Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is seizing upon a possible opening in the heavily Mormon state of Utah, reiterating the importance of religious tolerance to a population put off by Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“I’ve been fighting to defend religious freedom for years,” she wrote in an exclusive op-ed published Wednesday in the Deseret News. The publication is owned by the Mormon church, officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Clinton contrasted her efforts to protect religious minorities with her opponent’s questionable comments singling out different religious groups.
“Every day, Trump continues to prove he lacks the morals to be our commander-in-chief,” she added. “With a new, outrageous headline seeming to pop up every day, it’s easy to forget that Trump showed us his true colors early on, when he proposed banning all Muslims from our shores.”
The Muslim ban would “undo centuries of American tradition and values,” Clinton contended. “When it comes to religion, we strive to be accepting of everyone around us. That’s because we need each other.”
Clinton called out several influential Mormons by name who have criticized Trump’s proposal ― including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president. She also referenced historic persecution against Mormons and called for acceptance and unity, writing “we know that it so often takes a village — or a ward — working together to build the change we hope to see.”
She then advocated passing immigration reform policies, an issue Utah residents tend to care deeply about.
Although the state is generally defined by a “strong libertarian streak,” Deseret News opinion editor Hal Boyd told The Huffington Post, there’s also a fierce sense of community, meaning that “a lot of people have much softer views on immigration.”
Utah, a consistently red state, has not historically been considered important in national elections. The last Democratic presidential nominee that the state voted for was Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1964.
Yet the electorate, which is “very sensitive to religious persecution,” Boyd said, appears disenchanted by Trump.
“Obviously, Clinton sees that there’s a possible in here,” he said.
The Deseret News has reached out to all presidential campaigns, Boyd said, but has yet to hear back from team Trump. It has already published a Johnson op-ed and will be publishing a McMullin piece next week.
“You see strong libertarian polling numbers for Johnson, and now you see another guy entering the race because I think there are a lot of voters who are undecided here, unsatisfied,” Boyd said.
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Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.