Meet Carol Williams, Montana’s Senate Majority Leader

by Jay Stevens 

I linked to the Missoulian’s profile of incoming state Senate Majority Leader, Carol Williams of Missoula, but I feel it deserves more scrutiny, especially as it presents quite a contrast to the rhetoric and experience of the state House’s majority leader, Scott Sales and Senate Republican Dan McGee.

As I’ve already mentioned, Sales’ and McGee’s self-proclaimed goals are to increase divisiveness among Montanans and to try and wreak revenge on Sam Kitzenberg and Governor Brian Schweitzer for the fact that their party is alienating moderates. In short, we’re in for a lot of posturing and chest-thumping for the right while policy-making will be an afterthought.

Enter Carol Williams, one of the state’s citizens responsible for public kindergarten and other kid-oriented projects:

As a new mom in Helena in the 1970s, there was no such thing as public kindergarten. Believing strongly that Montana needed such a program, Williams became active in the American Association of University Women and the organization’s efforts to bring a bill forward.

She helped lobby the cause, and the bill was passed supporting half-day kindergarten.

Over the years, as she raised three children and championed related issues, she served on dozens of boards, all focusing on children: Missoula Boys and Girls Club; Montana Every Child By Two Immunization Program; Montana Kids First Political Action Committee; Montana Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies; and more.

So…what’s her main goal for the upcoming legislative session (besides full-day kindergarten?):

Aside from her new leadership duties, Williams said her larger goal is to promote civility and communication.“I want this session to be about policy, not politics,” she said.

Given the Democrats’ narrow winning margin, it is critical that everyone works hard to get along and work for the common good.


Open communication with problem-solving and not sniping will hammer out the wrinkles in the challenges facing the Legislature, Williams said.

She plans to lead the civility charge by example.

“We need to keep this session respectful of each others’ positions,” she said, “and try to come to common ground. That is of utmost importance for the people we serve.”

Williams also plans to create the state’s first-ever Women’s Legislative Caucus. The goal of the Caucus would be to “serve as an information bridge between the Legislature…and the needs of Montana’s professionals, families, and individuals and services concerned with women’s issues.” That is, Williams is actively working to give a body of Montana’s voters and citizens a more direct line into the state’s government. The Caucus would also help mentor junior women legislative members and work to encourage more participation of women in local and state government.

Being a blogger means creating narrative about issues, government, policies, and issues. Good stories draw readers; good stories illustrate issues; good stories help motivate. And a good story makes you feel and understand what’s going on at a larger level: the story is a microcosm of the larger universe.

And honestly, the best political story of 2006 was the Tester-Burns match-up. You just couldn’t come up with a better villain than Boss Hogg Burns; and you couldn’t come up with a better white hat than Tester, the organic citizen-farmer.  The story matched the corrupt legislator rubber-stamping a bungling war policy against the honest farmer who stands up to big money and for honesty, integrity, and the American Dream. Throughout the election cycle, Burns kept coming up with great quotes for us to blog about, and kept everybody – and I mean everybody — focused on the race.

If you want confirmation of how a narrative helps the outcome of a race, compare the Senate race to the House race.

Now thanks to Sales and McGee, we’ve got a couple of clownish comic-book bad guys. (And throw in Koopman and Sinrud for good measure.) Against them array Carol Williams, the woman who helped bring kindergarten to Montana, and you’ve got ripe pickings for an eager left-wing blogger. Seriously, my blog will write itself in 2007.

Unfortunately for Montana, that also means there won’t be smooth sailing in the legislature. Of course, the session hasn’t started yet. Maybe Montana’s GOP will surprise me and legislate and leave me with nothing to write about.

I’m not holding my breath.


  1. Big Swede

    The term “women’s issues” was mentioned by Ms. Cohen and Jay several times. Since I’m relatively new with these discussions with Left I was wondering if that term was code speak for abortion. Seems to me that the Missoula paper or this left leaning blog wouldn’t be embarrassed by the “a” word unless were trying to soften Ms. Williams image.

  2. Big Swede, you really did just fall off the apple truck, didn’t you? Women are confronted by a lot of issues that don’t get a lot of play.
    –Domestic violence.
    –Unequal pay.
    –Day care.
    –Health care.
    –Education and athletic program equality.
    See, the mistake that many conservatives make — prone as they are to self-interest — is that they assume women are just men with boobs and a vagina, and want the same thing men do.
    Here’s a question for you: is there proportional representation of women in the Montana state legislature? Federal Congress? If not, why do you think that is?
    Any women readers out there who might like to elaborate?

  3. Big Swede

    They’re home vacuuming.

  4. Big Swede

    Sorry I digressed-after I read Ms William”s credentials(kindergarten, AAUW, raised three children, children boards, Missoula B and G Club, MT Kids PAC, Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies…etc) I was wondering where this pro kids, pro families Senator stood on the abortion issue. The absence of the “a” word just made me curious-simply stated.

  5. I suspect she is, indeed, pro-choice. I’m not sure, but like most liberty-loving liberals, she’s probably not into criminalizing the practice. But then, she obviously cares more about families than any rabid pro-lifer I’ve known…

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