On November 2nd 2008, KSL Channel 5 reports that one of Utah's original voting blocs - polygamists - is attempting to re-establish its political influence after more than a century of largely trying to go unnoticed. Communities in Harmony, an alliance of representatives from various Utah polygamous groups, has issued a voter guide to assist Utah's polygamists with election day decision-making. Further investigation reveals that the Deseret News first reported on this on October 25th, which includes a link to the voter's guide (8 MB; may take up to two minutes to load). Voters guide also accessible HERE (loads faster)
"We need the candidates to know that they are just as accountable to us as they are to other constituents," Carlene Cannon, the group's spokeswoman and a member of the Davis County Cooperative Society, which practices polygamy.
Rrecent events, including the successful criminal prosecutions of several men, have many fundamentalists placing a renewed focus on participating in the political process. In 2005, the Utah courts took over a polygamous church's property trust and this year, a highly publicized raid on the same sect's Eldorado, Texas ranch left more than 400 children in state custody.
The voter guide is the fourth produced. This year the survey questioned political candidates at all levels of state and federal government on political ethics and civil rights. "Those of us watching at home in disbelief tried to comprehend that here in America; the land of the free, our own people were treated as if they were cattle and hauled off by military force -- a picture of hate for a people misunderstood," a section of the voters guide says. "The iron fist the state of Texas extended was not an accident. Our own public officials bragged about the assistance they gave to Texas officials."
According to Carlene Cannon, an informal survey estimates 37,000 polygamists and their children live in Utah, out of an overall population of about 2.7 million.
The survey was sent to more than 150 candidates. Among the questions: Should candidates accept funds from lobbyists who in turn ask for political favors; should consenting adults in polygamous families be considered criminals; and should the government spend public safety funds disproportionately to target one group of people? Candidates were rated on a 1-5 scale on ethics and equal civil rights for their answers, with a combined score of 10 the highest score. The survey also stated whether or not she would vote for the specific candidate; a "Yes" vote can be consider a de facto endorsement by the group. However, response was checkered, with more than 90 candidates in state offices, including Senate and House of Representatives races failing to respond by the October 18th deadline.
Among the no-shows was Republican Attorney General Mark Shurtleff who is seeking re-election and has worked closely with polygamous groups. His Democratic challenger Jean Hill, however, did answer and earned 9 points and a thumbs up for her responses. Shurtleff says the state's bigamy statutes would be upheld, but it is unreasonable to prosecute thousands of families and place children under state care.
John Rendell, the Democratic candidate for Senate District 10, said he just didn't have time to answer the survey. "I had no idea what questions they were going to ask. It was just a blanket 'No.' " Republican opponent Chris Buttars responded, somewhat unsympathetically, while Constitution Party opponent Steve Maxfield responded more sympathetically.
Some who responded to the survey said while they believe polygamy should be prosecuted, they shouldn't be afraid to answer questions from constituents or voters. "I want to talk to all Utahns that are in the district," said 3rd Congressional District Republican nominee Jason Chaffetz, who earned a thumbs up from the group over his two opponents, Bennion Spencer and Jim Noorlander, who also responded. "I think ultimately, people want somebody they can communicate with. I like to think that no matter who people are I'd be willing to meet and talk with them about their issues, even though I disagree."
After beginning this post, I suddenly remembered that Utah has two openly-gay House members running for re-election this year; District 25's Christine Johnson (D-Salt Lake), and District 30's Jackie Biskupski (D-Salt Lake). I wanted to see just how fair-minded they were. And guess what? Neither of the two bothered to respond to the survey. More proof that with gays, tolerance is a one-way street. They demand legal marriage, but don't give a damn about those who want legal sanctioning of plural marriage.
For those who are interested, Christine Johnson is opposed by Republican Garrett Clark and Constitution Party candidate Clark Miles. Clark has served both on an LDS mission and in the military in Iraq. Miles has a serviceable campaign platform. Too bad we can't combine the two; you'd have a hell of a candidate. Jackie Biskupski is opposed by Republican Kay Garske and Constitution Party candidate Melody Chapman. Neither have websites nor have filled out any candidate surveys. I can't promote you folks if you don't tell the public about yourselves.
Carlene Cannon said the survey is widely anticipated and used by the polygamy community. More than 1,000 copies were distributed by mail and e-mail. Most polygamous families have customarily supported Republicans, although the atrocity against the FLDS, committed on Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry's watch, is causing some to look more closely at other candidates.