MESA - Barbara Householder said she supports Mitt Romney because of his stand on family values. The fact that Romney, like Householder, is a Mormon makes him even more appealing and is part of the reason her family contributed $500 to his campaign, she said.
“His solid reputation speaks for itself, but knowing he’s from the same religion tells me he shares our core values,” said Householder, who owns FunCity Costumes in Mesa. “It helps me hope and believe that he’ll be the best president for this country.”
U.S. Sen. John McCain’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination leads Arizona in fundraising, bringing in $2.4 million in the first three quarters of 2007. But residents of Mesa and Gilbert have given far more to Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts: $548,000 to the $109,000 raised there by McCain, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Mesa ZIP code 85213, where Householder’s business is located, contributed $136,000, the most of any Arizona ZIP code for Romney, followed by $128,000 in Mesa ZIP code 85205. Romney had raised a total of $1.2 million in Arizona and $62 million nationally through Sept. 30.
Political experts say Mesa and Gilbert are examples of areas with large Mormon populations rallying behind Romney. Nine of the top 25 ZIP codes contributing to Romney are in Utah, where most of the population is Mormon, and Utah also leads the nation in per-capita giving to his campaign, FEC records show.
But Rhett Flake, a Snowflake pharmacist who contributed $370 to Romney’s campaign, said he and other Mormons share more with the candidate than religion.
“Of course he’ll get support from Mormons. But Romney should get support from people of all faiths,” Flake said.
“A lot of people attack Romney because he’s Mormon, but he has the same values most Americans believe in, especially Christians: a strong belief in God and in family values,” Flake said.
Romney has raised $3,635 to McCain’s $220 in Snowflake, where many residents are Mormon.
Five percent of Maricopa County’s population is Mormon, and Mesa and Gilbert have a large share of that group. The area also is home to the Mesa Arizona Temple.
Arizona’s figures didn’t surprise J. Quin Monson, a Brigham Young University assistant professor of political science. He said Romney is having success raising money from Mormons around the country.
“Pockets of LDS areas in Arizona are falling into the Romney fundraising network,” Monson said. “He is drawing on his personal network, especially Mormons and business people.”
Two Arizona political experts said Romney has obvious appeal to Mormons.
“The East Valley is a Mormon bastion,” said Bruce Merrill, a pollster and retired Arizona State University professor. “The thing to see as the election goes on is if Romney can broaden his fundraising from Mormons to others.”
“It isn’t any different from (New Mexico Gov.) Bill Richardson stressing his broad appeal but still getting Latino support,” said Barbara Norrander, a political science professor at University of Arizona.
The two Mesa ZIP codes leading Romney’s Arizona fundraising rank high nationally as well, coming in 29th and 32nd overall and besting even the $122,430 Romney’s campaign has raised in Beverly Hills, Calif.’s famous 90210 ZIP code.
Curtis Clouse, a Mormon and president of a painting contracting firm in Mesa, said he was most attracted to Romney’s skills as a former CEO and leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when he decided to contribute $250.
“I’m a business owner myself, and I feel he’ll be able to run government the way it should be run: like a business, with people expected to perform and produce,” Clouse said.
“Religion should not be an issue if a candidate is qualified to hold office, which Romney sure is,” Clouse added.
Officials with Romney’s campaign said his success to date shows he is an attractive candidate to everyone. The latest polls in Arizona showed McCain with only a slight lead over Romney, with many voters undecided.
“He’s bound to drum up support from those sections,” national spokesman Alex Burgos said of the Mormon community.
Jason Rose, state director for Romney’s campaign, said Romney has done well in Arizona because he has spent a lot of time campaigning here.
“When you go to the doctor with a heart problem or the flu, you don’t ask the doctor, `Are you Jewish or Muslim?’ You ask if you’re qualified,” Rose said. “That’s the same reason why people are responding to Romney.”