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Thursday, November 11, 2004  

Politics: Mormon Democrat may lead

A commenter at Blogcritics reminded me of another interesting outcome of the recent election. A senator who is a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints will likely succeed to a powerful position. Not all that unusual, you're thinking. But, it is. The senator is a Democrat. Mormon and Republican fit together like a hand and glove to followers of electoral politics. Blogger Gordon Smith at Times and Seasons considers the irony.

One of the so-far-untold stories of the election is that Mormon Senator Harry Reid will almost certainly assume leadership of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate. Senator Tom Daschle appears to be going down in South Dakota, thus providing an opening for Reid. Of course, the Democrats are a minority in the Senate , but they are far from irrelevant. I assume this makes Reid the most powerful Mormon politician in the United States. (Will he be the most powerful Mormon politician ever?) Ironic, in light of the recent dominance of the Republican Party among Mormons, that our most powerful politician is a Democrat.

Reid (pictured), the former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, is one of five Mormons in the Senate. He won reelection handily, with 61 percent of the vote. He announced his candidacy for the leadership vacancy Nov. 3. CNN reports.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) -- In the wake of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's election defeat Tuesday, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said Wednesday that he has enough support among his colleagues to become the next Democratic leader.

"I have more than 30 votes," said Reid, the Senate's minority whip, at a news conference in Las Vegas, just hours after Daschle conceded his race in South Dakota.

Reid will apparently not face any opposition for the leader's post, after an expected challenge by Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut failed to gain traction.

The Church of Latter Day Saints, a rare American religion, has a history of extreme conservatism. It was one of the last religious bodies to abandon biblical justification for racial discrimination -- in 1978. Women still play limited roles in the Mormon church and lifestyle.

Reid differs from other Democrats mainly in his opposition to abortion. He says his stance does not hamper his ability to work with Democrats effectively. His popularity in the party supports that contention.

Reid has voted for various limitations on abortions, including the controversial ban on late term abortions.

~ Voted YES on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime. (Mar 2004)

~ Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life. (Mar 2003)

~ Voted YES on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions. (Jun 2000)

~ Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions. (Oct 1999)

~ Voted YES on disallowing overseas military abortions. (May 1999)

An exception is embryonic stem cell research. Reid is one of a small group of senators, including some Republicans, who have unsuccessfully urged George W. Bush to expand embryonic stem cell research as recently as June.

Reid's positions on other issues are more typical of his party's. Read about them at On the Issues.

1:04 PM