Archive for June 9th, 2010

by Pete Talbot

The numbers were already in when I arrived, late, at the Union Club. It doesn’t take long to tally votes in a primary.

Tyler Gernant was there and had mixed emotions about the outcome. He did much better than he could have hoped for when he first launched his campaign, but it wasn’t enough. The Democrat’s standard bearer, Dennis McDonald, had a 14 point lead. Gernant, with 15,724 votes, received 24% and McDonald, with 24,134 votes, had 38%.

It wasn’t a shock but I predicted closer numbers in the Gernant/McDonald contest.

Melinda Gopher with 13,287 and 21% came in a close third (which surprised both me and Gernant since she didn’t have a strong field operation). She did well with tribal voters and I’m guessing women, too. She definitely pulled some votes from Gernant.

As did Sam Rankin, who also raised very little money and didn’t really have an organization, but pulled an amazing 16% (10,233).

I and other Missoula area bloggers have been accused of being “Missoulacentric.” After all, Missoula is the center of the universe. But being here in the Garden City, one’s point of view can become a bit jaded. Tyler seemed to be doing so well in Missoula and he did capture 1143 more votes than McDonald in Missoula County. So, obviously, McDonald worked hard in other Montana counties. This shatters one of my long held opinions that if you can win Missoula County in the Democratic primary, you win the state.

I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Gernant, though.

Another race I thought would be closer was Teresa Henry’s loss to Tom Facey by 26 points. Tom’s door-to-door work is unparalleled, they say, and as a Missoula area teacher for decades, he has good name recognition. Still, Ms. Henry has a fine track record in Helena and has served more recently than Facey. I thought this race would go down to the wire but Facey ended up with nearly 63% (1190) to Henry’s 37% (708).

Ellie Hill’s victory received a rousing round of shouts and applause at the Club when her numbers were announced. She beat Lou Ann Crowley by almost 100 votes (Hill, 712 or 53% to Crowley’s 618 or 46%). Ellie ran a textbook campaign — fundraising, the doors, targeted mailing, GOTV — she did everything it takes to win and she pulled it off. I thought this race would be closer, too, but some of the yard signs of the many I saw for Crowley were in Republican yards and those folks probably voted in the Republican primary.

And on the Republican side, congressionally, voters went big for the right (incumbent Denny Rehberg got 86,271 or nearly 75% of the vote), followed by the far, far right (Mark French, 21,989 or almost 20%). Not a lot of moderate votes cast (A.J. Otjen, 6668 or close to 6%).

Some other noteworthy observations: Republican voters went to the polls at twice the number of Democrats — 129,165 to 62,811. This does not bode well for the fall general election, especially in the congressional contest. The Democrats have their work cut out for them.

And the petition gatherers for CI-102, the “amoebas are human beings” constitutional initiative, showed real class. They paraded around outside Lowell Elementary School with posters of dead fetuses.

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