering themselves Mormons. He said a majority of the
party's candidates on the November ballot are members of the LDS Church.
Olsen and Taylor said Bennett is just trying to perpetuate a myth for political purposes.
A spokesman for the LDS Church declined to comment on the matter.
Publication: Standard-Examiner Digital Edition; Date:2006 Aug 31; Section:Front Page; Page Number: 1A
Article reprinted on The Utah Amicus with permission from Andy Howell