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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What will it take for a majority of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to vote for Democrats over Republicans?
It's a question that's plagued Democrats for years — and not just in Utah. The issue has gained prominence with Mitt Romney now the first-ever Mormon nominee of either political party.
Tuesday, LDS Democrats used the Democratic National Convention as a platform to kick off a new group they hope will reverse the trend.
At the meeting of LDS Democrates, Scott Howell, now running against Orrin Hatch, recalled an effort by the state GOP to get him to switch parties when he was a state lawmaker — something he happened to discuss briefly with then-LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.
"I have to tell you, when they invited me to come over I thought about it. President Hinckley, without skipping a beat, said, ‘Young man, you will not join that Republican Party. We need good men and women in both parties,'" Howell recalled.
Crystal Young Otterstrom, a Democrat and LDS Church member, said despite perceptions to the contrary, there are already 1 million Mormon Democrats in the United States.
"We are making a difference in swing states like Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho — and we're gonna make Utah a swing state," Otterstrom said.
I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon.
–Sen. Harry Reid, R-Nevada
The nation's most powerful elected Mormon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said his faith shaped him and is in line with his party's principles.
"I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon," Reid said. "The purpose of government isn't to make the richer more rich, or the poorer more poor. The purpose of government is to create opportunities for all."
One LDS Church member from Utah County said he recently switched parties because "the idea that this party is trying to be inclusive and diverse at the same time, I think that's right in line with even our missionary program."
Reid also shared some advice for Utah voters.
"All I've got to say for Utah is: Be a little more moderate. You're a little too right-wing for me," he said.
Will this appeal to LDS voters work, especially in a year with prominent Mormon Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket? Democrats say they're not sure, but they say their group is part of a long-term strategy.
Republicans, meanwhile, say they're not worried about losing LDS voters to the competition.