Election season is upon us. My ballot has been received and signature confirmed (Arizona, despite the current legislation’s efforts to undo years of improving voter experience, still has a great mail in ballot system). And two of my three kids’ ballots are also in and confirmed. I have also encouraged all our employees to vote, even though I’m well aware that most of them vote differently than I do. I still think it’s important that we all have a voice in who governs us. I sent them links to the local paper’s non-partisan overview of each of the races and its excellent recap of the referenda.

Since I’m a mother to young-ish voters, and elections are only every 2 years, I spent an evening digging into each of the non-partisan roles, including dozens of judges nobody’s ever heard of, and all the referenda measures, and then I reviewed those notes with my young voters to help them decide. There were some candidates, particularly among judges, that I could have gone either way on. I mean, even if I don’t like that judge’s record, who’s to say that Kari Lake who is literally insane and has already said she will refuse to concede if she loses (unfortunately, her terribleness is deceptively packaged in an articulate news-savvy attractive human form), won’t replace a bad judge with a worse one? But what if Katie Hobbes wins? Then my “retain” vote is a bad idea. Decisions, decisions.

So, I dithered. My kids dithered. Ultimately, we voted how we voted. We weren’t in lock step, although we probably voted the same way on the big races. Even on one of the referenda, we had some differences. That’s what voting means to me: you think about all the information you have, and you fill in that circle and hope for the best.

We had a water conservation board vote to consider. Did we care more about growth or climate change? New, fresh ideas or incumbents who already knew the players? Technical expertise or communication skill? Ability to influence business or represent farmers? Outsiders or insiders?

And we had two “non-partisan” school board elections to consider, with the ability to vote for up to two candidates. It became quickly apparent what they were all about. One candidate touted his “Christian” support. Another was found to be an actual three percenter (I had to explain to my kids what this was). The next candidate said she wanted all kids to feel respected and supported, so kind of a diversity play. The final candidate was a self-proclaimed “girl dad,” which didn’t mean what my kids thought it meant.[1]

The other school board race was for community college division, and as I discovered in my research it was a race between a candidate who said we needed “to protect children from the progressive left,” who was then cited for (checks notes) masturbating in front of an elementary school. The other candidate did not.

In researching the judges, I used two sites to find out more information:

  • The Commission on Judicial Performance Review, a site run by the state where you can see how other jurists rated each judge. It’s helpful at knocking out really really bad judges, judges whose peers basically think they should be disbarred, but most judges pass this review with flying colors.
  • The Robing Room. This one actually had me in stitches. It’s like Yelp for judges. There are lots of comments from attorneys, members of the court, and plenty of litigants who lost their cases and had a thing to say about the judge who ruled against them. Some of the comments were really helpful (e.g. “the judge didn’t even read the case” according to more than one case) or not very helpful sour grapes comments about a lost case that all sort of started to sound the same after a while. Comments praising judges were few and far between. In general, I voted against retaining judges with poor ratings that I found plausible.

One of the Robing Room reviews I read caused me to pause. It was for a family court judge that was identified by the commenter as a “BYU grad.” This commenter did not like this judge at all, explaining that as a BYU grad and a Mormon, this judge was racially biased against black people and only believed that mothers were fit parents, capable of nurturing, and in a custody battle, fathers could not be awarded custody, particularly if they were black. It was a disturbing comment. It wasn’t too dissimilar in essence to the comments on many other judges, that fathers weren’t getting a fair shake in custody hearings, but it was unsettling that this judge’s supposed bias was due to his religious beliefs.

That got me thinking about politicians in general who are from the Church, and also the many candidates who are no longer active or are ex-Mormons. Does their affiliation (or break) with the Church help them or hurt them as candidates?

As someone from a place where Mormons are as rare as hens’ teeth, I always thought a church member who had lived outside of Utah has had to learn some skills to navigate the normal world. A Utah candidate who has always lived in Utah makes me a little suspicious. Are they normal? Do they know enough about how to work with others? I also think about anything they do that goes against some of the Mormon norms: is it a woman or person of color (rather than another white guy)? How do they talk about LGBTQ rights? Are they pro-choice?

As to the former Mormons, I usually have favorable feelings toward them, even in my most TBM days, because they “get” the Mormon experience. They know what makes us unique, even if it wasn’t for them. It may be deep in their bones in ways others wouldn’t recognize. For all her faults (and holy crap there are a lot of them) Kirsten Synema still has some Mormon to her.[2] Huntsman was savvy in explaining that he had family who were Mormon and family who were bartenders. Smart move. He gets it, especially in the wake of the disgusting video that was leaked in which Church leaders laughed about only supporting Utah politicians who were “Church-broke.

And there have also been a few high profile Mormon politicians in the last few years who broke with the Republican party when it turned toward Trump, who faced a lot of party backlash, even death-threats as a result. Even if I disagreed with them politically, there was something to admire to their integrity, and personally I think that’s something that they (mostly) learned from their Mormon upbringing.

Let’s hear from all of you.

  • Does a candidate being Mormon help or hurt them in your view? What about a former Mormon?
  • How do you think religious affiliation helps or hurts Mormon candidates at this point? Does it depend on their actions or is it an unconscious bias for or against?
  • How do you approach these non-POTUS ballots?


[1] I think there was some hope this was a trans candidate.

[2] Unfortunately, where her heart used to be, there’s a big fat check from Pharma.