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Religion and the run for governor

Will God have a role in the 2006 race for governor≠
One candidate says that’s already the case.
“The night was bittersweet for me, as I was coming to understand that God might be gently leading me into a new arena of public policy involvement,” reflected Len Munsil on the 10th anniversary of The Center for Arizona Policy, a nonprofit lobbying organization promoting traditional family laws and values. He will step down as president of the center at the end of the month to run for governor.
“I never planned to leave… But God has a way of interrupting our plans and moving us out of our comfort zone when we least expect it,” Mr. Munsil, a Republican, writes on the center’s Web site.
Whether Mr. Munsil as a candidate will speak to his religious beliefs as a basis for his conservative positions on social policy is a question without an answer at this point. He will not be granting interviews until he formally announces, Republican consultant Nathan Sproul said.
In an April 10 interview with the Arizona Daily Star, Mr. Munsil described The Center for Arizona Policy as “an evangelical Christian organization,” with wide support from other churches.
“We work on the cultural mission that ignites everyone from Orthodox Jews to traditional Roman Catholics to the Mormon community . . .” he said.
Primaries and the religious right
Primary elections ignite voter turnout among the “religious right,” says Arizona State University pollster Bruce Merrill. Mr. Munsil and Republican Don Goldwater are expected to appeal to socially conservative voters, while Republican John Greene runs as a social moderate.
“The more that get into primary, the more the vote is divided up,” said Mr. Merrill, who runs the KAET-TV Poll at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. “The number one consequence is it will divide the religious right.”
Should Mr. Munsil win the primary, his base could prove strong going into the general election if the center’s initiative calling for a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage qualifies for the ballot.
“The one argument you never hear responded to is if you accept the notion that people’s interest in sexuality entitles them to the right to be married, then how do you limit it to two people≠” Mr. Munsil recently wrote. “How do you not have five or seven or 10 people saying we have a right to be married if two parents are good, how about 10≠”
Mr. Greene says he welcomes Mr. Munsil’s entry into the race, but opposes the marriage amendment.
“It also forbids benefits for heterosexual couples,” he said.
“The primary should be an exercise in airing the issues. There will be a clear definition between candidates. I hope to show I’m experienced in public policy, more than trying to tell people how to live their lives,” Mr. Greene said.
Mr. Greene was asked if he expects religion to be injected into the race by Mr. Munsil.
“How can it not≠” he said. “Isn’t that what defines him≠”
GOP destruction≠
Libertarian Barry Hess, also expected to announce for governor in January, says religion should not play a role in politics, but added that Mr. Munsil is unable to separate the two.
“It will distract from the real political issues that should be separate from religious views,” Mr. Hess said. “It will be destructive for the Republican Party. He is an aggressive individual with an agenda to squash your rights, all in the name of religious freedom.
“Republicans don’t want him in office,” Mr. Hess said.
Mr. Hess was a candidate in the 2002 governor’s race, in which the fundamentalist Mormons became an issue.
Independent candidate Richard Mahoney at that time told police he received three death threats after he ran two ads that criticized candidates Matt Salmon and Janet Napolitano for what he called their lack of interest in the problems of Colorado City, a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) community that practices polygamy.
One ad said Mr. Salmon would never solve northern Arizona’s polygamy problem because he is Mormon (LDS) and another suggested Ms. Napolitano had ignored crimes in polygamist communities and didn’t care about victims’ rights.
On his political Web site, Mr. Munsil writes, “We cannot expect to compete with the free publicity and the fawning media coverage of our current governor, or the efforts to present her as a moderate despite her liberal ideology. Instead, we must build a massive army of committed, principled Reagan conservatives who believe we can win.”
In an article called “Libertarians Can Stop Promoting Liberal Policy Any Time” on The Arizona Conservative Web site, Mr. Munsil says Libertarians “speak out in favor of drug legalization, sodomy as a constitutional right and sex clubs in neighborhoods . . .”
Of the governor’s race, Mr. Hess said, “It will be exciting to test the ideas of a governor who hasn’t delivered anything of substance…”
Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb defended Mr. Munsil in a recent article.
“…Munsil has an affability and sense of humor that would make it difficult to demonize him as a dour puritan wanting to return to the stockades and scarlet letters. Moreover, Munsil, a lawyer by training, has the intellectual firepower to go toe-to-toe with Napolitano . . .”
The 42-year-old Munsil, an Arizona native, ASU graduate in journalism and father of eight, addressed religion in politics in the interview with The Star.
“…Christianity and Christian principles have a place at the table of public policy,” he said.

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