On the EDge: The real surprise in Hildale’s mayoral election

Photo by Imilian iStock / Getty Images Plus; St. George News

OPINION — What surprises me most about last week’s election isn’t the fact that the polygamous community of Hildale elected a mayor who is not a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but that voters there elected a mayor who is a woman.

Donia Jessop, who prevailed as tentative mayor-elect in the Nov. 7 municipal general election for Hildale City, according to preliminary results pending additional mail-in and absentee ballots and canvassing.  | Photo courtesy of Hildale City, St. George News

It will take some time to canvass the votes and make it official, but it appears that Donia Jessop has become the first female and non-FLDS member elected mayor of the tiny border town.

The odds were stacked against her going into Tuesday’s election as only three women were serving as mayor in Utah’s 246 cities and towns. And, she entered the race as a former member of the FLDS church.

Read more: Hildale elections represent history in the making for the predominantly FLDS community

In an equally shocking result, Michelle Kaufusi was elected in Provo, according to preliminary results, to be the city’s first female mayor in its 157-year history.

Religion and politics is, at best, a combustible mix.

There was trepidation, of course, when John Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, ran for president. Republicans questioned whether he could be trusted to not take orders from the Vatican.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Mitt Romney’s Mormon beliefs came under scrutiny when he ran against Barack Obama in 2012.

And, of course, things got ugly last week when John Curtis defeated Kathie Allen in the special election to fill the seat of Jason Chaffetz, who represented Utah’s 3rd District in the House of Representatives.

Read more: John Curtis wins special election to replace Chaffetz in Congress

After her loss, Allen got into hot water for tweeting: “Curtis is Mormon and Republican. I am neither. That really seems to be the only thing Utah County cares about, just as I was warned,” she said in response to a question on Twitter. Allen later deleted her comment and apologized.

Tweet by Dr. Kathie Allen when Nov. 7 election results showed she lost to John Curtis; Allen later deleted the tweet | Image via Twitter.com, St. George News

There’s no doubt religion plays a role in modern-day politics. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have so many unsavory candidates clinging to Jesus during the campaign.

But, gender, unfortunately, plays an equal, if not more powerful, role.

According to the last census, women make up 50.8 percent of the United States population.

A 2016 study by the Center for American Women and Politics, sponsored by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, reveals that only 24 percent of all elected officials in the U.S. are women.

The face of government, whether at the local, state or federal level, is old, white and male.

Results of a study by the Women Donors Network shows that although they only represent 31 percent of the population, white men hold 65 percent of the 42,000 elected offices from the federal level on down to the county level.

Only 10 percent of those offices are occupied by people of color.

So, when you hear people talk about “the good ol’ boys” in office, well, there’s more than a nugget of truth there.

In the history of the U.S. only one woman has served as Speaker of the House, and only one has run as a presidential candidate for a major party.

On a state level, Utah ranks 43rd with only 15.4 percent of the Legislature comprising women. Only West Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming and Mississippi have elected fewer women to their state legislative branches.

Utah has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate and Rep. Mia Love is 1 of only 4 women it has sent to the House of Representatives. Olene Walker is the only woman to ever serve as Utah governor, a post she took when Gov. Mike Leavitt was named by President George W. Bush to head the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003. However, she was stiffed by the party when, in May 2004, the Utah GOP refused to place her on the ballot for the coming election, naming Jon Huntsman Jr. and Nolan Karras as its candidates.

The underrepresentation of women in elected office is a no-brainer in Utah, where culture comes into play. Utah is a place where home is where not only the heart is but where most women are taught to remain.

Many may venture to college, but there is a precipitous dropout level for young women who attend Utah colleges and universities only to leave shy of graduation to marry.

Because the culture encourages women to remain in the home as housewives and mothers, they are underrepresented in the workplace and, thus, underpaid. That is reflected in Utah’s horrid wage disparity with women earning only 71 cents to each dollar earned by a man.

It would be impossible and irresponsible to separate the religious impact of the mainstream culture, that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on Utah culture, especially in this matter, because the church has a well-defined position on the role of women.

From the official LDS website describing a woman’s role in the church:

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, every woman in the Church is given the responsibility to know and defend the divine roles of women, which include that of wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. They stand strong and immovable in faith, in family, and in relief. Women participate in councils that oversee congregational activities throughout the world. They also have, by divine nature, the greater gift and responsibility for home and children and nurturing there and in other settings.

Economic necessity has, of course, forced many Utah women into the workplace. It is often a matter of survival because Utah families are traditionally larger than elsewhere.

But the clear preference is for women to pursue life as stay-at-home moms, which leaves little if any room for politics.

And because they are often not the breadwinners, their intellectual value is not held in as high esteem as their male counterparts, which sets the concrete foundation of misogyny.

I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside some very strong, talented women over the years, women who have shattered that so-called glass ceiling in the workplace.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing some very strong women who refused to settle for a minimal role in life, instead using their intellect and drive to make this a better world.

I’m married to a very strong woman who is not only loving, supportive and inspirational, but also a determined, intelligent and hardworking woman who was a highly successful, competitive and respected businesswoman.

I have a young daughter working her way to a master’s degree who is already displaying the kind of independence, strength and determination that make her a role model for other young ladies with a dream.

And, I have family members who will give any man out there a run for his money when it comes to intellect, ability, determination and drive.

These women deserve better.

They deserve a voice.

Instead, they are being represented by some rich, fat cats in Armani suits and $100 haircuts.

It’s time for the men, who have had a stranglehold on power for all these years, to put their oversized egos aside and realize that they aren’t doing such a good job and need to disband the “good ol’ boys” club.

It’s time we evened the playing field.

It’s time we give women a voice they have so desperately needed forever.

So, good luck, Ms. Jessop and Ms. Kaufusi.

We wish you only the best.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • mmsandie November 14, 2017 at 8:46 am

    The sad thing is dr Kathie Allen’s right. . Not only Mormons are favored and republicans rather than who is the better candidate? But nepotism is rampart in the state so many people who mov3 here suffer the consequences..glad awoman and n9n FLDS won in Hilldale. Not sure why that area hasn,t. disbanded and allow3d more change, I,m tired of supporting those people and what happed to Jeffes and money in millionswith food stamp fraud was a joke in court decision.. all those women and men should be in jail…

  • Brian November 14, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Another bigoted column from Ed, based on his incredibly limited perspective on this topic. Ed, I wish you could see the amazing women I’ve served with in many volunteer capacities within the LDS church and Scouting. The statement “their intellectual value is not held in as high esteem as their male counterparts” is utter bullcrap and couldn’t be further from the truth. No, women can’t “hold the priesthood” or serve as bishop, etc. And men can’t have babies or serve as Relief Society or primary president, either. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this, but men and women are different, and this extends further than just the plumbing. The world needs both Mom’s and Dad’s, men and women, each filling their distinct roles. Those rolls overlap now more than ever, but they aren’t and shouldn’t be the same. I’m glad my Mom was my Mom and my Dad was my Dad. Putting their character, traits, and roles in a blender and then pouring half the contents back into each of them wouldn’t have improved me or them. If we’re all the same, all but one of us are obsolete.

    • bikeandfish November 14, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      What you describe is systemic and institutional sexism and had definitely led to how Utah values women. When one assumes the roles and capabilities of a person solely based on their sex and/or gender instead of judging each person’s ability individually based on their skill and capacity then are definitely displaying a form of prejudice. Intellect is just one way in which women in Utah have been systemically devalued.

      No one is asking folks to put anything in a blender nor does an openness to diversity make anyone obsolete. Our country and even the doctrines of the dominant religion have always emphasized free will and agency. If that is truly valued than why place so many intentional barriers in the way of half the population versus selecting the most competent and capable without regards to sex (gender, race, ethnicity, etc)?

      Ee highlighted many ways in which Utah lags the nation in this issue.

  • Walter1 November 14, 2017 at 10:18 am

    There is no real equality in Utah. LDS leadership will not allow it!
    Change is coming, one can count on it.

  • ladybugavenger November 14, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Her last name is Jessop and you want me to believe she’s an outsider.
    Hahahahahahaha she’s a Jessop. Jessop=flds

  • Ladyk November 15, 2017 at 2:13 am

    Ed, I have never had a columnists upset me the way you do over and over and over. HOW DARE YOU try to say that because I CHOOSE to be a stay at home mom while my kids are in the house that I am somehow considered the lesser person in my marriage. I will have you know that I started working at 12 years old. I put myself through school. Then made the decision to served a mission at 21. At 24 I started my own business developing it into a major player in Utah. During the course of that work I developed a first of its kind computer program (this was in the mid 80’s) to automate much of the business. I got married at 30 and began having my kids at 35. It was at this time I decided that the world would be a better place if I were the one who stayed at home with my kids to raise them rather than working 12 hours a day 6 days a week. Not once have I ever heard from my father or my husbnd that i was being forced to stay home. Not only that but my mom worked much of my childhood and i can tell you that i would rather have had her home with us.

    The women of Utah are not the lessor person in a marriage for making the choice to have children or for staying home to raise them with love. They are the hero’s of the marriage. As my husband likes to say “men build buildings for men to worship, women and stay at home mom’s build up the temples of families so as to worship God”. You literally disgust me with your “Oh look how developed I am” attitude when in reality you have so much to learn. As for your daughter and her great education, I am sure that with an example like you she will shove her babies out the door to be raised at daycare by someone who simply doesn’t give a damn about them all so she can feel good about herself as she looks at her “trophys” given by those she chooses to surround herself with. You know, those people who don’t give one eyeota about her or her kids. All the while those who love her and need her the most cry because for all of her great education she can’t seem to understand that her children need her. Yay let’s just celebrate that for a second because it is so much more important to be respected by our co-workers than be a loving mother who cares more about the young children she brings into the world then where the work Christmas party is being held. Yeah Ed you really hit the nail on the head with this one. Because getting that all important equal salary is more important than reading to our children. Then there is the Utah bashing. Good grief it is getting so old to see you bash us once again. So let’s see, in this article you bashed women who stay at home, women who leave college to marry (Because men never do that), you hit the ones who believe in Jesus, Utah voters. You tout the “LDS guidlines” which should not be confused with commandments. Not once have i or any other LDS woman been told that we must stay home but my children are better off for it. Your argument that because a women is a homemaker she can’t have any time for politics is simply incorrect. She may not be the one running for a seat but many woman participate in politics at every level. It isn’t just the one with the name on the door that gets the job done. If you can’t look around and see the many ways women contributes or volunteer their time and how the many jobs in political offices just wouldn’t get done without them.

    Yes there is a wage gap and although it is not significantly different than other states one thing seems to stand in our way. It seems to be all you enlightened pig headed men who think they know what is best for everyone who are truly the disgrace. More women in the work place isn’t going to make the wages go up. They could do that at any point. It is the men who don’t value the contribution a woman makes that determines what her salary will be. It has nothing to do with being a mom or staying at home for a time. So get off your high horse and one day you might understand that there are some things more important. If you truly want to do the right thing then go stand on the corner and fight for equal wages for women. Put your typing skills to something that really matters. Your a guy go take to your own kind and tell them what idiots they are for paying a women less then he does a man for doing the same job.

    Not one woman I know feels that because they stay home to raise their kids that their “intellectual value” is not held at the highest regard within their family. Shame on you for thinking you know what every woman needs or wants, just who do you think you are to spout such utter crap. You obviously don’t like living here among us religious dumb women so please please please shut the heck up and take your garbage somewhere else because I have looked really hard but I can’t for the life of me find one single reason we need you.

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