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LA MESA -- This year's presidential campaign has some special resonance for members of the Mormon Church. Republican candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon and for many in this church, this year's race carries at least echoes of John F. Kennedy's 1960 candidacy when questions were raised about his Catholic faith and its influence in his potential decision-making.
La Mesa has a long serving member of the Mormon Church on its City Council and La Mesa Today conducted this Question and Answer with City Council Member Ernie Ewin (pictured right) via e-mail:
LA MESA TODAY: Sir, you are a Mormon and a politician. Does Gov. Romney's candidacy for president have special meaning to you?
EWIN: Not really if only in the sense that he and I are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have always appreciated those of faith who were not afraid to consistently - and perhaps quietly - practice what they believe and within the context of the respect for the faith of others. I recall my father discussing John F. Kennedy's presentation on why his Catholic faith was not an issue in how he would carry out his duties as president. I believed President Kennedy.
In these times of speculation and opinion as to vetting candidate qualifications, some take facts at face value while for others, we take them by the candidate's actions. Some voters might believe that military service, educational accomplishments or a chain of successful elected political offices would be a good indication of character, capacity or leadership. Honesty/integrity is always the best policy.
Aware of how the Church functions, Mr. Romney has had many callings which gives me a recognition or insight others may not care to consider or be aware of. I am sure that in some of those callings he received "3 a.m." calls for critical needs, service or comfort to members. I am sure he acted appropriately on them.
For this election and viewing it from my perspective as an elected official-"politician"- I am concerned about jobs, economic impacts from actions or inactions by our state and federal governments and how that affects La Mesa California and each of its citizens. My background and education is in economics/ finance-the private sector. My passion is community service. Perhaps all these matters define the "Special Meaning" I have with Gov. Romney's candidacy.
As to the influence of my faith, I will fast and pray that I make the right informed decision on all candidates and ballot matters this November.
LA MESA TODAY: But as with Kennedy and to some degree Joe Lieberman's vice presidential candidacy, doesn't Romney's Mormon roots add a level of symbolic meaning - in a way make this race a step toward a wider acceptance of the Mormon religion?
EWIN: "Wider Acceptance"? Perhaps it may lead towards more tolerance by some; more questions by some, curiosity for others.
Acceptance in some religions may mean the same as joining. In the case of your wording, it may also mean ultimately a better understanding leading to "wider acceptance" as not viewing as a threat but tolerating as differences in beliefs.
If Gov. Romney is elected, that may answer a number of questions more about the man...and if his policies and leadership are successful then confirm his ability as a leader.
I would commend Sen. Lieberman's book "The Gift of Rest" for consideration. This may draw some lignt on the regards for the Sabbath Day.
LA MESA TODAY: Have you ever felt anti-Mormon sentiment or suspicions while engaging in your own public service?
EWIN: No, not directly to me, but have heard others in my presence express or make comments not knowing I was a member. For the local Mormon Helping Hands Service projects there have been community members participate. So I guess more positives.
LA MESA TODAY: Do you think religious affiliation - or a lack of one - should be a central issue in an election?
EWIN: No, not unless a candidate makes it one for him or herself trying to differentiate from an opponent...and that does not make it right.
Once that line is crossed then the issue becomes fair game for both sides. But would the press be able to approach with good journalism - trust but verify sources and facts -and not pick sides? But what if there is a tenant of that faith which the candidate does not follow specifically? Is a higher standard created? Perhaps, as Dr. Seuss pointed out in "The Sneetches"...was it really better to have or have not Star's upon Thars?
To further the point, I am not sure who first raised the fact that Mr. Romney is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and expressed an opinion about it. If the intent was as a positive or neutral effect then Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nevada) should be readily identified as a Mormon- which he is - as well and consistently since 2006 in his Senate leadership position. If a negative connotation was implied or hoped for, then double standards arise...honesty? I hope it would never get to the point of political parties saying our Mormon or Catholic is better than your Mormon or Catholic.
Again, the key question remains why anyone would try to win a campaign by focusing on negative issues or personalities versus issues and solutions? Focus on Facts, Issues and Solutions.
LA MESA TODAY: Last question: Are you voting for Obama or Romney?
EWIN: Yes !!!