Mormon Democrats announce new national, state organizations
The caucus gained publicity outside Utah for hosting an event featuring the nation's best-known Mormon Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, at September's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Craig Janis, a founding member and outreach chairman of the caucus, said he's been contacted by Mormons from around the country eager to be a part of the effort.
"It's been really exciting to see how LDS Dems has grown," Janis said. "It's wonderful to know that I'm part of a whole nationwide community of Latter-day Saints who share both my love for the gospel and my approach to politics."
University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said it's that kind of affirmation that will boost interest in the Democratic Party among Utah members of the LDS Church.
"To the extent that you can get some support and link this to a national movement, I think that would certainly help with what Democrats are trying to do locally," Burbank said. "That's why the national part of this matters."
Burbank said Mormons are socialized in Utah to turn away from the Democratic Party.
"What you get in Utah is this very strong sense that if you're a good member of the LDS Church, of course you're Republican," he said. "That part is really more of a cultural effect."
Also announced Thursday were plans for a political action committee, LDS Dems Action Fund, to support Democratic candidates deemed "honest, wise and good" whether or not they're members of the LDS Church.
Burbank said it will take some time for Democratic Mormons to have any measurable influence.
"You have to look at this effort in the long term. In the short term, they're not likely to have a big impact on the next election in Utah or the next national election," he said. "Realistically, it's a long-term undertaking."
Contributing: Mary Mellor
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