Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Arizona Legislators From Kolob

Most Arizonans don’t realize the extent of Mormon influence in their government. The following is research that I’ve compiled:

LDS politicians in the current Arizona Legislature:

Ken Bennett, District 1 (R), Senate President
Sylvia Laughter, District 2 (I), House
Joe Hart, District 3 (R), Chairs House Environment Committee
Jack Brown, District 5 (D), Senate Minority Leader
Franklin L. "Jake" Flake, District 5 (R), House President
William Konopnicki, District 5 (R), House
Karen Johnson, District 18 (R), Chair House Rules Committee
Russell Pearce District 18 (R), Chair House Appropriations Committee
Marilyn Jarrett District 19 (R), Senate
Charles D. "Chuck" Gray, District 19 (R), House
Gary Pierce, District 19 (R), Chair House Transportation Committee
Warde Nichols, District 21 (R), House
Thayer Verschoor District 22 (R), Sub-Appropriations Chair Senate
Andy Biggs, District 22 (R), House
Eddie Farnsworth, District 22 (R), House Majority Leader

Both the Speaker of the House, Jake Flake, and the President of the Senate, Ken Bennett are LDS. So is the Senate Minority leader Jack Brown. Marilyn Jarrett is the Majority Whip. Mormons also chair some powerful committees, (Karen Johnson House Rules, Russell Pearce, House Appropriations) so they can hold any bills that they don't like.

Karen Johnson was named worst legislator of the year in 2002 by the Arizona Republic for abusing her authority as Rules Chair to hold up bills. But she ran unopposed in the Republican Primary in Mesa and is once again Chair of House Rules. Even though Karen has been married five times, she is a big believer in the family.

Andy Biggs won a lottery and retired from the practice of law. I wonder if he paid tithing on those gambling winnings?

Though Sylvia Laughter is a Native American and an Independent, she usually votes with the LDS block and is a protégé of Jeff Groscost of Alt Fuels fame. She recently changed her party registration from Democrat to Independent. She ran as a Democrat since it would be difficult for a Republican to be elected in her district, but she was always a Democrat in name only. Sylvia has been divorced three times, but still is a big believer in the family. Even though she represents the Navajo reservation, she actually lives in Mesa.

How do LDS members account for such a large percentage of the legislature and so many leadership positions with Mormons accounting for 6% of the Arizona population at most? (This is using LDS Church figures, which are severely overstated) Block voting and gerrymandering. Out of a total of 90 seats in the Arizona Legislature, Mormons account for at least 15.

Interestingly enough Rep. Mark Anderson is a member of the Unification Church (Moonies), but somehow manages to keep getting elected in a heavily Mormon district.

The Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, Charles E. Jones, is also LDS.

Most of my research was based on the following survey conducted by the Maricopa Community College District:

Other sources I used were various news articles in The Arizona Republic and various government websites containing biographical information.

Even more LDS politicians:

Arizona State Treasurer: David Peterson

Jeff Flake: Representative U.S. Congress, District 2

Don Stapley: Chairman, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors