These Mormon women in Arizona are losing faith in Trump's Republican Party In this swing state, every voting bloc can make a difference. That includes Maricopa County's LDS community, where Republican women have been turning away from former President Donald Trump.

These Mormon women are rejecting Trump, fraying GOP support in a key state

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Arizona is one of the most important states in this year's presidential election, and the tally is almost certainly going to be close. President Biden won Arizona in 2020 by just over 10,000 votes. Two years later, Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs won by just 17,000 votes. Democrats' recent success in Arizona owes partly to a small group of voters that could continue to swing elections. In Arizona's Maricopa County, one of these groups includes members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That is a demographic that does tend to be reliably Republican. From Phoenix, NPR political reporter Ximena Bustillo reports.

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: Former President Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. But in a state like Arizona, he still has work to do.

JANE ANDERSEN: I have been the same person from 2015 to 2024, and the party has moved away from me.

BUSTILLO: That's Jane Andersen. She's a resident of Gilbert and a member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government, a nonprofit that promotes civic engagement. Sitting with other women in her living room, she says she has always and still considers herself a Republican but has never supported Trump.

ANDERSEN: Probably the ultimate nail in the coffin was when he made fun of the disabled reporter.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Oh, 100%.

ANDERSEN: I have a child that's disabled. And so when you are mocking someone's - how they are as a person and trying to lift yourself up by bullying someone else, not only did that not resonate with me, it angered me.

BUSTILLO: That same instance is what also convinced Dan Barker, a retired Arizona judge and LDS member, that Trump was not the guy for him, but he didn't want to give up his Republican identity.

DAN BARKER: So when Nan says to my wife, let's put up a Biden sign - gee, you know, I've been a Republican my whole life, and I was appointed by two Republican governors to serve on our superior court in the Arizona Court of Appeals. You know, I just wasn't quite comfortable identifying with the Democratic Party.

BUSTILLO: So he created the political action committee, Arizona Republicans Who Believe In Treating Others With Respect, or, as the sign says, Republicans For Biden.

BARKER: That's one of the main reasons we did it, so that people would know that you could be a conservative and vote for Biden.

BUSTILLO: Handing out tens of thousands of signs, Barker believes his efforts is one of many that helped Biden not only flip the county, but the whole state. And with Trump in the GOP seat once more, he plans to reactivate the PAC. Stan Barnes, a political consultant in Phoenix, says that the turnoff of conservative voters is what helped Biden become the first Democrat to win the state since the '90s.

STAN BARNES: There are people all over Arizona that are otherwise Republican voters that don't know what to do because they cannot get over Donald Trump's jackassery.

BUSTILLO: But he warns that the Biden record may now be a turnoff to conservative voters.

BARNES: Dampened enthusiasm, less energy toward either candidate means statistic fall off in who turns out and who actually gets off the couch, fills out a ballot.

BUSTILLO: In Andersen's living room, Julie Spilsbury says she plans to support Biden even if she doesn't agree with him on everything. In the primary, she voted for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

JULIE SPILSBURY: So we're stuck with, again, two horrible options. There's good things, but I mean, he's also not the best choice either, right? So...

BUSTILLO: Officials with the Maricopa County Democrats say they have a plan for tapping into potential voters among LDS women specifically and conservatives broadly. The Trump campaign and Arizona GOP did not offer a comment on their efforts. Still, Reita Juarez is one Maricopa County LDS voter who supported Trump before and plans to vote for him again. But she wishes she had other options, such as businessman and former GOP candidate Vivek Ramasamy.

REITA JUAREZ: We all have to end up justifying something somewhere, right? If I justify Trump's big, fat mouth or his awful rhetoric - right? - but - well, because we're limited with these choices.

BUSTILLO: She says the former president aligns with her conservative and LDS values. One big issue for her is abortion. And in Arizona, abortion is front and center. A recent court ruling brought back a near-total ban from 1864. Suzanne Lunt of Gilbert, who has identified as an independent since the January 6 insurrection, says abortion was one issue aligning her with the Republican Party before. Talking to the ladies in the living room, she reflects on how a recent church address made her feel like she had permission to not follow the party line.

SUZANNE LUNT: In a recent church address, one of our leaders said, you may not be able to focus just on that one issue - that we've got to think about the whole person and the morality and the goodness and that, you know, you have to choose what's most important to you.

BUSTILLO: Both candidates need to mobilize as many voters as possible ahead of the November contest. And in Arizona, every voting bloc, including LDS voters, has the potential to flex their power. Ximena Bustillo, NPR News, Phoenix, Ariz.

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