Meet the Western Democratic candidates

Out here in the West, there’s a strong movement to retake our communities from corrupt and incompetent politicians. Western values have always tended towards a hands-off, live-and-let-live approach alongside strong neighborly values. In other words, it’s none of my d*mn business what you’re doing over there, but if you’re stuck, I’m here to help.

Over the past 20 years or so, Westerners had been attracted to the small-government message of Republicans, resenting what they thought were social engineering experiments and too much bureaucracy from the Democrats.

How things have changed.

Since President Bush was elected, the Republican leadership has repeatedly shown its incompetence, corruption, and indifference to the values that won it elections. President Bush has had five years to strengthen our national security and has instead squandered our good will and willingness to help on an ideological crusade in Iraq, while allowing government and our national debt to balloon to obscene sizes. Not only that, but the administration has also begun to wage war on Americans – government officials are listening in on our phone conversations, are following our web traffic, have dumped the Patriot Act on us, threatening our right to bear arms and our very liberty.

The West has had enough.

Here in Montana and in our neighboring states of Idaho and Wyoming, several strong Democratic candidates have emerged to challenged heavily-favored incumbents. All of the candidates have made a strong and public commitment to national security, health care costs, education, and ethics reform. In other words, they are representing the values and issues of ordinary Westerners. Of America.

I’ve written up a quick blurb about four important races I’ve talked about here on my blog: the Montana Senate race, the Wyoming and Montana at-large House races, and Idaho’s 1st House district race. Check out the candidates and issues and do what you can to help America take back Congress.

Montana’s Senate race

The Senate race is, of course, the marquee race. Democrats need to turn six seats from red to blue to win a majority in the Senate, and Montana’s is one that’s vulnerable. The two candidates couldn’t be more different and aptly represent the larger issues that are at stake this election cycle.

On one hand you have Republican Conrad Burns, one of the five worst U.S. Senators, according to Time magazine. He was in thick with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff (pdf), and is suspected of changing his vote in Congress for Abramoff clients at least two times: once for the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, once on behalf of the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association — on a bill that would have effectively ended forced prostitution, among other things. His former chief fundraiser is accused of fraud.

If that weren’t enough, Burns is renowned for saying stupid things. He called firefighters lazy and taxi drivers “terrorists.” He’s made a series of racist and sexist remarks, and has been caught on video sleeping during hearings, answering phone calls during campaign speeches, and more.

In Congress, he’s been a rubber stamp for the Bush administration on the Iraq war, torture, warrantless wiretapping, and the Port Dubai deal. During the campaign season, he’s run a decidedly negative campaign that deliberately and falsely smears his Democratic opponent.

(That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Check out Montana blogs for more: Left in the West, Intelligent Discontent, Cece-in-MT, Wrong Dog’s Life Chest, the brothers Moorcat and Wulfgar!, and Granny Insanity for more of the gory details.)

On the other hand you have Jon Tester:

In many respects Tester is running less on the issues than on his personal character, pragmatic outlook and salt-of-the-earth heritage. He has a good sense of humor, a big, genuine smile and a certain folk charm people out here respect — not the canned, political persona that campaigns sometimes try to sell to unassuming farmers and ranchers. He stresses that he’s not a career politician….He emphasizes his instinctive empathy: “For some reason, I don’t know what the hell it is, but we can connect with people,” he says.

Tester is a third-generation Montana farmer, former basketball referee, music teacher, and butcher. During his term as the Montana state senate president he built a reputation for honesty and the ability to build bipartisan consensus. It was during his tenure as senate president that Montana reaped a $500-million budget surplus.Jon’s concerns are also Montanans’: health care, alternative energy, national security, a solution to the mess in Iraq.

Jon’s candidacy has sparked a stunning and effective grassroots movement in the state, which in large part enabled the Big Sandy farmer to stage a 25-point upset over Democratic primary front-runner and State Auditor John Morrison, despite being outspent 2-to-1.

The choice really couldn’t be clearer. Help Jon bring integrity back to Congress. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to send some with the vast potential to change Washington for the better. Jon Tester is exactly the kind of man who should be representing us.

Montana’s At-Large House race

The other statewide race this election – the House race – just isn’t getting much attention. It pits incumbent Republican Dennis Rehberg against challenger Monica Lindeen in another battle between a corrupt and out-of-touch DC insider and a feisty Montana Democrat with an excellent record in the state legislature.

Rehberg is a real winner. Not only has he supported Bush at every turn, he received a failing grade from the Drum Major Institute for his votes affecting the middle class, he voted against the minimum wage the same week he gave himself a pay raise, wants to eliminate the estate tax, and opposes Net Neutrality.

Rehberg’s also involved in a number of Montana-based scandals, including INSA and the Carter county lobbyist scandal; like Burns, he apparently feels that government exists to personally enrich himself and his pals.

Lindeen, on the other hand is an advocate of Net Neutrality, ethics reform, affordable health care, and energy independence, and is a strong opponent of the encroachment of the executive on our civil liberties. In the state legislature, Lindeen was an advocate of affordable secondary education.

Like Jon Tester, Monica Lindeen is a hard-nosed Montana Democrat and a lifelong native of the state. The daughter of a truck driver and a waitress, she put herself through school, started her own business – an early local Internet provider – and then served four terms in the state legislature marked by her reputation for competence, hard work, and ability to forge bipartisan coalitions.

She’s just the right kind of person we need in Washington DC right now. We need someone who knows how to govern, who won’t fleece the taxpayers, who won’t be influenced by lobbyists, and who will stand up to the Republican party.

Unfortunately the House race is getting overshadowed by the Senate race in traditional media circles and here on the Internet. Rehberg as the incumbent has all the financial advantages. Monica needs our help.

Help turn Montana BLUE! Contribute!

Idaho’s 1st House district race

In the country’s most conservative and reliably Republican of states, a Democrat threatens a Republican stronghold, and for good reason. In this district, the Republican nominee is so incompetent and extreme that even his fellow conservatives are deserting him in droves.

Meet Bill Sali. He’s backed by the fiscal extremist group, Club for Growth, who advocate the dismantling of Social Security and public schooling. In the Idaho state legislature, Sali lost his committee seats through sheer incompetence and is rumored to enjoy the enmity of Idaho’s other Republican representative, Mike Simpson, because of his tendency to grandstand for television. Idaho’s Speaker of the House, Republican Bruce Newcomb, said of Sali, “That idiot is just an absolute idiot. He doesn’t have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body.”

Ever since Sali won the primary, Republicans have consider the seat in danger. In July, Sali was a recipient of national GOP largesse as a member of a group of Republican candidates who are in “vulnerable” seats or who face “serious election difficulties.” Disgruntled Idaho Republicans have formed a group supporting Sali’s opponent, Larry Grant, and during a fundraiser with Dick Cheney, only 3 of 104 state legislators attended.

Larry Grant, on the other hand, former executive of Boise-based Micron Technology Inc, is well-known for his competency and fairness. He’s a fiscal conservative and moderate on social issues, running a campaign around ethics reform, health care reform, a plan for Iraq, and responsible federal spending.

(Grant has fantastic support from the blogosphere, including Julie Fanselow’s Grassroots for Grant and Red State Rebels, 43rd State Blues, Fort Boise, IdaBlue, Liberal Idaho, and F-Words.)

Despite having a 2-to-1 funding advantage (thanks, Club for Growth!), the latest poll shows Grant leading by eight points, 22 to 14 percent with a shocking 61 percent undecided. Sali’s lost half his support since the last poll; now we just need to get Grant’s message out there, so people will feel comfortable voting for him.

You can help oust Sali and put an honest man – Larry Grant – into office.

Wyoming’s At-Large House race

One of the more unheralded pick-up opportunities for the Democrats is in in Wyoming – Dick Cheney’s home state. There in the at-large House race Democrat Gary Trauner is giving incumbent Republican Barbara Cubin a race.

Trauner is another example of a Western Dem. A businessman – co-founder of an Internet Service Provider in the state – he’s running on a slate of no-nonsense issues: lobbyist reform, alternative energy, and health care reform. Basically he’s a competent and honest candidate who has pledged to bring an end to the kind of improper and unethical doings of the GOP and other fat-cat Congressmen in DC:

I will always raise my voice against wrongdoing, improper action or abuse of power, no matter the party or the political consequences. I will ‘do the right thing’ by putting the people I serve ahead of political calculation and party politics.

Incidentally, he’s got his own blog, of which he’s the sole contributor, a rarity these days.

Jackson Hole News and Guide has an excellent profile on Trauner that shows why he’s put this race into play:

From afar, Trauner’s campaign strategy seems like the wanderings of an idealist whose rose-colored glasses have obscured the modern political landscape. Trauner’s campaign manager, Linda Stoval, a 20-year veteran of Wyoming politics, argues exactly the opposite. Trauner’s approach is the only one that will work in the quirky political landscape of this large and scattered state.

“Even though the state is so big, people still expect to know the people they have elected,” she says. “Whether it happens or not, it means a lot to people that they have met him, especially at this level a race. In my mind [going door to door] is a necessity for Democratic candidates but I have been campaigning here for 20 years and have never seen it at this level.”

Meanwhile his opponent Barbara Cubin, who narrowly escaped the Republican primary, is…well…not quite all there. A 2003 incident sums up her competency nicely:

Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) was engaged in a heated debate yesterday with Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) on the floor of the House yesterday over a gun control bill Watt was urging lawmakers to support an amendment to the legislation that would prohibit drug addicts or people undergoing treatment for drug addiction from purchasing guns; Cubin was working to defeat the amendment.

Cubin said, “So does that mean that if you go into a black community, you can’t sell any guns to any black person?”

Trauner and Cubin are nearly neck-and-neck on campaign funds: Cubin has $235K to Trauner’s $205K. A May poll (the latest I could find) showed Cubin leading by only four points, 47-43%, an astounding figure considering the state where the race is taking place.

Trauner needs help. Check out his website. Donate or volunteer.


  1. Belated thanks for this write-up on Larry Grant. The race is going well; the two have now met twice for debates, and momentum seems to continue moving our way, though most of the DC gang are still calling this for the Rs since it’s such a red district.

    Let’s prove ’em wrong!

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