Yesterday, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval named LDS Church member and current member of the U.S. House of Representatives Dean Heller to replace Senator John Ensign, who has resigned effective May 3 rather than face an ethics investigation. The move increases the number of Mormons serving in the Senate to 6 while decreasing the number serving in the House to 9.
For Mormons this creates some interesting political firsts. Since the other Nevada Senator is Harry Reid, also an LDS Church member, Nevada will have two LDS Senators for the first time. Except for Utah, no other state has had two Senators serving at the same time who were both Mormon.
Heller becomes the 20th LDS Church member to serve in the U.S. Senate and the fourth from Nevada. Nevada became the first state other than Utah to have an LDS Church member serve in the Senate when Berkeley Bunker was named to the Senate in 1940.
Sandoval has yet to name a replacement for Heller, but none of the names mentioned in yesterday’s news reports were Mormon.
At this point there is a possibility that the number of Mormons in Congress will increase in 2012 (although not because of this change). Current Arizona Representative Jeff Flake has expressed interest in replacing Senator Jon Kyl, who has decided not to seek reelection in 2012. Given that, former congressman Matt Salmon, Flake’s predecessor, has indicated he will seek the seat he once held. Of course, both Flake and Salmon will need to get voters to elect them.