Archive for the ‘Montana Democrats’ Category

by jhwygirl

In full disclosure, I am 200% in the Dave Wanzenried for U.S. Senate camp. I firmly believe that if any democrat candidate has a chance to beat Steve Daines, the only person who’s thrown their hat in the ring that has the bonafides to run for the office and the speaking ability to motivate voters is State Senator Dave Wanzenried. Wilmer was another favorite, but she has withdrawn herself from consideration as of yesterday.

The Montana Democratic Party have a chance here (even though many think it is impossible) to reverse a few things about the Montana U.S. Senate seat race here in Montana that have gone pretty much disastrously so far.

They are able to return this race – sort of – to the people. But already the winds are wafting with party insider activities.

We are 84 days out from the election. In terms of an actual horse race, it really hasn’t started its full run, but there’s no doubt winning is a very very uphill battle for the Montana Democratic Party.

Money…name recognition – it’s a K2 climb, baby – no doubt. Montana Dems have to create excitement to raise the money and get some free press name recognition. They’ll need it to get outside money, which they are, unfortunately, going to have to rely heavily given the very little amount of time the candidate will have to raise cash.

But getting Tester elected in 2006 was that, too. He was an unknown underdog up until the primary. I know – I was making calls for him.

So who is the party insider’s choice to run for the U.S. Senate seat? A 34-year old teacher from Butte, who has one legislative session under her belt. Who decided not to run for re-election, but is considering a state senate seat for 2016. She also wrote a video blog, uploaded to YouTube for most of the 2013 legislative session.

Her name is Amanda Curtis.

Now, I watched some of Amanda’s videos back during the session. I don’t really remember much of her speaking on the floor or in committees, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t. Lots of people have talked about her – she’s certainly a favorite at the Montana Democratic party’s online mouthpiece. She’s shown she has smarts. Curtis got two bills (out of 9) passed in the difficult 2013 legislature, while of the 7 that didn’t get anywhere, 1 made it out of the house and into the state senate, at least.

Not bad for a freshman, really.

Is Curtis U.S. Senate material? I started asking around last Friday when her name came up at the Dem mouthpiece. “Hey – what about Amanda Curtis?” Well, there wasn’t a single person who knew who she was. I’ve probably asked about 20 people at this point. Of even the few that read newspapers and have opinions about Montana politics and actually talk about their opinions – no one knew who Amanda Curtis was. When I told them what I knew, the most common response was a general reply that “well, they weren’t really going to win anyway at this point.”

Currently the only name in the ring that has actually carried barrels of water in the legislature for Montana Democrats is David Wanzenried. Here’s Wanz’s work in the 2013 legislature.

Here’s his work in the 2011 legislature

Here’s 2009.

2007 legislature

2005 legislature.

2003 legislature

I’m not going any further back. Plus, this purpose of this post isn’t to highlight Wanzenried’s accomplishments. I don’t know that the legislative website actually goes back to his start in politics – but you get the gist. Wanzenried has a political resume like no other currently wishing to be considered for the Dems U.S. Senate ticket, and substantial work, at that.

But no – insiders at the Montana Democrats, along with MEA-MFT have – and here I’m going to be blunt and politically incorrect, but very accurate in what those insiders have told me – the insiders have decided that only a woman is going to excite the base, and that means Amanda Curtis, a freshman legislator and teacher from Butte, is the person who should be Montana’s next Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, to replace Max Baucus.

To run against Steve Daines.

Now, for the record, back in 2008 I found McCain’s pick of of the unknown-and-lacking-political-resume Sarah Palin to the GOP ticket an insult. McCain picked Palin because Hillary had created such a stir that he needed a Hail Mary that first week of September in 2008. He needed attention and he needed to separate himself from Obama, which had just blown America away with his Hope stuff at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He needed someone pretty who could grab up some women votes (that Obama was scooping up) and who could excite the youth. McCain and the GOP needed thunder, and they needed the media to give a shit

So they picked a – pardon my vulgarity – they picked a vagina.

They didn’t want a smart woman who could express opinions and thoughts – they wanted someone they thought they could control, and someone that didn’t have a long history to bring up dirt (which sort of came back to bite them, didn’t it?)

I mean – they could have picked Carly Fiorina. They could have picked Elizabeth Dole. Condi Rice! Or Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

But they went with Palin.

It was insulting as a woman that the GOP thought that they could pull votes for McCain by putting any female on the ticket. Not substance – just a woman.

I mean – I can’t stand Carly Fiorina, but I was pissed for her and those other I mentioned. Except Condi – her association w/Bush was enough to make me not care about her.

Sure worked out, though, given the choices. And damn – election night 2012 was over by like 10:30 p.m. MST time, wasn’t it?

I got nothing against Amanda Curtis. She may eventually build a resume that would have her a viable challenge against a candidate like Steve Daines. But if Montana democrats and MEA MFT think that they can elevate a freshman state house representative to a winning US Senate candidate, they are absolutely – dare I say it? – batcrap crazy.

I’d love to have a viable woman potential candidate around. I’ve been reminded by many that now is just as good a time as any. At some point, there’s a choice to be made to support a woman candidate.

Now, unfortunately, does not appear to be that time. If Frankie Wilmer had stayed in, I would have wholeheartedly supported her. Quite honestly, I’m bummed she left the consideration – better to have a pool of quality and experience.

Sadly, without Frankie Wilmer or Denise Juneau, Montana Dems have yet to find themselves a viable woman candidate.

I’m also going to say this – Montana Dems have only themselves to blame for not having a viable woman candidate. They didn’t even have one running in the primary – so they can’t push the blame on Bullock for that.

And the idea that Montana Dems and MEA MFT can push any old female on us as a viable candidate is, quite frankly, sexist.

It’s an insult to me as a woman voter. It’s an insult and it’s sexist.

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by Pete Talbot

[What’s an emptive?  Lizard says he’s posted a preemptive strike (below this post) to a piece I’ve been working on.  Well, here’s my postemptive.  I’m finishing something I’ve started; not my strong suit.  Damn you, lizard.]

No one really needs me to defend this site.  The contributors do a fine job of responding to comments and criticism, and they even show a little introspection from time-to-time.

But I found this in my inbox a few days ago from someone I respect. For my own reasons, I’ll keep it anonymous but here’s the gist:

I hope you’re following what is going on at 4 and 20 these days.

It seems that there isn’t a Democrat they “like” anymore. Literally, not one.

I’ve been a lurking b’birder from the beginning but I think I finally may let it go.

I mean they’re even going after Pat Williams. I think we’ve got Senator Essman and the Montana Republican party doing enough of that, don’t we?

He/she has a point. This site has made many twists and turns over the years.  It started Democratically-centric, particularly in Jon Tester’s successful bid to unseat Sen. Conrad Burns in 2006. 4&20 has had many contributors since then from all stripes left of center, but it belongs to no one. The opinions are those of the writers and I appreciate them all. There are sites that espouse party line — left, right and center — and I’m grateful for those, too.

Now, the 4&20 reins are in lizard’s hands.  It’s great to see jhwy.girl in the mix again and a post now-and-then from JC.  But this not the site to visit if you’re looking for party talking points. After our founding father, Jay Stevens, I’m the closest to a Democratic apologist and I seldom post anymore.

I enjoy the unbridled ideology this site brings to the ‘sphere.  I can’t always embrace it because of life’s realities.  Example: I’m against coal trains, tar sands, the rape of the Bakken and the Keystone XL Pipeline.  If this was my platform for an upcoming bid for statewide office, how would I fare?  Piss poor, and having just returned from the Magic City, Montana’s largest berg,  where I did some unscientific polling, I say this with conviction.

So, I’ll continue to straddle that line between idealism and pragmatism while  absorbing the musings from the blogs, and hoping we lean to the left as far as feasible in this great state of ours.

by jhwygirl

Lizard has had two posts now calling out local democrats – Thanks for Nothing, Democrats and Rape Culture, Missoula Democrats, and Criminalizing Poverty – on their lack of acting with principles most often associated with the Democratic Party.

Lizard points out in his first post that the overwhelmingly progressive city council (yeah, they run as nonpartisans but we all know they’re democrats) are working to criminalize homelessness. He points out that the Board of County Commissioners (all democrats) is suing the feds, saying they’ve no jurisdiction over our county attorney, the illustrious Fred Van Valkenburg, and then Liz points out that oVan Valkenburg – a democrat, himself – chose to not only ignore a county initiative that decriminalized marijuana, but that he actually notched up prosecutions of possession!

A comment from former Poverello Director and State Representative Ellie Hill (HD94 – Missoula) takes us to Lizard’s second post where he takes on former Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir’s recent editorial in support of Van Valkenburg and Missoula County’s lawsuit against the feds. Now, admittedly Muir’s politics are unknown since he wasn’t an elected official – but he is standing not only in support of the very Tea Partyesque lawsuit, he’s also referring to the USDOJ as “ultra-liberal.” Liz then continues on to call out Ms. Hill’s apparent change in positions on her advocacy for the homeless, citing quotes by Hill in Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller’s blog, Missoula Red Tape.

For good measure, Lizard closes out his post with reference to former US Representative Pat Williams’ ‘knucklehead” comment about rapists at the University of Montana, finely documented by the truly lustrous architect of words, Patrick Duganz.

Yes, it’s hard to find what many might refer to as “true progressives” or “good democrats” here in Missoula these days. Wagons are circled, that’s for sure. That “speak no ill” rule certainly applies in state democrat politics.

A few days ago a friend pointed out to me that Ravalli County – a conservative Tea Party bastion – sure knows how to address incompetence, even when it involves what is an elected office. That person was right. With unproven allegations of malfeasance, Ravalli Board of County Commissioners had County Treasurer Valerie Stamey escorted from the building by the county sheriff. They then hired an outside audit firm, brought in a interim treasurer and also a retired judge to independently oversee the investigation. Stamey remains on paid leave as the investigation continues.

Compare that to Missoula County Board of County Commissioners. With serious allegations made by the USDOJ who have quite clearly said that County Attorney Van Valkenburg has “put women’s safety at risk,” Van Valkenenburg apparently still has access to his office! There are not only allegations of violations of state and federal law, there is significant documentation by the USDOJ that civil rights were violated – that’s the kind of stuff that exposes the county to millions of dollars in lawsuits.

Instead, the county steams forward not by addressing the allegations, but on the hope of a now disgraced county attorney who thinks that the feds don’t have jurisdiction over civil rights violations.

This situation is no longer about who has jurisdiction over who – it’s over who violated civil rights and who is going to continue to maintain the status quo.

With documented allegations of civil rights violations and the failure of the Board of County Commissioners to act, it’s not going to be just Fred Van Valkenburg and Missoula County’s name on the lawsuits that have an easy in to being filed. His enablers will also be on the hook, should they fail to act.

And – dare I suggest – that may include the State of Montana, since there are documented allegations of state law in that 20 page document also. I’ve only heard crickets out of Helena, so far.

Missoula was worried about the cost of implementing the USDOJ’s recommendations? They might start to think about those civil rights lawsuits. That stuff can be real real expensive.

Look – Van Valkenburg poked at the dragon. The dragon bit back in a big way. In doing so, the dragon shined a big light on civil rights violations. If anyone things things are going to get easier, they’re dreaming.

Not only that – Van Valkenburg can’t defend himself or the county from these allegations. Consider that. Van Valkenburg had to hire outside council to sue the feds…he and the county sure can’t defend themselves against the civil rights violations that are now on their way down the pike.

by Pete Talbot

Or so says the Washington Post.

“Who’ll be your whipping boy now?” asked my wife.

Still Max.  But I have a lot of questions.  Was it the public outcry on his latest actions the led to his retirement?  You know, his no vote on the expanded background checks for gun buyers and his comments on the health care “train wreck.”  The pundits say he did these things because he’s up for re-election in 2014.  Now he says he’s not running.

I get an email from Max’s organization every other day asking for money.  And he already has something like $6.5 million in his war chest.

So either he took a poll recently that said his numbers were in the crapper or he’s been playing at this super-secret campaign strategy to hold the seat in Democratic hands.  I suspect the former.

I guess it could be something else, like his health, but they say the guy runs miles everyday, so that probably isn’t it.  Then there’s this, from a source at ABC News: He has recently been remarried and “is finally happy,” the friend said. “At 72, he can still have a life. It’s harder to do that at 79.”

And the most shocking thing of all: The likely Democratic candidate to succeed him would be former governor Brian Schweitzer, sources said.

Where the hell did this come from?  It’s been said that these two guys don’t like each other very much.  Again, from the Post: ” … Schweitzer, a popular figure who at times has feuded with Baucus over local political issues in the Big Sky state. In February, Schweitzer hinted at a potential run in a Facebook post.”

Since I don’t follow Schweitzer on Facebook, this is news to me.  I thought Brian was busy trying to take over the Stillwater palladium mine over there in Columbus.

So much subterfuge, so little time.

Was Baucus really grooming Schweitzer for the seat all the time? Was this to keep potential Republican (or Democratic) rivals at bay. It seems to have worked on the Republicans with the two candidates, so far, being no-names: Corey Stapleton and Champ Edmunds.

This political insider crap drives me crazy, if that’s what it is.  I’m sure details will emerge over the next few weeks.  Personally, I’d like to see Denise Juneau run for the seat.

by Pete Talbot

There are lots of ways to interpret the news and write the story.

One version would say the Democrats “took a big gamble” when they tried to block a pair of bills.

Another might read:

Old, straight, paranoid white guys try to cling to power by suppressing the vote.

Guess which way Lee Newspapers’ Mike Dennison took?

Now I have a lot of respect for Dennison.  He’s covered the Capitol and other statewide issues quite well for many years.  He’d probably get into trouble with corporate (and Lord knows there aren’t a lot of jobs in journalism out there these days) if he wrote the lede that needs writing.

Because let’s face it, the Republicans in the Montana Legislature are, for the most part, a bunch of scared, intransigent, backward-thinking white guys (and a few women) who see the way the rest of the country is trending.  And it’s not in their direction.

The Montana GOP could try to moderate its policy, be more inclusive and play the long game.  Or it could attempt to keep young people, immigrants and the disenfranchised from voting.

It’s doing the latter.

So while I appreciate the mainstream media’s legislative coverage, I’ll look to the blogs for the ledes that cut to the chase.

by jhwygirl

What could get me wanting to try and throw out a few words? A bill seeking to repeal last session’s eminent domain debacle, HB198.

I won’t go into the past gory details on the 2011 eminent domain bill – you can click that link above for that – what I will do is offer a heartfelt THANKS to Sen. Debby Barrett, a Republican out Dillon.

Sen. Barrett has proposed SB180 which is a straight all-out repeal of HB198, which handed eminent domain powers straight to the utility corporations, and eliminating any role of assuring that the taking of private property was for public gain, yet alone fair compensation.

In other words, big business who’s priority is only bigger profits, and not necessarily Montana’s best interests, could crisscross this Montana with whatever form of transmission infrastructure they choose, to deliver their energy from..say…Canada to Colorado…and little old property owner in Dillon Montana is left to deal with the barrage of lawyers from big business.

Thank you? You have to wonder what the hell the people who voted for HB198 were thinking and you can’t really paint the Democrats with the lack of respect for private property rights – plenty of Republicans voted for this crappy bill, including Republicans Sen. Dave Lewis and Reps. Janna Taylor, Wendy Warburton and Duane Ankney.

For the Missoula people that care about private property rights, know that only Sen. Dave Wanzenried and Rep. Ellie Hill voted NO to that bill. Occasional commentor (from way-back) Rep. Mike Miller – a self-described Libertarian, I believe – also voted NO to this bill.

Last week, Sens. Wanzenried, Augare, and Windy Boy signed on as co-sponsors to Sen. Barrett’s bill. I’ll be watching this one closely.

Let’s see who respects private property rights, and who wants to let private corporations do what they will, with only the promise of “fair compensation” from their army of lawyers knocking on our Montana neighbor’s doors.

by jhwygirl

This all I got, and it’s minutes old.

It’s that big.

From D. Gregory Smith’s twitter feed:

@Dgsma: MT Democratic Party approves platform amendment supporting full marriage equality for gays and lesbians #MTPol #Equality #guts

UPDATE

It’s a beautiful thing, and I poached it from D. Gregory Smith’s From Here to Eternity. I really hope he doesn’t mind. He’s got it printed out over there, too – so go read it.

Missoula’s CBS KPAX news led the 10 o’clock with the story. They even interviewed Jamee Greer, spokesperson and lobbyist for the Montana Human Rights Network.

The Missoulian, too, got this piece up from Charles S. Johnson shortly after the news broke. It’s got some good background.

This will certainly make this year’s Montana Pride 2012 event even more celebratory next weekend in Bozeman.

by jhwygirl

Quite a dust storm kicking up over the gay marriage position articulated by Montana’s Democratic candidate for governor and current Attorney General Steve Bullock in a recent interview with Charles S. Johnson, Billings Gazette’s State Bureau Chief.

Bullock joined all seven GOP candidates in an anti-gay marriage stance, taking what he surely felt was the safest bet, siding with civil unions instead. From the Billings Gazette:

Bullock said, “I do not favor changing the constitution but would support legislative measures giving committed same-sex couples the opportunity to be together, free from discrimination.” This would include allowing a person to visit his or her partner in the hospital, he said.

The first response I saw was a post from Roberta Zenker of Transmontana, titled Just Say No to the Bullock. Read the entire post, please…and I’ll leave you with how Roberta summed up her feelings on Bullock’s position:

Please forgive my passion on this, but I am hurting. I have been wounded too many times by the results of colloquial thinking. My view is that the LGBT community needs to see itself as a voting block – one that has been denied far too long. I can no longer accept the default position of voting for Dems not because they support our interests, but because they are the lesser of evils. I am getting to the point that I prefer the poison that I know – one whose ideals and actions are susceptible to court challenge, rather than the one that lurks in the conference rooms and minds of hypocrites who accept my donations and volunteer work, but would throw me under the bus for the sake of political expediency.

Forgive that opinion? Hell no – I stand with her.

Today I see D. Gregory Smith with a post titled Steve Bullock Just Lost My Vote. What does DGS have to say?:

I have to say I’m very disappointed in Steve Bullock. Ironically, he apparently is unaware of the pain and suffering of LGBT persons in his state because of legislative discrimination (including a sodomy law still on the books)- or he’s unwilling to acknowledge us in the face of staying safe and winning votes. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has done some amazing things, like already (2 years ago) extending LGBT partner visitation rights in most hospitals. What has Steve Bullock done for us lately ever? Not much. I’m taking the Bullock sticker off of my car.

Bullock is running in a Democratic primary taking a GOP position on gay marriage. Taking a position that will likely be a variation of Mitt Romney’s when-he’s-backed-into-a-corner position on LGBTQ marriage equality.

And to be clear to those of you who think that civil unions and gay marriage are two in the same? They are not.

Are gays a voting block – you betcha. I understand a little how both D. Gregory and Roberta feel – as an environmentalist I feel like every cycle where we near an election, I am supposed to STHU about any criticism of the Democratic candidate because there are other issues more important. Does that compare to being denied rights that my friends and neighbors have? Not at all – but I make that comparison noting that for some reason, my concerns – just like D. Gregory Smith and Roberta Zenker’s – are somehow less important than other issues. Which I’ve come to realize over many years of voting is solely the issue of getting re-elected. We are not supposed to criticize the Democratic candidate because any criticism can harm that candidate in the general. Because the alternative is (most absolutely) far worse.

Because. Because. Because.

Because if you don’t vote for (the Democrat) it’ll all be your fault.

I don’t know how far this is going to take Steve Bullock this time. Democrats across the state have been given a fake candidate and a real candidate – the real candidate taking a position on what many consider to be what should very much be a civil rights issue. Does it harm him in the general?

Its a disgrace for the Democratic Party – and and absolute disaster for the Montana Democrats.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for electeds and officers of the above to express any dissatisfaction with Steve Bullock’s comments. It is, of course, election season – when those electeds and officers abide by the democrat’s version of Ronald Reagan’s Golden Rule: Speak no evil of fellow Democrats. At least during election season. Something I spoke about that a little here in this previous post.

Bullock’s lost my vote. His anti-gay marriage position has sealed it (I had issues with his Otter Creek vote also) for me. And as it stands now, not just for the primary but for the general. I decided some time back that I’m not voting the lesser of two evils.

I will only vote for progressives that are progressives. DINOs, especially, are out of the running for my vote.

Anti gay marriage candidates like Steve Bullock? Not a chance.

by jhwygirl

Still more rolling on the University of Montana rape scandal – the U.S. Department of Education is investigation the University of Montana over its handling of (at least) 11 rapes of UM students over the last 18 months.

Title IX violations would be devastating, and have a disastrous effect on federal funding availability. The U.S. Department of Education has already found violations in how UMontana handles criminal complaints.

They’ll be coordinating with the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation into civil rights violations by UMontana, the City of Missoula Police and County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg’s office.

Van Valkenburg – as a reminder folks – is an elected official, who is up for reelection in 2014.

We’re only getting started on this, Montana. I have little doubt an NCAA investigation is impending…and (just a reminder) UMontana president Royce Engstrom’s contract is up in June. You can speculate for yourself what that means.

In other news – I hope you all caught this editorial by the the UMontana Kaimin editorial board, published two Mondays ago, February 23rd: Go Back to D.C. Jim Foley.

Bold, and much respect in the face of the actions of other leaders within UMontana – such as outgoing ASUM president Jen Gursky who has publicly stood by the University’s handling of the rape and sexual assault scandal since December. A bit troubling, considering her political aspirations here within the City of Missoula – and under the Democratic Party banner.

Vice-president Jim Foley fired back on Friday – showing, quite frankly, his lack of understanding of how the UMontana presents its editorials (a theme they touched on in their call to have him removed) – by saying that he was “staying in Missoula.” While he continued to hid behind privacy concerns (for who, I ask: The victims or the criminals?), he did offer his perspective of the 1st Amendment:

An anonymous and poorly written editorial attacking one’s character is not the signal we should be looking for in print journalism in the 21st century. I like the idea of the Kaimin being the watchdog of UM; however, as the saying goes,the watchdog never barks at one of its own family members. The Kaimin can do better.

So Foley supports the The Kaimin’s right to watchdog journalism – they just shouldn’t watchdog the University.

One is left wondering exactly what kind of education Mr. Foley received in his past life given this lack of comprehension of the 1st Amendment and his understanding of watchdog journalism.

Maybe he should sit in on a constitutional law class. Might do everyone good.

by jhwygirl

Because my idea of democracy is a system where the unwashed masses actually have a voice.

Democrats hate primaries. Ask a democrat active in the party who they support and the more active they are the more likely they are to waffle and squirm their way out of saying who they’re going to vote for. Openly endorse one and really watch the daggers fly – something I experienced from 50 iterations of the two bovine bloggers who together call themselves the Montana bovine something-or-other blog when I endorsed a candidate during the 2010 congressional primary.

It’s a funny thing I’ve observed over the years – the pre-selection of candidates by the elite few. Here at the local level, most city council candidates have been pre-selected for a number of years. I wonder how many of the unwashed masses – the commoners – realize that? Hell, this last go around, at least one sitting councilperson actively recruited a candidate to run against a sitting (same progressive camp) councilperson even before said councilperson had decided whether they would run again!

So we’re not talking about the party recruitment of candidates for a seat that looks like it won’t have someone from the Democratic party running – there may be an incumbent, or there may be candidates lined up for running……….the truth is the elites of the state Montana Democratic Party (or, locally, the select few of the Missoula County Democrats) have pre-selected who they want to run.

From the pre-selection process, regardless of whether there’s a primary, the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) messaging goes out regarding who’s “going to win” or “who’s the best candidate.” Plan to disrupt that serendipity and you better have a flak jacket.

What it comes down to is that if anyone thinks you can run for office in this state and have an even playing field in terms of treatment from the Montana Democratic Party, they are – sorry to be blunt here – delusional. Or naive. Or ignorant. Or all of the above.

For example – I wonder how many people are aware that the Montana Democratic Party changed its rules in 2009 to allow it to endorse a “proven incumbent” by a 2/3 vote of the executive board. That’s a 2/3 vote of a bunch of people that would include – get this – the “proven incumbent.” Rule X of the Pre-primary policy is where you can find this.

This was done with purpose and intent to protect one particular candidate from having to face one particular rumored challenger sometime in the future. With everyone happy and still giddy from their 2006 victories.

Party of inclusion? Party of “the people”? Sure doesn’t seem like they trust the citizens of the state pulling a Democratic ballot in the primary to make that decision.

They have elections in China, too. You get one candidate to choose from. We decry that…but really, if you consider yourself a Democrat, how is the party elites of the Montana Democrats choosing the Democrat for the ticket (whether by that formal 2/3 or the informal overt and covert bullying that goes on pre-primary) much different?

What, precisely, is the purpose of a primary? Isn’t it so the public that cares picks a candidate for the party to get behind?

Yesterday, Montana Democratic Party’s executive director Ted Dick sent out a nice email to all its subscribers, under the Montana Democratic Party’s letterhead, endorsing Attorney General Steve Bullock for Governor.

Friend —

It’s hard to believe, but Steve Bullock is already under attack from right-wing organizations, who are running TV ads against him as we speak.

Powerful special interests are putting Steve in their crosshairs because they know he’s standing up to unlimited corporate money in politics.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen dishonest attacks like these on the air, and it won’t be the last. That’s because Steve won’t give up the fight against Citizens United — the law that lets big corporations spend as much as they want to buy elections.

In Montana, we have a different tradition — for 100 years we’ve made sure Montana’s elections are fair and transparent, because we’ve put responsible standards in place.

While some want Montana to go back to a time when the ‘Copper Kings’ bought the politcians they wanted, Steve Bullock is fighting for a fairer vision for Montana.

That’s why we’re standing with Steve.

-Ted

It was followed, on the bottom as all political media is tagged, with a “Paid for by the Montana Democratic Party” message.

Now – let’s dissect this just a little to say that the “attack from right-wing organizations” is directed at Bullock not because as AG he filed suit against Citizens United, but because he’s a candidate. A candidate for Governor. And they are running ads against him because they prefer that someone like Rick Hill or Neil Livingstone win that gubernatorial office.

While it doesn’t mention Bullock’s run for governor, it also doesn’t mention that he is “standing up to unlimited corporate money in politics” because he is the state’s attorney general, either. (That court case having yet to be rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, though they have put an injunction on any enforcement of prohibitions to corporate money here in Montana.)

The Montana Democrats are unequivocally “standing with Steve.”

Could Bullock, as a currently elected state official, request television or air time or newspaper print to discuss the impacts of Citizen’s United? Now that he has filed, it is most likely that if he did so any of his opponents would probably be entitled to equal time. He couldn’t do a PSA about it without facing an ethics charge from our oh-so-effecitive Office of Political Practices, that’s for sure.

And, as a reminder, Steve Bullock does have two opponents in the Democratic primary. Heather Margolis and Steve Nelsen of Helena are still in the race.

And – as another reminder – a 2/3 vote of the executive board is necessary for the Montana Democrats to endorse a “proven incumbent” – Bullock is not an incumbent for the office of Governor and a 2/3 vote has not occurred.

Does this matter? In my opinion, if there are going to be rules they really should be followed. And enforced. Or don’t have the rules at all.

And geez – really – shouldn’t that apply to all sorts of rules and laws? Not just those of the Montana Democrats?

Look – Bullock is a nice enough guy, I suppose. I have some issues with him over his vote against Otter Creek (I may, eventually, explain that) – but to have the party endorsing a candidate that is currently being primaried is wrong. When he doesn’t even meet the criteria of being able to be endorsed is another.

Not only that, it just feeds into the rumble from the right that Margolis and Nelsen where somehow “fake” candidates who ran for office to ensure Bullock had access to more money because he is able to accept contributions in both the primary and the general.

If the Democrats are going to have rules, they should damned well follow them.

Otherwise, where does it stop? Or where does it begin?

by jhwygirl

For you non-Rapture types, Montana Women Vote is co-sponsoring a Congressional Candidate Forum in Missoula tomorrow night, April 12th. (And while I am loath to utilize facebook, MWV do update their page a lot – so here’s that link.)

Head on down to the University Center Theater, 6 p.m. I’m told Pat Williams (Montana’s former U.S. Representative) and Jen Gursky (President of ASUM) will be moderating.

Here’s a piece from Olivia Riutta:

Montana has just one Congressional seat in the US House of Representatives and you have to opportunity to hear directly from candidates where they stand on issues that affect Montana women and families. From education to reproductive health care to funding for programs and services that help Montana women and families, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to meet the candidates before the June 6th primary election. There will also be time at the end when we will take questions from the audience.

Republicans, it looks like, are once again passing up a non-partisan candidate forum. Is that 5 now? Or 6? Convenient for them, I guess, though I see their party spokespeople online lobbing attacks at the candidates. All this while 3 Republicans and one Libertarian get to hide from the main stream public unbiased forums which seek to get at issue positions.

Why, exactly, are they avoiding public non-partisan debates?

Montana Women Vote will also be at the event registering voters. It’s fine organization doing excellent work in the community educating people on meaningful participation in the democratic process through education and other information-based strategies. I have always been impressed by their presentations.

If you have questions, contact Montana Women Vote at 543-3550 x213

by Pete Talbot

Will the tea party candidate take out the moderate Republican? Will the progressive beat the mainstream Democrat?

Lots of races will be decided in a little over two months.

In about 40 days, you will receive your primary election ballot in the mail (if you filed for an absentee ballot).

And if you’re in a heavily Democratic district and there’s a legislative primary, the state senate or house winner takes all. Same with the strong Republican districts.

There’s a Democratic attorney general primary; a Republican secretary of state primary; lots of PSC primaries; and nonpartisan supreme court and district court races that will winnow down some candidates.  There are county commissioner races.

Of course, there’s a congressional race: seven Democratic candidates and three Republicans.

The U.S. Senate race has a Republican primary (Vote Teske!).

And the governor’s race, with seven Republican candidates (and their running mates) and two Democratic teams competing.

Who knows, if the Republican Party hasn’t settled on a presidential candidate by Tuesday, July 5, Montana might get to play a role there.

Campaign folks in the know tell me that 50 percent of all voters in the 2012 election will be using absentee ballots — and 40-50 percent of all absentee ballots are filled out within the first week of voters receiving them.

You should also know that by voting early absentee, you’ll be getting fewer annoying campaign phone calls, emails, etc.  Any campaign worth its salt will scrub you from its get-out-the-vote list once it knows you’ve already voted.

No endorsements here (except Dennis Teske for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary — a man among men!).  Just a heads up that the primary election will be happening before you know it, so it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the candidates.

Here’s the Montana Secretary of State’s website.  It can answer a lot of questions and also direct you to your county elections office. Sample ballots should be available for viewing soon (right Linda?). Don’t forget to vote!

by jhwygirl

The last candidate forum I wrote about, Kim Gillan touted oil spill disasters as a job creation industry for Montana, so who knows what can happen.

There’s 7 – SEVEN – candidates on the Democratic side, so let’s hope the Montana Standard maintains well enough control to let everyone speak, while ensuring that we get a wide variety questions put out there for them to answer.

Mark you calendars – and I plan to be there to live blog or tweet the thing.

April 3, 7 p.m., at the Montana Tech Auditorium.

AND – in an added bonus, the Montana Standard is taking suggestions for questions. You can email your suggested questions to editor@mtstandard.com

by Pete Talbot

Consider this an open thread because I’d like others’ insights into this race.

Here’s my rather rambling take on Montana’s U.S. House race.  The candidates are Kim Gillan, a state senator out of Billings; Diane Smith, a newcomer from Whitefish; Dave Strohmaier, a Missoula City Councilor; Helena lawyer Rob Stutz; and Franke Wilmer, a state representative from Bozeman. Jason Ward of Hardin has also filed but doesn’t seem to be actively campaigning.  Melinda Gopher is also rumored to be a candidate but she hasn’t filed yet. The FEC has John Abarr filed as a Democrat but since the former Ku Klux Klan organizer has dropped out, I won’t go there.

First, the money side of the equation as of Dec. 31, date of the last filing report:

Name Total Contributions (from time announced running until Dec. 31, 2011) Fourth Quarter contributions (October – Dec. 31, 2011)
Steve Daines, R $953,505 $173,315.68
Kim Gillan, D $175,159 $52,014.76
Franke Wilmer, D $154,877 $55,260.93
Diane Smith, D $100,033 $100,033
Dave Strohmaier, D 72,151 $23,080.24
Robert Stutz, D $13,315 $3,265

Republican Steve Daines, the basically unopposed millionaire, has more campaign money than all the Democrats put together but that’s not the focus of this piece.

Democrat Diane Smith wasn’t at the ‘Pasty Party’ held in Missoula Sunday night and sponsored by the Missoula County Democrats. Gillan, Strohmaier, Stutz and Wilmer were, and they all spoke.

So I don’t have any personal experience with Smith but there’s this: she has about $75 grand in the bank (I like round numbers, so let’s say $100K raised and $25K spent).  She’s only been in the race since November so that’s a pretty good chunk of change she’s raised.  Smith touts her support of gay and choice issues but stresses her fiscally conservative business roots.  She received a few contributions from Whitefish and Bigfork but the majority of her money comes from the D.C. area, where she was in the telecommunications business.  The Flathead Memo has an interesting piece on the lack of transparency from Smith’s contributors.

The Memo also has stories on Smith’s past contributions to Republican candidates here and here.  It may not be a big problem in the general election but she has to get through the primary where the committed Democratic voters take a dimmer view of this.

Next up in the fundraising department is Kim Gillan with about $100 grand left in the bank.  She’s on top of the Democratic contribution heap with $176K raised.  She spoke at the ‘Pasty Party’ about her experience in the Montana Legislature and struck a moderate tone.  Lots of current and former legislators greeted her warmly.

Will Gillan split the moderate vote with Smith?  Maybe, somewhat. There are a lot more Democrats in Billings than there are in the Flathead, though, and name recognition will play a role.

The other aspect is that progressives tend to turn out for the primaries so maybe a moderate doesn’t have the leg up that they’d have in the general.

And there’s the Missoula factor: more registered Democratic voters in this county than any other Montana County.  Will Missoula Democrats turn out?  Will they vote for the hometown boy?

Which brings me to Dave Strohmaier, who has $15 grand in the bank.  He’s raised $72K.  The most passionate speaker at the ‘Pasty Party,’ he trotted out his local government credentials, his advocacy for a southern-tier passenger rail line and his strong support of GLBT issues.  Strohmeier was well received by the audience, the enthusiasm palpable, but it was his hometown crowd.

Rob Stutz spoke next.  His campaign isn’t taking any PAC money, which is admirable, and he advanced that.  Tough call, though, not taking the PAC money one might need to tell supporters he’s not taking PAC money.

Stutz has raised $13 grand and has about $6K left in the bank.

He also says his unique campaign has the best chance of beating Daines in November, although I’m sure the other candidates feel the same way.

Franke Wilmer spoke last, about international policy — which is refreshing because most congressional candidates gloss over this — but I’m not sure how this plays to the masses.  She also offered her blue-collar roots and experience in the Montana Legislature as references.  She’s the only candidate to come out publicly against the Keystone XL Pipeline (as opposed to our governor and congressional delegation) and that shows some chutzpah.  Wilmer received the second-most enthusiastic response from the crowd.

She’s raised a good amount of cash, $155 grand, and has $55K in the bank.

So it’s in play: a Missoula progressive, with less money but in a heavy Democratic county against a Bozeman progressive with more money but in a county with fewer Democratic voters.  The conventional wisdom is that being tagged ‘Missoula’ is harder to overcome in the rest of the state than being tagged ‘Bozeman.’

Then there are the moderates, Gillan and Smith, although Gillan has paid her dues in the legislature and with the party.  Both say that a moderate — someone who can work across the aisle — has the best chance of beating Daines in the general.

And then there’s Rob Stutz, who could peel away enough votes to be a spoiler in all four of the above-mentioned races.

In a primary like this, the most organized campaign with the best media and strongest ground game should come out on top. Moderation, money, passion and principles — and the candidates’ message — are important, too, but with this many in the field, it will be hard to get a message to resonate with anyone other than those who follow politics closely.

Any one of these candidates would be a vast improvement over either Rehberg or Daines, but you know that.

No primary endorsements from me here, just some info.  I await your comments with bated breath.  With your help, I’ll do more and better handicapping soon.

by jhwygirl

If you aren’t reading James Conner’s Flathead Memo you are missing a whole lot of balanced political honest-to-goodness reporting and opinion on Montana politics.

James has been knocking it out this week (indications he has acquiesced to a caffeine addiction?), but most notably he’s pointed out – while Denny Rehberg is under reporting lobbyist cash – so is another candidate. A Democrat.

Diane Smith, a Kalispell resident seeking the Democratic nomination for Montana’s lone House of Representative seat – is also, too, under reporting lobbyist cash dollars.

Smith – ironically enough – is using the same tactic (failing to fill in the occupations on donors) – as our current House of Representative Denny Rehberg.

James point out that these things will happen, and social niceties and just plain old logistics often bring about situations where donations come in where that disclosure information isn’t always collected, “… but all campaigns have a legal and moral obligation to exercise due diligence. Cards should be followed by telephone calls.”

Conner, of course, is correct.

It’s excusable to miss one or two or even a few – but the extraordinary number of “information not provided” is not only a legal and moral obligation shirked, it’s laziness and failure to organize.

If Smith can’t run a primary campaign, why would any elector want her in Washington with those kinds of account skills and staff oversight?

(And that’s aside from Smith’s other issues, including the “Is she really a Democrat?” issue.)

by jhwygirl

It’s more than a bit shocking – regardless of your political persuasion, I’d like to think – when a state senator and a congressional primary candidate champions the short-term economic boom to the shops in downtown Billings that occurred when Exxon spilled crude from its pipeline into the Yellowstone River this past July.

That’s the kind of thing you’d expect our current Representative Denny Rehberg might say, given his love for oil & gas industry money – Representative Rehberg ranks 14th in receipts of oil & gas industry money of all recipients there in Washington.

Instead, it was state senator Kim Gillan (D-Billings) who made the remark at a forum for several of the candidates held by The Policy Institute this past weekend. I have tremendous respect for The Policy Institute. They’ve provided excellent policy testimony – especially on budget issues – to legislative committees. Frankly, it’s a bit surprising that Gillan would say such a thing given the audience.

During a Q&A moderated by former Representative Pat Williams, candidates were asked about the Keystone XL pipeline by TransCanada – whether they thought the pipeline was good or bad (or both) for the economy. Gillan was up first with her answer – and I wish I had some video or audio, but alas, audio and video were not permitted – and she said that “there are people in Billings that think the oil spill was a good thing, that it was good for business. They are looking at their watches and asking can we do this again next year?”

The room fell quite with shock. First murmurs…then low boos. What. Was. She. Thinking?

One also has to wonder the company she keeps. Where – even if she was attempting a joke – something like that were considered funny.

Somewhere along the line I read that Montana has the most EPA cleanup sites. The Milltown Dam to Anaconda cleanup is the largest cleanup site of all. Helena (her district) has a big old cleanup site they’re trying to figure out what to do with right now, doesn’t it?

I’m guessing Gillan thinks all that is good economic development too.

Her remarks have been bugging me since I heard about them – I’ve often pondered if there wasn’t a certain attitude in the legislature with regards to mining/oil/gas development that was a lot of “let it roll” combined with “it’ll be a big cleanup site in the future.” Her remarks lead me to believe that I just may not be completely cynical…that there’s actually some truth to what should be pure fiction.

Gillan ranks first in the Democratic field for pulling in cash ($124,145 this last Q), followed by Franke Wilmer ($107,117) and Dave Strohmaier ($49,078). By comparison, Republican Steve Daine’s collected $546,327.

Yeah. Over a half a million buckaroos, Montana.

~~~~~~~

Gillan’s out for me with this kind of news. At least this cleared up any lingering doubts I had about being open to persuasion.

Dave Strohmaier, for his part, has done quite well, picking up a number of endorsements. Strohmaier’s also been hard working and well received around the state. At this weekend forum he got glowing reviews. His answer to the Keystone XL question called for more thorough economic and environmental studies – and he questioned the moving target on the number of long-term jobs it would create.

Franke Wilmer is a strong candidate, having served 3 legislative sessions in the House, representing moderate Bozeman. She’s a scrapper, too – just read her biography).

On Keystone XL, Wilmer pointed out that if “you take the jobs out of the pipeline, no one likes the pipeline.” She went on to point out this is the reason we need to strengthen our unions. “If we had a stronger unions to negotiate for clean jobs,” said Wilmer, “this wouldn’t even be an issue.”

Thank Goddess these two got it right.

by Pete Talbot

I know, I know, there are a few minor primary and general elections on tap for 2012.

Still, the other day Sen. Max Baucus’ name came up in conversation.  A couple of the folks present were shocked to hear he might re-up in 2014.

Since I received a fundraising letter from him a few weeks ago and then an invitation to his 70th birthday party just a couple of days ago (with a campaign remittance envelope attached) I guess he’s a-runnin’.

He could be just amassing funds to distribute to various Democratic campaigns across Montana and the nation but hey, I’d just as soon donate directly to those campaigns as have Max decide who should get my money.

Here are some recent Montana posts on Baucus — one favorable and one not so favorable.

I’m thinking that Max is about as vulnerable as he’s been in what will be close to 40 years in Congress. What think you, oh gentle reader?

 

 

by jhwygirl

This is a repost in its entirety of my original post. Nothing new has changed, and what George said needs to be repeated again. George Ochenski spoke to the Flathead Democrats a year ago today.

This past Saturday, The Indy’s award-winning supermontanacolumnist George Ochenski gave the keynote speech at the Flathead Democrat’s Annual Harvest Dinner. Never one to hold back on the truth, the big GO delivered a barn-burner, closing to a standing ovation and inspiring all who attended.

It’s no secret that I absolutely worship George Ochenski. He says he isn’t a political strategist, and he says he isn’t a political leader, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that the Democrats would be a in a better place – the Montana Democrats would be in a better place – if he were.

Ochenski is an inspiration to me and many others. I say that without a doubt as to the truth of that statement.

I also doubt he’d been able to finish this speech if I were there – I’da been standing on my chair, fist raised, shouting as loud as I could “Hell yeah!” before he’da been half-way through. Jess Grennan knows what I’m talking about.

Want to know what it means to be a Democrat? Wonder, these days, what it should mean? His entire words are a must-read. I’m tempted to print out a few copies and send ’em to Washington. And Helena.

Below the fold, The Speech: Continue Reading »

By JC

If you’ve been paying attention to all the hoopla, you’ve heard by now that the House passed a draconian bill to address the looming crisis over the debt ceiling. I’m not going to go into details. Pogie put up a nice summation of what is going on over at ID, and I’ve got some comments about what’s going on there.

As part of the discussion over there, Steve W. mentions that there will be a protest at Rep. Rehberg’s Missoula office at high noon on this friday in front of Rehberg’s office at 301 E. Broadway.

While showing solidarity against Rehberg’s vote is a good thing, I still feel that everybody left of center should be aware that part of the right wing strategy here is to suck democrats into some kind of vote against Medicare and/or Social Security and Medicaid so as to blunt the effects of them having gone on record as wanting to privatize Medicare with their budget vote in the spring.

Republicans would love nothing better than to be able to turn the tables on dem candidates by showing them to have voted against Medicare, S.S. and/or Medicaid on the debt ceiling vote.

And of course, we have no way of knowing what will be in the final debt ceiling bill, and how our two dem senators will vote. Which is why I’d like to suggest that folks turn out in droves to the protest at Rehberg’s office and carry signs telling Baucus and Tester to keep their hands off of Medicare, S.S. and Medicaid cuts.

For those who want a bit more meta on the debt ceiling story from the left, George Ochenski has a great article “Dear Democrats” over at the Missoula Indy. And he puts my sentiments very clearly:

“When I hear Obama say Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all part of what might have to be chopped in his secret deal-making with Republican leaders, deep resentment wells up in me. And I am not alone.

…there are a handful of Democrats, including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who say they will never renege on Social Security. But it’s a very tough thing for Democrats who want to keep faith with the party’s working-class base when their President is so obviously willing to give in to outrageous Republican demands…

So here’s the simple message to Democrats: We are watching and we are fed up with you selling us out. Your choice at this juncture is equally simple: Listen up—or lose.”

I’ve appended a version of the email alert that went out in Missoula today about the rally after the jump.
Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Montana’s Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to keep hidden pricing information on two wind energy projects that Northwestern Energy (NWE) is considering to purchase.

The vote was a Republican/Democrat split with Bill Gallagher, Travis Kavulla and Northwestenergy tool Brad Molnar voting to keep the information from the public and Democratic commissioners Gail Gutsche of Missoula and John Vincent of Gallatin Gateway voting against the request.

NWE, located in South Dakota, is the largest utility provider in Montana. They’ve decided to buy a proposed 40-megawatt wind farm near Geyser that is being developed by Compass Wind of Denver. They had considered two other developer’s (Invenergy and Sagebrush Energy) projects.

So the PSC is going to review NWE’s purchase of Compass Wind’s project by comparing it to project information submitted by the losing developers on their losing projects? And it isn’t consumer’s right to know the costs of those projects that were in consideration.

That’s a big “Screw You” to Montanans from an agency who’s pure mission is to protect consumer interests when it comes to public utility services.

Gail Gutsche and John Vincent? Thanks.

I’ll remind everyone here that Gail Gutsche will be running for re-election in 2012 (I hope). Let’s keep her around, OK?

By CFS

Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming a part of people’s daily life and when it comes to politics, social media is an indispensable tool for organization, spreading information, and connecting people of like-minded attitudes.  But few politicians are actually making good use of these new tools.  Rather sadly, many politicians are using the tools to their own detriment or are simply using them to insulate and shut out criticism.

 

Here in Montana, politicians are beginning their primary pushes which means the long process of building a support network and raising funds, and in today’s age that means using twitter and Facebook to directly connect with as many people across the state as possible.  But so far this cycle our would-be political representatives seem a bit clueless.

Here are my suggestions of how our crop of Montana politicians can use social media effectively:

  1. Engage, engage, engage.  If you are using Twitter as a repository of press release like boring links, don’t even bother… I’m looking your way @DennyRehberg.  Twitter is a continuous conversation, be part of it, open your ears, and actually have a back and forth.
  2. Get rid of the staff.  I know social media can be a time-suck, but it is disingenuous to represent yourself on twitter and have a staff be the one tweeting.  If its overwhelming, have two accounts, one for the campaign run by a staffer, and a personal account that is solely yours.
  3. Don’t mass follow people… it just looks desperate and is akin to what sleazy internet marketers do.  That means you Franke Wilmer, who followed me the other day.  The first politician to seek me out for a follow.  Your followers, whether on Twitter or Facebook should come organically and not be sought after.  If you are a good candidate people will naturally gravitate to you.
  4. Make it personal, but not too personal.  Followers should feel as though they have an in on who you are and what your campaign is about that they can’t get via the television news, blogs, or newspapers.
  5. Google search for James Knox (R) Billings.  Look at his use of social media, then proceed to do the exact opposite.  Threats, crazy assertions, and lying in the social media sphere only get you ridicule and draw people’s attention who then quickly tear your arguments apart and make you look like the fool you are.
  6. Have a filter.  Before you hit that send button, think for a second whether you really want to put what you just typed out their.  As a politician you should realize that many of your followers are probably reporters, bloggers, and political insiders that will make as much noise and trouble for you given any opportunity.
  7. Be creative and witty.  Social media is geared to short bits of information, and to get attention you need to put out creative and authentic updates, being boring will kill you.
  8. Finally, study what people have done right.  For Montana, that means taking a look at how state legislators Ellie Hill, Bryce Bennett, and Mike Miller have used social media, especially during the hectic legislative session.  They were the best source on how things were shaping up at the capital and even during the busiest of times, kept their followers in the loop on legislative developments.  For my money, they are the best examples of politicians using Twitter effectively.

Other than that, good luck to all our candidates, except for Denny Rehberg, may Tester bitch slap you with his two-fingered hand.

For those of you interested in getting more information on our crop of Montana candidates take a look at the list I have compiled below.

Senate:

John Tester (D): Campaign site, @jontester, Facebook
Denny Rehberg (R): Campaign site@Rehberg2012, Facebook

Congress:

Franke Wilmer (D): Campaign site@Franke4Congress, Facebook

Dave Strohmaier (D): Campaign site@DaveForMontana, Facebook

Steve Daines (R): Campaign site@DainesforHouse, Facebook

Kim Gillan (D): Campaign site

Governor:

Rick Hill (R): Campaign site@RickHill2012, Facebook

Ken Miller (R): Campaign site, Facebook

James O’Hara (R): Campaign site, Facebook

by jhwygirl

Word is that Sen. Jeff Essmann is preparing to add his name to the pile – and I do mean pile – of Montana Republicans seeking to the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

His soon-to-be entry brings the number of candidates on the GOP side up to a 6-count: Rick Hill (who will quickly reduced to “Rick who?” after Essmann’s entry); former state senator Ken Miller (going for a second shot after losing to Bob Brown in a 2004 run for the GOP nomination); Cory Stapleton, another former state senator; Neil Livingstone, some sort of national security I-don’t-know-what; and Jim O’Hara, a Choteau County Commissioner.

Essmann’s fame of late is authoring the medical marijuana repeal bill that Governor Schweitzer allowed to lapse into law. He met recently with medical marijuana advocates, and apparently it didn’t go over too well.

Democrats have two declared candidates: Sen. Dave Wanzenried of Missoula and DINO Sen. Larry Jent of Bozeman. Jent was quite the advocate for repeal, and in fact much has been said behind closed doors of his and as-of-yet undeclared Attorney General Steve Bullock involvement in the state-wide raids that still remain without indictment (while leaving behind dozens of damaged commercial properties.)

I’ve got a number of reasons for why I don’t want Bullock to run, but one I’ll put out there is that the AG office is pretty important and Steve has worked towards seeking beneficial solutions for Montana consumers.

Incumbency has advantages and energy and funds should be funneled prudently.

In other words – wait until 2016.

For me, I’m going with Wanzenried. I’ve been a fan for some time. He’s fiscally prudent and practicle. Wanzenried knows how to work across the aisle, and he’s gained a tremendous amount of respect from all sides of everything up there in Helena.

Wanzenried is also one of the hardest-working senators this state has, and his experience on the legislative side could go a long way. One of the larger errors of Schweitzer’s administration is his lack of active productive participation in the legislative process, especially when it starts getting all haywire. This session could have used some guidance instead of showboating – which, while showy and great for the camera really did nothing more than throw more divisiveness into the already toxic mix.

You simply don’t see Wanzenried playing into that. He’ll discuss issues with analysis and a presentation of the issues. That’s the kind of leadership I want to see.

Most recently, Sen. Wanzenried has stepped up front-and-center rallying against HB198, this last session’s abomination “Eminent Domain Bill” which hands private property taking rights to private corporations. Wanzenried’s also successfully pushed through the senate a bill to abolish the death penalty the last two sessions, only to have it die in the House.

In fact, I’m still wanting to write up Wanzenried’s statement on that ugly bill – and I WILL get to it one day. Sen. Wanzenried was the only Senator of the Missoula delegation to vote against HB198. (As for the house delegation, Rep. Ellie Hill was the sole Missoula rep. to maintain a “NO” vote for HB198.)

Want to get an idea of the name recognition and early polling on Montana’s 2012 election? Jack the Blogger over at Western World has some stats on the 2012 races in a post from back in February.

Footnote: When is the SOS going to update for the 2012 election? The list of candidates is still from the 2010.The SOS office can’t register candidates until January 1st, which answers my question.

Sen. Jon Tester supports anti-immigrant policies and impedes immigration reform.

A guest post by Helena Immigration Attorney, Shahid Haque-Hausrath, posted by Jamee Greer

Jon Tester (D-MT) is facing a tough run for re-election to the U.S. Senate, but he just keeps giving progressives more reasons not to vote for him. His track record on immigration issues has been abysmal, as I’ve written about before. Make no mistake about it — Tester is probably the worst Democrat in the Senate on the issue of immigration, and he is one of the most vocal. The way he talks about the issue, you would think Montana wasn’t one of the states with the least number of immigrants in the whole country.

Despite outrage over his despicable vote against the DREAM Act, Tester hasn’t decided to leave immigration policy to states that actually have a dog in the fight. You won’t see him bragging about his DREAM Act vote, mind you — after all, Daily Kos famously called him an “asshole” for that reprehensible vote, and he doesn’t want to rekindle the ire of the netroots crowd. However, he has continued to make his anti-immigrant positions a core part of his campaign, jumping at every opportunity to link immigration to national security concerns. For instance, when a college in California was found to be enrolling foreign students without proper accreditation, Tester quickly issued a press release noting that “several of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, had entered the country using student visas.”

Recently, Jon Tester put up two web pages on the issue of immigration that are so ignorant you would think Tester locked anti-immigrant zealots Mark Krikorian and John Tanton in a room with a bottle of whiskey and posted whatever they came up with.

In fact, these two immigration pages are so wrong-headed that they require some analysis and interpretation to fully make sense of them. One web page outlines his unsophisticated view of the immigration issue in four paragraphs. His other page lists his immigration “accomplishments.” (By accomplishments, Tester seems to mean ways he has screwed immigrants and wasted federal money.) I’ll review both of the pages together.

Jon’s position on immigration is simple: people who wish to immigrate to the United States must follow the rules, and we must enforce them. That’s why Jon opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants.

During his first year as Senator, Jon helped put a stop to a bill that would have granted amnesty to illegal immigrants living in the United States.

Jon voted in 2007 to defeat the Immigration Reform Bill, telling his colleagues, “We don’t need hundreds of pages of expensive new laws when we can’t even enforce the ones we’ve already got on the books.”

Where do we start? Polls have consistently shown that the people think our immigration system is broken and want some form of immigration reform. The last time our immigration laws were substantively changed was in 1996, and almost everyone agrees that those changes were ineffective — in fact, they created more problems than they solved. People are frustrated by the federal government’s failure to act, and don’t believe that “enforcement only” solutions are going to work. As a result of the federal government’s inertia, states like Arizona, Utah, and Georgia have begun to enact their own immigration policies, which raise significant constitutional concerns including due process violations and racial profiling. While I strongly oppose state level enforcement of immigration laws, and I believe that these state laws are misguided, it is difficult to fault the states for at least trying to take action when the federal government will not.

Yet, Jon Tester considers it an “accomplishment” that he has ignored the will of the public and done absolutely nothing to fix our immigration system. In fact, he is proud that he helped derail immigration reform in 2007, and has continued to sabotage efforts to reform our immigration laws. It’s nice that he sets the bar so low for himself, but the rest of the country is expecting a little more.

Tester refuses to acknowledge that our system needs to be fixed, stating “we don’t need hundreds of pages of expensive new laws when we can’t even enforce the ones we’ve already got on the books.” The problem, of course, is that our system is broken and we need to reform our laws in order to more effectively enforce them. Current immigration reform proposals aim to increase enforcement on the border and interior of the country, but recognize that in order to curb undocumented immigration we also need to fix some of our laws that are creating the problems in the first place. For instance, our laws include huge gaps in coverage, where many family members have no reasonable opportunity to immigrate legally to the United States. Among other things, reform proposals would open new paths to family-based immigration that were causing needless undocumented immigration.

Tester remains willfully obtuse in his opposition to so-called “amnesty” for immigrants who lack lawful status. “Amnesty” means a general pardon for an offense against the state, but Tester uses the term “amnesty” to refer to any changes in the law that would create a path to legalization — even if the path is strenuous and imposes a strict set of requirements. He even used the term amnesty to refer to the DREAM Act, which would have created a seven (or more) year path towards citizenship for men and women who serve our country in the military or go to college. There is no “amnesty” on the table, and there hasn’t been for years. Instead, what is being proposed is a way for immigrants who are already here to earn their way back into lawful status by paying fines, back taxes (if they haven’t already been paying like most immigrants), and potentially even community service. After all, even Newt Gingrich understands that it is not realistic to deport all of the 11 million people who are here without status.

Finally, comprehensive immigration reform won’t be expensive, as Tester states, but will actually increase wages for all workers and improve our economy. Time and again, it has been proven that spending money on border security alone, without any other changes to our laws, is untenable and ineffective. Nevertheless, Tester has chosen to advocate these “enforcement only” solutions.

Instead [of immigration reform], Jon has focused his energy on boosting security along America’s borders, particularly our northern border with Canada. From his seat on the influential Appropriations Committee, Jon has secured investments to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, as well as critical investments upgrading Ports of Entry along the Canadian border.

That same year, Jon introduced and passed into law a measure requiring the Homeland Security Department to report on weaknesses along the northern border and develop a plan for improving northern border security.

So let me get this straight: Instead of working for immigration reform to help the entire country, Tester is pushing for huge government expenditures to protect us from Canada? It is foolish to tout Canadian border security as an alternative to comprehensive immigration reform, because it is clear that the risks from an unmonitored northern border have almost nothing to do with the larger immigration problems our country is facing.

While the GAO issued a report stating that Department of Homeland Security needs to work better with other agencies and partners along the northern border, the GAO didn’t endorse Tester’s crusade to spare no expense to “secure” the border. Indeed, the GAO previously pushed back on claims about insecurity on the northern border.

Nevertheless, Tester is so eager to appear strong on immigration enforcement that he managed to get an appropriation for military grade radars on the Canadian border. He also wants to expand the use of unmanned drones (and they are already being used in some areas). Those radars and drones would have come in handy last year, when I helped a Canadian kid who got lost and accidentally drove his ATV across the border.

As George Ochenski put it: “For most Montanans, the border with Canada has never been and likely will never be seen as a threat. After all, the U.S. and Canada share the longest border on the continent, and it has been our ally in world wars as well as regional conflicts. It’s also our largest trading partner and our closest, largest and most secure source of oil. Treating Canada as some variant of Pakistan’s border is, in a word, insulting to both Montanans and our Canadian friends.”

Jon was the only Senate Democrat to put his name on legislation pumping new resources into border protection for new technology and new border patrol officers. Jon cosponsored the measure after securing a pledge that a certain percentage of those new resources would be spent along the northern border.

Here’s a tip for Tester’s staffers: When you’re the only Democrat to put your name on a piece of legislation, its probably nothing to brag about. The bill that Tester is referring to is actually a corollary to one that was introduced by his opponent, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT). Jon Tester partnered up with Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-AZ), among other Republicans, to co-sponsor a $3 million amendment. This bill also funded construction of the fence along the Mexican border — a project that has been abandoned and condemned as a tremendous failure and waste of billions in taxpayer dollars.

And from his seat on the influential Appropriations Committee, Jon has secured investments to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, as well as critical investments upgrading Ports of Entry along the Canadian border.

One of Tester’s “critical upgrades” was a $15 million dollar renovation to the border station in Whitetail, MT, which was reported to get about five crossings a day and no commercial traffic. After facing criticism for needless spending, Tester and Max Baucus reduced the appropriation to only $8.5 million. Meanwhile, Canadian officials closed the road leading to this border station, rendering the whole project useless. This embarrassing episode didn’t make Tester’s list of accomplishments.

Of course, even though he votes against any legislation that isn’t directed purely towards deporting immigrants, Tester wouldn’t want you to get the impression that he is against immigration:

Jon knows that legal immigrants, like his grandparents, helped build America into what it is today. But he also believes that no one is above the law.

In public statements and constituent letters, Tester is constantly stating that his grandparents “waited in line” and followed the rules, implying that new immigrants should be expected to follow the same process. However, it appears that Tester’s ancestors entered the country in 1916 — before our current immigration system even existed. At that time, our immigration policy was comparable to an “open border” policy. Years later, quotas were enacted to limit immigration and more stringent criteria for entry were developed. It was not until 1965 that the current Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted, with its very limited methods for gaining permanent residence in the U.S.

There is no question that Jon Tester’s ancestors faced a dramatically different immigration system than those who are immigrating today. Tester and other enforcement advocates often evoke the image of a “line” that immigrants must simply wait in. However, the truth is that for most immigrants, there is no “line.” Tester’s own grandparents may not have been able to enter the country under our current immigration scheme.

Jon Tester seems intent on mimicking Rehberg in many ways, including sharing his anti-immigrant views.

Jon Tester’s vocal anti-immigrant positions have placed Montana progressives in a difficult position. Contrary to the attacks of those who want to silence any opposition to Tester’s bad policies, none of us are excited about the prospect of his opponent, Dennis Rehberg, being elected to the Senate. Indeed, Rehberg’s stance on immigration is no better than Tester’s. However, Tester’s ignorant views on immigration are also making it impossible for us to lend him our vote.

Tester’s positions on immigration are not gaining him support with Republicans, but they are causing a split among Democrats. The best thing for Jon Tester to do is distance himself from the issue of immigration, because each time he opens his mouth, he brings many progressives closer to sending a difficult message: The progressive movement cannot tolerate a Democrat who has an anti-immigrant agenda, regardless of the consequences.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath blogs about local immigration issues at Border Crossing Law Blog.

by jhwygirl

HB198 was transmitted to Governor Schweitzer last Friday, April 29th.

In his hands sits a bill that he knows is bad.

Schweitzer is, in fact, quite the hypocrite when it comes to this eminent domain bill. He lobbied heavily for this bill, from the opening of the session when he called this eminent domain bill one of the the legislature’s “most important acts” in his State of the State address back in January:

Third and this might be your most important task and if you get it right it will create thousands of jobs in Montana, if you get it wrong or you don’t finish it there will be pink slips that go to workers across Montana.

I guess Governor Schweitzer thinks if he keeps telling the press that the eminent domain bill is bad and crappy and the legislature needs to fix it, that the property owners in Northwest Energy and Tonebridge’s sights and the large number of people in opposition to this bill will feel better about the bill if (when?) he signs it or let’s it lapse into law.

In reality, what’s likely going to happen when Tonbridge go to court to force a takings on a private property owner, more property owners around the state are going to realize exactly and precisely the affects of HB198. Someone will be to blame. Since the bill had opposition and supporters on both sides of the aisle, it’s pretty easy to see where the finger-pointing is going to go.

And since he will represent to many “The Democrats,” it’s going to be “The Democrats” that are going to get targeted as anti-private property rights for…well – forever. Kinda like everyone blames Racicot and the Republicans with selling off Montana Power.

It’s a legacy that Democrats who voted on the wrong side of this bill may want to consider.

Who got played?

There was a straightforward way to do this if that is truly what they wanted to do – but the legislature and the Governor back-doored this bill in the Major Facilities Siting Act, which is amended every darn session it seems to get around any number of regulations.

So Montana becomes a colony for Canada when we hand over eminent domain power to Tonbridge, a Canadian company. And don’t forget China, either, as Otter Creek will also bring with it a railroad to transport the stuff for Wyoming and for China.

Which is another thing Governor said wouldn’t happen in his 2011 State of the State:

We will develop Montana’s energy on Montana’s terms, not as a colony for our energy hungry country.

What I want to know is while Governor Schweitzer is very vocal (lately) about how crappy this bill is…and while he lobbied very heavily for this bill – having his staff on the floor for both debates….why didn’t he speak up sooner?

Why didn’t he propose a bill?

He could have offered testimony during committee. His office did it for other bills.

This eminent domain bill HB198 will have the impact that the sale of Montana Power had on this state.

Veto it, good Governor.

by jhwygirl

Even the old timers I know can’t recall a more lunatic legislature. One of the most conservative on that list recently told me that they thought the Governor was right with his budget and they (the legislature) were “a bunch of idiots.”

I was floored.

Anyways….the Republican controlled 62nd Legislature took its unprecedented 2nd break of the session today, coming back on Tuesday.

These breaks aren’t saving any money – in fact, they’re costing the taxpayers and inconveniencing the legislative staff who still have to stick around.

The first break (April 14th) cost the taxpayers somewhere around $60,000. This current break will cost over $75,000.

Republicans are taking the break because they are waiting on the Governor’s veto of HB2, the main budget bill.

There are other components to the budget bill, though – and combined together they represent the “bottom dollar” and Governor Schweitzer is saying it’s impossible to be responsible with the budget without seeing the entire picture.

And I’ve yet to hear from anyone in the MTGOP as to why that doesn’t make sense.

Which, of course, they can’t say because The Governor Needs To See The Whole Budget!

Look – what I wonder is why someone in the media isn’t getting Senate President Jim Peterson or Speaker of the House Mike Milburn on camera and asking them how they expect the Governor to responsibly review a budget when he doesn’t have the entire thing.

This cat-and-mouse game being played up there in Helena is getting frustratingly boorish. By taking these breaks, the Republicans want to be able to pin the costs of the upcoming special session on the Democrats or on Governor Brian Schweitzer when the Democrats and Governor Brian Schweitzer have told them to put the federal funding back in the budget. They’ve tried to adequately fund the schools (and considering the state’s been sued for lack of adequate funding, their concerns are well-placed) and the Republicans have ignored those requests also.

Here’s a hint: The public aint’ buying it.

My view looking in says that people are getting sick of some of the obvious fights Republicans are picking this session – let’s not forget the attacks on gays and local governance – and if they think they are going to hand the Governor an incomplete budget and then expect to be able to blame him when they go into special session they are either up there smoking crack or…..

Or they are home in their districts smoking crack.

by Pete Talbot

Special session?

There are rumors in Helena that this session could end early.  It’s all coming down to the budget, now, and since the Republicans aren’t accepting any amendments or, really, compromising on anything, their budget proposal will head straight to the governor. Schweitzer will veto it.  That pretty much guarantees an early out — I’ve heard April 2 instead of the scheduled April 21 end date — and a special session.  Thanks, GOP, for not reaching across the aisle and getting the people’s business done in 90 days … and costing the state more money in a special session.

Champ is still a chump

They don’t mind spending money on a special session but are loathe to spend money on children, Montana college kids, seniors and the poor.  Republican Champ Edmunds (HD-100) has a letter to the editor today that plays fast-and-loose with the facts-and-figures in explaining the Republican budget.

A more accurate description comes from Democrat Carol Williams (SD-46):

“The Governor’s budget is balanced, funds critical services and maintains the second largest savings account in Montana history.  The Republican budget is balanced on the backs of women, children and seniors.  Republicans took an ax to the budget when we have money in the bank,” she said.  “I had hoped that we would be able to say to Montana’s families: we’re going to take care of your children if they get sick, make sure you put food on your table, and keep your homes warm.  But the Republican majority turned a deaf ear to the pleas of Montanans who came before the committee asking for services to be restored.”

Here are some of the facts:

* $206.2 million in cuts to the Montana families, kids, students, and seniors

* $49 million eliminated from Medicaid which would result in 4,084 babies losing coverage.

* $34.9 million cut from SNAP/Food Assistance impacting 53,000 kids, 30,000 seniors, and 42,000 adults who would go without food benefits for two months.

* $35 million rejected in healthcare information technology for 47 critical access hospitals in rural areas across the state.

* $26 million slashed from Healthy Montana Kids that would boot 5,000 children off of health insurance.

* $9.6 million removed from LIEAP that will force 12,000 families to go without heating assistance the next two winters.

* $4.7 million cut from family services eliminating services used by over 27,000 Montana families every year for healthcare, screenings and reproductive care.

* $32 million in cuts to higher education, which will result in a tuition increase of 26% over the next two years.

Williams added that with the $174.2 million in cuts to the Health and Human Services budget, Republicans turned back over $80 million in federal money, which could go to other states.  She also noted that the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana estimates that for every $10 million cut in healthcare, about 144 jobs are lost.  These cuts could result in a loss of over 2,508 healthcare jobs.

The tale of two headlines

I’ve been visiting the Magic City of Billings and reading the Billings Gazette. Here was the Front Page, above the fold, headline on Sunday:

Poll: Tightening up medical marijuana law preferable to repeal

When I checked my hometown paper, the Missoulian, here was its Front Page headline:

Most Favor Repeal

And it had a subhead that read: Lee Newspaper poll shows that 52 percent support dumping law.

Here’s the story, and while the Missoulian headline is technically correct, if you read the entire piece you’ll notice that if not given any other choice, yeah, Montanans would be in favor of a repeal. But, if given the option, 57 percent backed stricter regulations and licensing requirements, while 31 percent wanted to repeal the law and 11 percent favored keeping the current law intact.  So basically, 68 percent don’t favor repeal.

The Gazette got it right.  Missoulian: that’s lazy headline writing.

Molnar screws Missoula

I was pleasantly surprised when two of the three Republicans on the PSC voted to allow the Clark Fork Coalition “intervenor status” in the review of Mountain Water’s sale to the Carlyle Group, a private global investment firm.  Republicans Bill Gallagher and Travis Kavulla joined Democrats Gail Gutsche and John Vincent in the votes.  Volatile Republican Brad Molnar voted against CFC in intervening on behalf of Missoula water drinkers saying, “it’s a purchase issue and they don’t have standing.”  Thanks, four out of five, for voting (initially at least) in Missoula’s interest.  The Garden City needs all the friends it can get while battling this international conglomerate.

Some newspaper kudos

I’m one of the first to throw brickbats at our state’s newspapers. We are, however, extremely fortunate to have veteran Lee Newspaper reporters Mike Dennison and Chuck Johnson covering the state capitol.  An unscientific poll over at LiTW (you’ll have to scroll down a little) has blogs being the first source for information on the Montana Legislature — among bloggers, naturally.  That’s a nice ego stroke but I still continue to turn to seasoned reporters as my first source for news and analysis. Then I go to the blogs.  (I particularly respect anything Dennison writes on health care issues.  His Montana perspective on the effects of the national health care debate has been Pulitzer Prize calibre IMHO.)

John Adams of the Great Falls Tribune has done some outstanding legislative reporting although I don’t follow him as much.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.  Same with Montana Public Radio.  Thank you, all, and keep up the good work.

by jhwygirl

Otter Creek is never going to get mined. All Arch Coal wants is to be able to run a railroad through it, to get it to the port it owns a third of. to export the stuff to China.

That is, please note, the second port agreement for Arch is less than a month.

If that isn’t colonialism, I don’t know what is.

We’re waving traffic flags for $10/hour for Korean-built drilling equipment for China….and we’re condemning state federal and private property for a railroad to get it there.

Nice.

State Attorney General Steve Bullock talked about the economics of the bonus payment in relation to the amount of money that Arch will save immediately by shipping its coal across Montana with the railroad it’d be building (via eminent domain) in the Tongue River Basin. His staff researched that information pretty thoroughly.

How is that for an example of fine government coal subsidy on the backs of the taxpayers of Montana?

And keep in mind that Montana’s coal isn’t the quality of stuff that Wyoming has. That’s fact.

That $80 million so-called “bonus bid”? Nothing more than shush money to members of both parties for paving the way to a situation that has brought about ridiculous destructive environmental legislation in the name of “jobs”.

What’s even more hilarious is that the feds are complicit in this – the federal Surface Transportation Board has already approved the route and has told Montana (translate, so no one misses it: State’s Rights) Fish Wildlife & Parks to figure things out over the route that crosses a federally-funded sturgeon fishery.

Someone’s getting rich. It won’t be Montanan’s, you can bet on it.

Follow the money.




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