In 1961, the family moved to Orange County, where his father and mother owned and operated 116 apartment units in several buildings near Disneyland. He graduated from Anaheim High School in 1963 and went on to get a degree from Cal State Fullerton. He was a high-school teacher of English, German, and Latin, as well as drama, technical theater, and video production before retiring. (Doug’s great grandfather, Miles Park Romney, also had a flair for drama, and was at one time president of the St. George Dramatic Association. It has been reported that he performed in plays at the St George Social Hall, a converted wine cellar.)
Besides Palm Springs, Doug has lived in San Diego — “I go to San Diego to get away from the desert heat” — owning a unit at 3200 Sixth Avenue, the iconic mid-century condominium complex across the street from Balboa Park. The four-story building was designed in 1959 by noted architect Henry H. Hester and was built by Colonel Irving Salomon, the father of former city councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer.
Doug says he’s never met his cousin Mitt, but as a child was introduced to Mitt’s father George when he was head of American Motors in the 1950s. Doug’s family went to pick up a new Rambler from the factory, where George Romney, chairman and president of the company, personally handed them the keys.
One other thing: Doug Romney is gay.
“If I sound bitter, I don’t mean to,” he says, not sounding bitter. “I left the church about 35 years ago, and I don’t have much contact with my family.” He goes on to explain that he is no longer a practicing Mormon because he doesn’t see much point in hiding his sexual identity in order to attend a church that has long condemned homosexuality.
His decision was reinforced, he says, by the campaign for Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in California. The Mormon Church was a key proponent of the ban, leaning heavily on its members to furnish cash for the multimillion-dollar TV-advertising campaign and waging its own fierce public-relations battle on the measure’s behalf.
“Proposition Hate,” says Doug Romney, who once sang in the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus during his time here. He sounds slightly bitter at the first mention of the measure, the legality of which is likely to be ultimately considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. The church’s hardline position has been repeatedly endorsed by Mitt Romney, who this year has made opposition to gay marriage a key plank of the Republican Party’s presidential platform.
“I personally am outraged that the Mormon Church, headquartered in Salt Lake City, spent millions of dollars to defeat marriage equality in this state.”
Although no longer a Mormon, Romney says he still adheres to some of the church’s moral and ethical values. “I have tried to live my life with honesty and integrity, values that I was taught there.” He adds, “As a teenager, I went into the basement of the temple and was baptized for the dead dozens of times. I also know that I am sealed to my parents to be reunited in the afterlife.”
Notes Romney, “I have heard that archaeological research has revealed no conflict with the events described in the Book of Mormon.”
In October 1986, Clyde Romney was running for a seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
A Los Angeles Times reporter wrote: “Romney, a burly man with a receding hairline and a disarming smile, is described by those who know him well as a man of integrity, high morals, compassion and honesty.”
His political foes weren’t as charitable. “A snake-oil salesman who will say anything to anybody at any time to get a vote,” one told the Times writer. “He’s a nice guy; he’s got a beautiful family, but you can be a nice guy and have a beautiful family and still be a political snake-in-the-grass.”
Some of the antagonism was laid to the fact that Romney was new to the North County’s fifth district, having moved in from just across the line immediately before he declared his candidacy. Republican opponents complained that he was also a newcomer to their party. He’d been a lifelong Democrat but switched his registration in 1983, when he became chief of staff to GOP Congressman Ron Packard, a fellow Mormon whose popularity was not easily transferred to Romney, despite Packard’s repeated endorsements.
A dentist who attended Brigham Young University, Packard had pulled off a remarkable 1982 congressional upset as a write-in candidate, soundly beating fellow Republican Johnnie Crean, a high-living, well-financed mobile-home scion from Corona. In the June primary, Crean edged Packard by 92 votes.
Many credited Packard’s victory to the legions of smiling Mormons who flooded the district, armed with apparently inexhaustible supplies of door hangers and golf pencils to remind voters to write Packard’s name in on the ballot. It was only the third time in American history that a congressional seat had thus been won.
Roy “Pat” Archer, the Democrat in the contest, claimed dirty tricks were employed against him, asserting: “There were more than 1600 felonies committed in this race.” That December, the Palomar College political-science professor told an Associated Press reporter, “there were about 1500 defacements (of voting booklets) and another 100 or so other things, like poll workers [who were] soliciting people to vote for Packard not taking pencils out of voting booths that had ‘Write-in Ron Packard’ on them, and allowing Packard supporters to campaign within 50 feet of polling booths.” But the Democrat’s complaints came to naught.
Romney, who served almost five years as bishop of the church’s Palomar Ward, Escondido South Stake — a position of high trust and honor also held by Mitt Romney in his own home ward of Boston — often bragged that his drive and organization of the county’s Saints had made the difference for Packard. His boasting stirred resentment among other members of the congressman’s inner circle. One anonymous critic told the Times that Romney was “pushy and domineering,” adding, “The first thing I saw of him, he was taking over a meeting when in fact he was a stranger.”