Two Republican Challengers for Montana Senate Seat

by jhwygirl

Today’s Great Falls Tribune is reporting that Billings Republican, Kirk Bushman, 41, has announced that he will formally announce his run for the Senate seat currently held by Max “Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee” Baucus next week.

He’s not even planning on coming to Missoula for the announcement.

So, ah, good luck with that Kirk – I guess the experience will be good for something.

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  1. He’s not even planning on coming to Missoula for the announcement.

    Why would he come to Missoula to make the announcement? He is also not going to Helena, Butte, Great Falls, Scoby, Rocky Boy, Lincoln, Malta, Roundup, Circle or Goose Bill Butte.

  2. Missoula’s pretty big Shane – I guess I’m hitting this story from a Missoula perspective….that being said, I guess he’s only going to where he’s drummed up his initial support. Don’t you think, for a statewide office, that you’d make the roundup of larger towns around the state and not just Billings, Bozeman and Kalispell????

  3. The Flathead Valley, despite very recent voting trends in Kalispell and Whitefish, is still a Republican stronghold and it’s the third-fastest growing area in the state, so it’s only natural Bushman would make an announcement there. Unlike in Montana’s second-biggest city 120 miles to the south, he knows his cause is not lost in Kalispell. To be dismissed so casually is a shame for Missoula’s Republicans. However, I’m sure he’ll visit the Garden City many times during his campaign. Carol’s probably already got him on the schedule down at the Pachyderm Club.

    Still, it’s kinda like Dianne Feinstein announcing another run for the Senate, and only announcing her candidacy in San Francisco, avoiding Los Angeles entirely. Sooner or later you’ve got to play in everyone’s sandbox if you want to represent us.

  4. Don’t you think, for a statewide office, that you’d make the roundup of larger towns around the state

    Not necessarily. Let’s assume he is a serious candidate, why would he start out in Missoula? If he is trying to get the ball rolling, then hitting Republican strongholds first is the right option. This sort of follows the law of diminishing returns, every unit of effort spent in Missoula will yield less results than a unit of effort spent in Kalispell. On a limited budget, conventional wisdom says that spending money and time in Missoula right now would be as bad a move as spending all his time and money hitting every Scoby , Circle and Goose Bill Butte in the state.

    Still, it’s kinda like Dianne Feinstein announcing another run for the Senate, and only announcing her candidacy in San Francisco, avoiding Los Angeles entirely.

    I hate to be completely contrary here, but this isn’t the same thing at all. I might be closer to say it is the same thing as Dianne Feinstein announcing her candidacy in eastern San Diego county (CA-52, Duncan Hunter R). However, it is still different because, as you say:

    Sooner or later you’ve got to play in everyone’s sandbox if you want to represent us.

    The difference between this and the Feinstein analogy is that she would not be involved in a serious primary as an unknown. That is the political situation here and it only make sense to spend the primary season drumming up votes from the highest concentration of people who will be voting in your parties primary.

    With all that said, I am sure that he will pay attention to Missoula at some point during the primary. As a bigger city it still has a pretty big number of Republicans and he would be foolish not to.

  5. Go ahead, be contrary. If we all agreed with each other it would make for a boring blog.

    The difference between Dianne and Duncan is that Dianne’s a Senator; she would try to reach Democrats in all parts of California during a primary, not just those in her backyard. Duncan’s only answerable to Republicans in his district. Like LA and San Francisco, Billings and Missoula are Montana’s two biggest cities. To lavish attention on one and not the other is, well, odd–even in a primary. This particular primary is wide open. Maybe it’s because I’m not a party member, but I don’t see a lot of Republicans going gung-ho for Mike Lange. Kirk’s playing it safe (and probably smart) by going to Kalispell because he’ll be doing two important things: reaching out to western Montana and playing to a comfortably supportive crowd. However, why not announce in Missoula? Maybe this particular primary shouldn’t be about playing it safe at all.

  6. I didn’t draw any comparisons between Hunter and Feinstein, I only used his district as an example of a location that it made less sense for Feinstein to spend a lot of time drumming primary support.

    Billings and Missoula are Montana’s two biggest cities. To lavish attention on one and not the other is, well, odd–even in a primary.

    This isn’t true. Let’s look at the most recent data we have. In the 2004 gubernatorial primary, it is obvious that a serious win in Billings can offset anything that Missoula has to offer for a Republican. Not to mention that I think that you guys are seriously underestimating the voting power that Kalispell has. There are more Republican votes to be had in Flathead county than there are Democratic votes in Missoula county.

    Yellowstone County:

    Republican ballots: 17,951
    Democratic ballots: 12,520

    Missoula County:

    Republican Ballots: 7294
    Democratic Ballots: 10,375

    Flathead County:

    Republican Ballots: 11,965
    Democratic Ballots: 3864

    Yellowstone county has 2.5 times the number of Republican primary voters as Missoula. A brief look at the data indicates that Missoula Republicans fall roughly in line with the state Republicans on most of these votes, so why bother with Missoula if they are going to roughly follow the state trend. The same can not be said of Flathead county, where the voters tend to be a bit more independent minded. If a candidate polled within 3 or 4 percentage points in most counties, a big win in Flathead can easily seal the victory.

    Look at conventional wisdom on this. I lived in Missoula when Rehberg first won his congressional and I don’t remember him paying a bit of attention to Missoula though he cleanly walked away with the nomination. The simple fact is that Missoula isn’t as important in Republican politics as LA and SF are in California democratic politics.

    This particular primary is wide open.

    I don’t think this is true either. Unless Bob Keenan or another third candidate joins the race, Bushman should cleanly walk away with the nomination. Lange has more name recognition, but not in a good way. Remember that the Republicans are holding a caucus this year and there will not be a vote for the Republican primary so it is likely that there will be an increased concentration of party loyalists, most of who will be aware of Lange’s embarrassing Youtube moments. Not that any of them expect to win (and there wont be any serious money coming from DC this year) so I think that they will choose the candidate with the least potential to embarrass. Of course, my track record on these types of predictions is poor as I tend to give way too much credit to opposition ;)

    However, why not announce in Missoula? Maybe this particular primary shouldn’t be about playing it safe at all.

    There is a lot of merit to that second sentence. However, I’ll take issue with the first sentence again. I realize that this blog is from a ‘Missoula’ perspective, but that sentence only adds to the speculation and appearance that Missoulians have a slightly over inflated opinion of their importance in the state. Go back an look at the data: Lewis & Clarke county only has 200 fewer Republican primary voters and we are the capitol. Why not here? Cascade county has over 5000 Republican primary voters, why not there too? My guess is that the answer to that question is that he has to go back to work and only has around 10,000 to begin his campaign with.

  7. I’m not underestimating Kalispell at all. I know Kirk’s smart to concentrate on Flathead County. It’s now a major population center and, as always, a guaranteed win for Republicans. I guess you’re right–as a Missoulian, a resident of the state’s second largest city, (And most likely to be the largest by the next census–nah, you don’t have to speculate on our sense of self-importance at all!) I feel miffed: What, Kirk? We aren’t good enough?

    Despite your lack of confidence in Republican behavior, I think you’re right: unless Bob Keenan or someone with more positive name recognition enters the race, Bushman will win.

  8. I should perhaps just let you two continue, but I wanted to clarify that my “good luck with that” wasn’t tied, at all to his failure to schedule an announcement speech in Missoula.

    I could see where it looks like that was what I was trying to convey. I can tell you it wasn’t my intent.

    I don’t know who could beat Max, but Bushman or Lange certainly aren’t on the list.

  9. I guess I should clarify that when I say “win”, I mean his win his party’s caucus, not the general election.

    But then again, why quibble over the original intention when our assumptions are furthering the discussion? ;-)

  10. Yes. I enjoy arguing the minutia of this stuff. The central question is really about what his intentions were and while he might have had the intention to dis Missoula because he doesn’t care about representing Democrats. On the other hand, it is more likely that he is simply following the conventional wisdom of Montana politics.

  11. goof houlihan

    Who?

  12. Kirk Bushman, Goof. Were we getting too free and easy with the pronouns there for you?

  13. goof houlihan

    Who?

    PS, it wasn’t a grammatical correction.

    PPS, I read it this way:

    “Today’s Great Falls Tribune is reporting that Billings Republican, Kirk Bushman, 41, has announced that he will formally announce his run for the Senate seat”

    Who?

  14. Ahhhhh…I get it. Who, indeed. I guess no one of any importance was available this year.

  15. Jim Lang

    Running against Baucus is a good way to gain name recoginition, at least.

    After all, everybody now knows who Mike Taylor is.:

  16. I just found out Kirk Bushman will be speaking at Pachyderm this Friday.

  17. I knew you would come through for us, Carol!

  18. goof houlihan

    Announcing at Republican Women in Bozeman tomorrow. I guess I’ll meet the guy then.

    I think Goof Houlihan has more statewide recognition, myself. But as Netroots laid out, it’s all about Yellowstone County.

  19. I’d vote for ya goof!

  20. I have to say if the choice in the Rehberg race were Goof Houlihan or Denny Rehberg, I’d vote Goof in a heartbeat!

  21. goof houlihan

    I predict we see another candidate yet for the caucus to consider.

  22. I am a personal friend of Kirk and we have talked a lot about the announcement. He wanted to announce in every major city in the state, but of course that would have been very hard to do. Kirk plans to visit as many places as the budget allows, and if he skips a town it is definitely not because he has written that place off. He wants to represent everyone in Montana, not just republicans.

  1. 1 Montana Netroots » Blog Archive » A Look At Montana Primary Political Statistics

    […] This post was inspired by a conversation I was involved in over at 4&20 Blackbirds about Republican primary politics in Montana. I ended up looking up some numbers during the course […]




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