o not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.”
For Oklahomans, LDS became part of state politics in 1992 when Ernest Istook ran for and won the 5th Congressional District. Istook went on to serve seven terms in the U.S. Congress before unsuccessfully running for governor in 2006. Voters seemed unconcerned about Istook’s LDS background. Istook was a favorite of conservative voters in Oklahoma, and it is the association between LDS and conservative Republican politics that gives Romney a chance in his campaign.
Allen Hertzke, professor of political science and director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, said he can’t predict how Romney would fare in the primaries.
Hertzke also said that Romney is more moderate than he appears in the campaign. “Candidates in Republican campaigns tack a little to the right when they’ve been more moderate,” he said, adding he didn’t expect conservatives to reject Romney because of his faith, but for those who did, “it would likely be because of religious bias.”
Odell Campbell, an Oklahoma City attorney and former Mormon, said the mainstream exposure of Mormonism has had an unexpected impact on the LDS church.
“The information available on the Internet is the worst thing that has happened to the church in a long time,” he said. “When you have an organization obsessed with controlling the dissemination of information, a medium that provides access to unedited, uncontrolled information is a nightmare.”
Campbell, along with his family, attended a northwest Oklahoma City LDS church, called a ward, until Campbell began to research the faith on the Internet. Eventually, he and his family left the faith. “ Greg Horton