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Mormon Democratic activists launched a new national organization Thursday with two goals: convince the public that Mormons don't have to be Republicans and urge liberal Latter-day Saints to embrace their political leanings.
The new LDS Democrats of America is an offshoot of the LDS Dems caucus created in Utah in late 2011. It's an umbrella organization that will seek to help state chapters. Outside of Utah, eight states, including Florida, now have LDS Dem groups.
Rob Taber leads the Florida group and is the national group's chairman. He ran the Mormons for Obama organization during the 2012 presidential race. Taber said he wants Mormon Democrats to feel accepted.
"Something that we've found among many Latter-day Saints is that Democrat is a four-letter word," he said. "It can add to the feelings of isolation."
Crystal Young-Otterstrom is the national group's vice chairwoman and also runs the Utah LDS Dems, the largest caucus within the state Democratic Party. She said the Utah caucus boasts 2,200 members, but not all of them hail from Utah.
She said the national organization will help sponsor "family home evenings" where LDS Democrats can gather, get to know one another and talk politics.
Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, family home evenings take place on Mondays and encourage family unity. The LDS Democrats of America will hold its meet-ups on other days. An event in Weber County is now slated for next Thursday.
The Utah Democratic Party has pushed the LDS Dems as a way to grow its supporters in such a conservative state with the long-term goal of winning more elections for local and statewide office. The effort bore little fruit in the 2012 elections, with Republicans maintaining massive majorities in the state Legislature, control of all state elected positions and five out of six federal offices.
Young-Otterstrom did note that President Barack Obama got a larger share of the Mormon vote in 2012 against Republican Mitt Romney, a Mormon himself, than Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., did against President George W. Bush in 2004.
Romney received 78 percent of the Mormon vote, while Bush received 80 percent, according to exit poll analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
LDS Dems held its first national event during the Democratic National Convention last September in Charlotte, N.C., where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the highest-ranking Mormon in government, said he's a Democrat because of his LDS faith. He argued that Mormon theology stresses taking care of the poor and being good stewards of the land, positions that coincide with Democratic Party principles.