As Latter-day Saints are seen as pivotal in the swing state of Arizona in this presidential election, President Donald Trump’s campaign announced Monday that it is dispatching Utah Sen. Mike Lee for a “Latter-day Saints for Trump” rally on Tuesday in Gilbert, Ariz.
“The Trump campaign is making a concerted effort with our outreach to the LDS community in Arizona and Nevada, seeking to expand President Trump’s base of support with voters whose priorities are in line with those of his administration," and the rally featuring Lee is part of that, said Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign.
“With his strong record on religious liberties, pro-life issues, human trafficking, and more, the president has delivered for the LDS community and we’re confident that with our grassroots engagement, these voters will resoundingly reelect President Trump this November,” she added.
It is one of four rallies in Arizona on Tuesday — including one at the ghost town of Goldfield — where Lee will participate. At other “Liberty for Trump” rallies he will join such other politicians as Sen. Paul Rand, R-Ky.; Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.; Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.; and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.
Lee’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment and more details. But the move came a day after Lee wrote an essay in the church-owned Deseret News about why he is voting for Trump this year after refusing to vote for him four years ago — and was part of a dump Trump movement at the Republican National Convention at the time.
“Four years ago, I did not believe President Trump could beat Hillary Clinton. Clearly, I was wrong,” Lee wrote. “Four years ago, I did not believe President Trump would govern as a conservative. Happily, I was mistaken there, too.”
The senator praised Trump for appointing conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court, and for pushing policies that he says help families — but Lee criticized the president’s style.
“President Trump is deeply human and therefore flawed. He says things I would never say,” Lee added. “But when he was elected, I knew I had to work with him. If we are going to survive as a diverse constitutional republic, we have to work with people who think, speak and live differently than we do.”
The senator added, “President Trump’s administration hasn’t been perfect. It has spent far too much money, and the deficit has grown far too fast. But considering the alternative, a Democratic Party promising to borrow and spend far, far more, while seeking to enforce ‘woke’ extremism at the expense of religious freedom, President Trump is the easy choice for me.”
When the Trump campaign launched its Latter-day Saints for Trump Coalition in August, it sent Vice President Mike Pence to Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix, for the kickoff. Pence, who often serves as Trump’s emissary to religious conservatives, appealed to church members' opposition to abortion rights and long-standing concerns over religious liberty.
Trump “has stood for the religious freedom of every American of every faith every day of this administration,” Pence told the group of about 200 people in August.
The group came under criticism for using a likeness of the Salt Lake LDS Temple on its website, although it quietly replaced the image a short time later.
Also in July, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., hosted a conference call with reporters to commemorate Pioneer Day, the holiday celebrating the arrival of the first church settlers in Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
“While in Washington, D.C., they may call people like my father and myself outsiders, here in the West they actually call them pioneers,” Trump Jr. said in a call to regional reporters. “Pioneers are people who embody the innovative spirit, curiosity and optimism that is uniquely American.”
Latter-day Saints for Biden-Harris on Monday criticized Lee and the Arizona rally for Trump.
“The incumbent president keeps sending surrogates from the extreme-right of the party to explain away his failures, and this week’s Gilbert event is no different,” Ron Taber, national director of Latter-day Saints for Biden-Harris said in a news release.
“Latter-day Saints know that we have to judge candidates ‘by their fruits,’” he added. “That’s why former Vice President Joe Biden enjoys support from a broad coalition, including former [GOP] U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, 2016 independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, former vice mayor of Mesa Claudia Walters, [former Arizona Court of Appeals] Judge Dan Barker, and over 1,500 Latter-day Saints who have publicly endorsed him.”