Utah governor defends Jewish Democrat against political ad

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert defended a Democratic Utah House member after the Republican challenger sent out a mailer insinuating that the incumbent does not back religious freedom.

Todd Zenger said in the ad that he is the only candidate for the state House district who stands for "the free exercise of religion, conscience or belief," the Deseret News reported .

Zenger is running against four-term Rep. Patrice Arent, the only Jewish member of the state Legislature.

The Republican governor tweeted Monday a photo of him and Arent, saying the Democrat is a "wonderful person who respects others' points of view."

"Having worked with Patrice Arent over the years, I can say that while we don't agree on every topic, I have always appreciated her dedication to preserving freedom of religion and conscience," Herbert wrote in the tweet.

Zenger in the mailer also quotes a Book of Mormon scripture, saying please vote "in memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children."

In a statement, Arent said she was "truly disappointed" that Zenger suggested that he stands for religious freedom while she does not.

"Because it is well-known that I am the only Jewish legislator in Utah and very active in my religion, many people in our Jewish community are hurt and upset by Mr. Zenger's statement," Arent said.

Zenger initially defended the mailer Sunday following criticism by the Zion Federation of Utah and others. He then issued an apology Monday, saying he regrets any misunderstanding about the ad.

"I apologize for any hurt caused by my choice of words," Zenger said. "It was never my purpose or intent to be insensitive to any person, race or religion, or to malign any religion or race."


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Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com