They’re mostly Democrats, including the sort of President Obama supporters that Romney was secretly videotaped disparaging in his now-notorious remark about “the 47 percent” of Americans who don’t pay federal taxes.
But the Third Ward congregants don’t seem inclined to hold a grudge.
“I hope he doesn’t end up making that move [to the White House], but if he does, I’d welcome him with open arms,” said Corban Tillemann-Dick, 26, who works phone banks for Obama’s reelection.
In fact, if Romney wins, Tillemann-Dick hopes he might be picked to be the new president’s “home teacher,” a designated person every Mormon has in their congregation as a go-to caregiver.
“If he needed a friend to talk to or a shoulder to cry on — I think it would be a wonderful opportunity,” he said.
A Romney campaign adviser said the Republican nominee, a devout former bishop, hasn’t made any decisions about his hypothetical D.C. spiritual life. But it’s unusual in Mormonism for people to go outside their assigned ward.
A president in the pews would be dramatic, but the D.C. Third Ward, as it’s called, is used to drama. More ethnically and economically diverse than the typical Mormon ward, its roughly 200 congregants are drawn largely from Northeast Washington and have included deported immigrants, a teen shot dead in gang violence, refugees from African wars, and youths who depend on the church for meals, tutoring for class and support to pay for Boy Scout camp.
“The standard ward is all middle class, and there is no one you can help. If you want to serve someone or help someone out, there are always people here you can help,” said Kevin Linzau, 51, a telephone systems programmer who lives in the Brookland neighborhood where he grew up.
The ward is known in the area for its unusual demographics and high-energy warmth. Up to half of the congregation is nonwhite, including a large, Spanish-speaking population and converts from French-speaking Africa. The ward includes openly gay leaders, not typical for a socially conservative faith. There are also many converts and missionaries.
Although the majority of Mormons lean Republican, most Washingtonians lean Democratic, and the D.C. Third Ward is no exception. Congregants describe rolling their eyes when Mormon tourists who drop in for services rave about the possibility of the GOP retaking the White House. People share jokes about the first Mormon president — a converted Barack Obama.
“People [in D.C.] for the Glenn Beck rally came in here, all excited, and we were like, ‘Oh, we still love you,’ ” said Robin Lunt, a lawyer who lives in Columbia Heights. “I think the Romneys would be happy in our ward and definitely welcomed, but it would be very different.”