Archive for the ‘Montana Democrats’ Category

by jhwygirl

Aside from my own personal feelings on texting-while-driving regulations (texting only being pretty much unenforceable) the Montana GOP sent quite a message in the legislature on Friday, such that Senate Minority Leader Carol Williams at the end of the day called it “Black Friday” and “the absolute worst day of the legislative session.”

HB516 moves forward out of Senate Judiciary to a floor vote probably Monday. Amendments were made on Friday that aim it at ordinances only, leaving intact Bozeman’s equality resolution. (Search HB516 here for more background.)

The conservative attack on the budget was in full mode in Senate Finance Friday morning, and among the leaders speaking out against unnecessary cuts and a lack of priorities were the governor’s budget director David Ewer and Health & Human Services Director Anna Whiting-Sorrel. The message was loud and clear from Schweitzer’s office – and even Bloomberg Businessweek picked up the story.

There was more, and to be honest, I am ill-informed on the entirety of it all. As for the topic at hand, though…..

HB241, a bill that would make texting-while-driving illegal, with a $100 fine was postponed indefinitely on the floor of the Senate after passing Senate Judiciary on an 8-4 vote. The bill was proposed by Sen. Christine Kaufmann.

Match that up with the House Judiciary tabling Senator Tom Facey’s bill which would have taken Montana’s laws which make intercourse between two consenting people of the same sex illegal.

SB276 cleared the Republican-controlled Senate with a 49-1 vote.

That law is, btw, unconstitutional under the Montana Constitution….and it is also proudly part of the Montana Republican Party platform.

The Montana GOP is an embarrassment.

I wonder if the House Republicans have the guts to allow it to a floor blast vote.

If they don’t allow a floor blast vote, they’re cowards.

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by jhwygirl

The state’s Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked on HB161, the bill proposed by House Speaker Mike Milburn, that would repeal Montana’s Citizen Initiative 148, which passed in 2004

Sen. Milburn is a resident of Cascade, a member of the Grand Old Party and a man working on his 4th term in the House.

We can go on and on about the evils of repealing a citizen’s initiative that passed (I hear) by an pretty significant majority…and we can go on about the evils of the refusal of legislators to actually actively regulate marijuana since it having come into law (that would be 3 sessions, folks)…and we can go on about the hypocrisy of a bunch of so called conservatives creating more nanny state government…AND we can go on about the hypocrisy of a bunch of tea party anti-government types who embrace laws that tell the federal government that they can’t regulate Montana-made firearms yet don’t want to let sick people take proven medicine that has fewer side effects than Tylenol.

I’ll just link you to this article in the New York Times which quotes Bozeman Mayor Jeff Krauss on the job and investment-killing side effects of repealing medical marijuana in Montana:

Bozeman’s mayor, Jeff Krauss, a Republican, said he thought there was an element of economic fairness to be considered in the debate about medical marijuana’s future. “I don’t think anybody passed it thinking we were creating an industry,” he said, referring to the 2004 voter referendum. But like it or not, he said, it has become one, and legal investments in the millions of dollars have been made.

“Somewhere around 25 people have made anywhere from a $60,000 to a $100,000 bet on this industry,” Mr. Krauss said, referring to the local startups and their capital costs.

“Now the Legislature has got us saying, ‘Ha, too bad, you lose,’ ” Mr. Krauss added. “Boy is that a bad message to send when we’re in the doldrums.”

I could of worked “Even MORE National Media Attention for MTGOP” into the title!

HB161 stalled 6-6 in committee. I don’t know if they officially declared it dead, but Senate Judiciary committee chair Terry Murphy immediately named a three-member committee to come up with “a regulatory alternative” to a repeal bill.

That’s a large order on a short notice (how many days left in the session?) but a whole hell of a lot common sense. And frankly, the Senate Judiciary might just be one of the only places where common sense even has a fighting chance.

I always did think the GOP in the Senate were going to try and bring a little bit of common sense back to this session.

Murphy’s hearings have been far less inflammatory than the House Judiciary (chaired by Rep. Ken Peterson, of Billings). Sen. Murphy even got a thank-you from Senate Minority Leader Sen. Carol Williams (Missoula’s Senate Goddess) for his well-run hearing on HB516 just yesterday.

That being said, let’s get to the other part….

What’s with Senator Larry Jent, a Democrat representing Bozeman for quite a number of years – 3 terms in the House and he’s currently working on his 3rd term in the Senate.

Jent was the lone Democrat to vote for repeal of medical marijuana. What to say about that?

by jhwygirl

Wulfgar! at Left in the West gets the hat tip on this one.

From Friday’s hearings, detailed in several posts below. Watch Superstar State Representative Ellie Hill (HD-94) take on the Montana’s Christian Taliban’s Reverend Harris Himes.

Rep. Hill? THANK YOU.

This is a civilized society. It seems that some of the GOP running these committees forgets these things. Every statement does not fall under “free speech” and inciting violence is not anything that should be tolerated.

And Rep. Ken Peterson, of Billings? 10 minutes is not a public hearing.

You represent ALL, not just those than elected you. You are a disgrace to the state bar (if you hold it); a disgrace to the House Judiciary; and a disgrace to the Montana Legislature.

And pulling for seventeen executive actions in House Judicary on Monday morning, in less than 4 hours? That leaves no time for meaningful discussion between legislators – but that’s exactly what you want now, isn’t it?

You are a disgrace to democracy.

by jhwygirl

I’ve ranted to a seemingly uninformed audience in support of Governor Schweitzer’s bill to change the way certain oil & gas revenues are distributed.

I’ve called it unfair. I’ve decried the conservatives lambasting of the proposal as further evidence of their hypocrisy towards government subsidies. I’ve complained about how it it shows an abandonment of the free market – and example of how this so-called great profitable high-paying and tons-of-jobs industry doesn’t truly support the communities from where it extracts it’s resources.

Because if there are all of these high-paying jobs, shouldn’t those high-paid employees be paying taxes that support the social infrastructure of the community?

Lee reporter Mike Dennison has a great article on the issue which includes a paragraph better summing up the message I may have failed to convey.

A handful of school districts – primarily in far eastern Montana – get millions of dollars in oil-and-gas revenue, have large financial reserves and levy zero or very few local property tax mills to support their schools.

What that oil & gas fund has done is bought the pockets of a whole bunch of legislators out east and a whole bunch of voters that don’t have to pay taxes to support their schools.

Imagine the perspective you might have if you in Missoula or in the Flathead or up in Lewis & Clark county didn’t have to pay taxes to support your schools?

Imagine the political perspective in the counties listed here if those citizens there actually had to pay “market” taxes for schools?

I’ve said a bunch of times and I’ll say it again – the mineral estate is the property of the citizens of Montana. If the state is taxing it, it belongs to everyone. It is not the property of a handful of counties with less than half of the state’s population so that they can have lower taxes and so they don’t have to support their schools.

HB136 was killed Wednesday in House Education.

It’s disgusting. It’s unfair. It’s wrong.

Governor Brian Schweitzer was correct.

On this one.

by jhwygirl

Updated below.

So Governor Brian Schweitzer is a fan of nullification.

Why am I not surprised?

How is a progressive blogger like me supposed to criticize unconstitutional GOP-proposed legislation when the highest elected official – a Democrat at that – is out there espousing to national media that he’ll ignore federal law and shoot wolves?

Triangulation at its best.

~~~~~
Newly elected Wyoming Governor Matthew Mead, a Republican, disagrees with Gov. Schweitzer:

“I think you have to be cautious about telling people to go break federal law,” said Mead, a former chief federal prosecutor for Wyoming.

Mead’s a good guy. If I had lived in Wyoming this last election, he’da had my vote.

by jhwygirl

2nd Grade Bike Rack has an interesting post.

HB198 has bi-partisan support both among the proposers and the the votes that moved it out of the House.

Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame.

by Pete Talbot

According to my informed sources (as opposed to my uninformed sources) Missoula Ward One Councilor Dave Strohmaier will throw his hat into the congressional race for Montana’s sole U.S. Representative.

I’ll let Dave make the announcement himself but one source said, “(he’s) getting very close to making a decision to launch a campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.”

This is a good thing. The more the merrier, IMHO. May the cream rise to the top.

And then we need to work our butts off for whomever wins the primary and takes on Steve Daines (or anyone like him).

by jhwygirl

Capital reporter Mike Dennison is up with a story tonight on the Missoulian State Bureau’s request for a list of all legislators who have signed up for medical benefits – you know, those benefits paid for by state government?

For three weeks now he’s been waiting for a reply from Senate leadership (GOP) and Dennison is reporting that ” the Legislature has denied a request from the Missoulian State Bureau for the names, citing advice from its chief attorney that privacy rights overrule the public’s right to know the names of lawmakers signing up for the benefits.”

Them’s pretty strong words.

He goes on to write: “Jessica Sena, spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, said leadership had considered releasing the information, in response to the Missoulian State Bureau request, but that legal staff had advised that the disclosure would violate federal rules on privacy of medical information.”

I’m guessing that the legal staff he refers to there is not party-associated Republican legal staff.

And interwove in all there is a bill proposed by Sens. Anders Blewett of Great Falls and Kendall Van Dyk of Billings that would disclose which legislators who have signed up for medical benefits from the state.

128 of 150 legislators are signed up for medical benefits. 40 of which are using them to supplement their own benefits.

I’m far more interested in a legal opinion that is claiming some sort of medical confidentiality over the release of state expenditures? Where does the line stop there towards the right of the citizens to know?

Republicans in Helena want fuller micro-accounting transparency on the budget, yet they don’t want the citizens to know what they’re paying for?

No one’s asking for doctor bills or dental xrays.

Boy. Now, if I were Democratic leadership, I’d be releasing a list tomorrow morning of all the Democratic representatives that are taking health benefits. I’d include a huge thank you to the citizens of the state.

And in the meantime, maybe a citizen should appeal on the Attorney General on the whether there is some sort of privacy right involved here. While attorneys for all other agencies (and even county attorneys) work for the AG, the legislative side is an independent branch of government.

I’d sure like to know what Bullock has to say.

by Pete Talbot

Nothing like a trip to the Magic City of Billings to put things in perspective: where an in-law tells me about his buddy who’s making $2000 a week welding on a pipeline in the Williston Basin, where I meet a man who runs a big (I mean really big) shovel at Colstrip, where my sister-in-law’s new boyfriend is working maintenance at the Stillwater palladium mine south of Columbus. All these guys are bucking the recession.

They don’t give a sh*t about DADT or DREAM. “It’s the economy, stupid.” (A quote attributed to James Carville during Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign.) Which is why, even though at some point in their lives, the workers mentioned above belonged to a union, they voted Republican in the 2010 midterm election.

Shortsighted? Without a doubt. These guys aren’t millionaires and the Republican Party doesn’t represent them. But they think it does.

So, when my progressive cohorts rail against Sen. Jon Tester on the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, and DREAM, I have to do a little reality check. You see, I agree wholeheartedly with the progressives but after living in Montana for 45 years, I like to think I have some insight into the Montanan mind set. And Billings is about as Montanan as you can get.

At this point, these Billings workers aren’t going to vote for someone to the left of Jon Tester. Hell, Tester barely won his seat in 2006 against a corrupt incumbent who had insulted women, firefighters and most minorities. And you’d have been hard pressed to find a better candidate to go up against Republican Conrad Burns than that big Montana dry-land farmer with a flattop and missing fingers.

It isn’t about the lesser of two evils. It’s about pure evil versus a mainstream Democrat; like Denny Rehberg v. Jon Tester in the 2012 U.S. Senate election or any Democrat against Rick Hill/Cory Stapleton/Ken Miller for Montana Governor.

It isn’t easy for me to write this post. Having been called a Socialist, a Communist and a red scurvy dog, I figure I’ve earned my progressive credentials. But sometimes one has to step back and look at the world, the country and Montana the way it is.

I’m not going to quit pushing my elected Democratic officials to be as progressive as they can be. And I’ll continue to critique their bad votes as I’ve done in the past; particularly Sen. Max Baucus but also Sen. Tester and Gov. Schweitzer. And to quote Jim Hightower, “I’ll keep agitatin’.”

by Pete Talbot

Despite temperatures in the teens and a nasty Hellgate wind, Missoula was Montana’s hot spot this weekend. Lots of folks out-and-about, and here’s what I gleaned, politically, from overheard conversations (sources, unbeknownst to them, include Sen. Jon Tester, state senators John Brueggeman and Ron Erickson, state house members Sue Malek and Bryce Bennett):

The Montana Legislature will be a microcosm of the U.S. Congress. Both the state house and the U.S. House of Representatives have substantial Republican majorities.

The Republican majority is much smaller in the state senate and the Democrats have a slight edge in the U.S. Senate. The similarity in these two senate bodies, if the Democrats can hang together, will be the ability to stop veto overrides by the Republicans.

We’ll have to wait and see how much the President and our governor wield the veto pen. Judging from some of the bills already being considered in Helena, and the rhetoric coming from the newly elected in the U.S. House, there could be ample veto opportunities.

Here’s a link to the Helena bills. Prepare to take a week off if you want to review them in detail — there are already hundreds.

Some that came to my attention: Missoula’s only Republican legislator, Champ Edmunds, wants to repeal (not just revise) Montana’s Environmental Policy Act. So much for the Montana Constitution’s “clean and healthful environment” clause. Helena’s Republican Senator Dave Lewis wants a resolution demanding that Congress withdraw the United States from the United Nations. I can’t think of anything less important to a Montanan’s day-to-day existence than the doings at the UN. Thompson Fall’s Greg Hinkle (R) has a slew of wacko bills (example: Restrict authority of FWP to regulate ammo or firearms for hunting, otherwise known as “hunting whitetails with a grenade launcher” bill).

Well, the list goes on-and-on.

From the Democrats I listened to, there was guarded optimism. They certainly won’t be advancing any groundbreaking, progressive legislation but feel they can withstand the most virulent bills offered up by the Republicans. The trump card being a Democratic governor in Montana and a Democratic President.

Democrats at both the state and national level see some fissures in the GOP as the Tea Party types jostle for power and prestige with the more establishment Republicans. Democrats also offered encouragement for 2012, which, of course, they have to do after the drubbing of 2010. The point they make, though, is things just aren’t going to get that much better in the next two years, especially considering the dearth of bills from the Republicans actually addressing unemployment, fixing health care, getting us out of wars or reducing the deficit. And the voters, being a fickle lot, will toss the Republicans they just elected.

Finally, some links to outdoor issues in the lame duck Congress and budget considerations in the Montana Legislature to go along with my keen political insights.

by Pete Talbot

I was hoping the pundits and polls were wrong, but they weren’t. What is even more depressing is that Montana followed the national trend of moving to the right. In some cases, moving to the far right.

Let’s start with the PSC races. The Republicans now have a majority on the commission that regulates most of the utilities in our state. Expect looser reins on industry, fewer renewables, a greater emphasis on coal and a short-sighted energy policy. Consumer protection will take a hit, too.

Two veterans, Democratic PSC incumbent Ken Toole and former Democratic State Senator Don Ryan, lost their bids to Republican newcomers Bill Gallagher and Travis Kavulla, respectively. Toole ran a strong campaign — raised money, bought media, worked the district — but it wasn’t enough to overcome the “radical” tag that Gallagher hung on him. And you can also thank Flathead County voters for helping to take Toole down. May their utility rates increase tenfold.

In the other PSC race, let’s face it, Kavulla campaigned harder and raised more money than Ryan in what is basically a Hi-Line district. Even Great falls went for Kavulla.

Democrats lost big in the Montana legislature. Keep on eye on Billings’ Senate District 25, though, where Democrat Kendall Van Dyk is trailing Republican Roy Brown by one vote. Update from Billings Girl: “Last night when the votes were counted. Van Dyk was leading Brown by one vote, not trailing. And after some provisionals were added he is now up by 16. He has stayed ahead the entire time.” Kudos to Kendall.

My math may be a little off but I have the Montana House at 69 68 Republicans to 31 32 Democrats and the senate at 28 Republicans to 21 22 Democrats (the 50th seat to be decided by the Van Dyk/Brown race).

There were a few bright spots but more disappointments. On the upside, in my house district (92), Democrat Bryce Bennett won a close race against Republican Don Harbaugh, 2201-2072.

Two big letdowns. Democrat Willis Curdy losing House District 100 to Republican Champ Edmunds, 1858-1606. Curdy had a great profile and worked his ass off. I don’t know if we’ll ever pick up that seat, which is too bad, because otherwise Missoula County would be an all Democratic delegation.

It was also sad to see Bozeman’s JP Pomnichowski (D) lose to Tom Burnett (R) in HD 63 by 2682-2618.

Glad to see Beth Baker win the Montana Supreme Court race against Nels Swandal.

Finally, after all the “kick out the incumbent bums” election rhetoric, one of the biggest bums had an easy win: Denny Rehberg (around 60% of the vote) against Dennis McDonald (about 34% of the vote). Libertarian Mike Fellows got about 6%.

My take on the elections is that voters are frustrated by the party in power for not fixing things and that trickled down to the Montana races. But what a mess the Democrats were handed, and the voters must be smoking a lot of medical marijuana because their short term memory is shot.

It could also be a disgust with party politics in general as witnessed by the election of an Independent as sheriff (Carl Ibsen) here in Democratic Missoula County. It should also be noted that McDonald even lost Missoula County. It was only by 198 votes out of 34,892 but WTF?

I’ll try to get a post up later on the Montana ballot initiatives (I went 50-50 on those).

But I won’t even get into the national stuff, and I have no further pithy analysis or keen insights into this mid-term disaster, but here are some links to a few Montana folks who do:

http://leftinthewest.com/diary/4450/it-still-hurts-in-the-morning

https://4and20blackbirds.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/how-did-it-all-go-so-wrong/

http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/gop_scores_big_in_west/C37/L37/


by jhwygirl

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.

The Speech

Before I do my Rod Sterling imitation and welcome you to the Twilight Zone that is modern-day politics, I’d like to personally thank those folks who made it possible for me to be here tonight. First and foremost, the Flathead Democratic Women and the Flathead Democratic Party for their kind invitation to speak. I’d also like to thank Margie Gignac for all her work and extend special appreciation to JoLynne and Jerry Yenne for kindly allowing my wife and I to use their great cabin where we enjoyed a very peaceful evening last night.

But the sand is running through the hourglass, so let’s jump right into the Twilight Zone and try to make some sense of the strange and swirling maelstrom into which American politics have descended.

First, I’d like to talk about “Why the Right is Wrong”…the easy part of this speech.

As we all know, having lived through eight nightmare years of the George W. Bush and Dick Cheney cabal, the Republicans have nothing, I repeat, nothing to offer us in the way of a vision for a better future.

You all remember, as do I, the phony campaign promises by Republicans to “restore dignity” to Washington following the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency. Their first move, aided and abetted by Montana’s own Governor Marc Racicot, was to “restore dignity” by stealing the election through voter intimidation, hanging chads and a conservative Supreme Court that decided it was more important to “move on” than accurately tally the votes of the people. And so we wound up with George Bush in the White House.

Perhaps, were it not for the September 11 attacks, Mr. Bush would have been the incompetent one-term president so many predicted. But that was not to be. Instead, a shocked, paranoid and complicit Congress – both Democrats and Republicans – cranked the wheel hard to the right through a series of events from which we have not recovered to this day – and may never fully recover.

Instead of dignity, we got deception. Instead of transparency, we got obfuscation, secrecy and denial of access to formerly public information. Instead of the Republicans’ much-vaunted “fiscal conservatism,” we tipped off the edge of wildly out-of-control spending, launching two wars and vastly increasing the military and intelligence agency budgets while domestic needs took a back seat and civil liberties, freedom and privacy were sacrificed to the umbrella excuse of “national security.”

In a throwback to the Age of Imperialism, Bush launched two wars, neither of which was justifiable and both of which, sadly, are still ongoing.

The invasion of Afghanistan was cloaked in the “mission” to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. But Afghanistan, with its towering Hindu Kush Mountains, is a wild country that has never been successfully occupied by any foreign force. The bones of the British Empire still molder in the Khyber Pass more than a century after their failed attempts at domination. Likewise, the rusted remains of Soviet tanks and helicopter gunships still litter the countryside decades later, an all-too-grim reminder that modern superpowers have no more chance of success there than the horse-borne armies of the past.

And now, of course, American blood mixes with the dust of centuries on Afghanistan’s forbidding landscapes while Osama bin Laden, wherever he may be, laughs at America’s folly in thinking we, unlike all others, can somehow subdue Afghanistan’s wild tribes. He laughs, too, as our Treasury is sucked dry by the effort, a grim parallel to the fiscal crisis widely blamed for the collapse and subsequent fracturing of the Soviet Union that, in fact, is having the same effect on our nation.

Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq fell into the Bush-Cheney crosshairs, despite the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. What it did and does have to do with is oil. The world of oil is the world of Dick Cheney, and as we heard time and again, “Iraq is floating on a sea of oil.”

So it was that Bush, Cheney and their military-industrial complex advisors and a complicit Congress launched another war at a cost vastly exceeding what it would have taken to simply buy the oil if we wanted it so badly.

But of course that doesn’t take into account the other costs. The dead men and women of our Armed Services, the fractured families, those who returned home broken or beset with the demons of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the uncounted casualties inflicted upon the people of Iraq. We still have 50,000 troops in Iraq today, suffering and dying while the debt burden for future generations continues to rocket skyward as the true price of this calamitous war becomes ever more clear.

Perhaps even worse than these unimaginable military and financial disasters is the policy and social detritus left in the wake of the failed Republicans. Warrantless search and seizure, extraordinary renditions, (more commonly called international kidnapping and torture), and a nation at war with itself.

Long after Bush’s infamous “you’re either with us or against us” rhetoric has faded, the reality of what that did to our country lives on. We are no longer a country united in our goals and holding high the torch of Liberty, but one in which, neighbor turns suspiciously against neighbor, where distortion and outright lies replace truth and open debate, and where our own government spies on us, puts us on “do not fly” lists without our knowledge, and even marks American citizens for assassination without the benefit of a trial or the opportunity to present defense…thus crumbling even the most basic foundation of our judicial system that, as a people, we are all “innocent till proven guilty.”

And this is where the Tea Party comes into the picture. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Via @dpogreba of Intelligent Discontent, news that Montana’s 9 term U.S. House of Representative Pat Williams is considering a run for Governor in 2012.

If we can’t have Carol, I’ll take Pat without reservation.

Like Pogie, all I need to know is “Where can I donate? Where do I sign up to volunteer?”

by jhwygirl

Now that summer is on the downhill side (sorry), thoughts turn to elections for many. This years election in the House and Senate gives many choices, but what is important to remember is that many serious and important issues face citizens in Montana.

Legislative sessions are tumultuous, the last two all the more so because of the precarious balance – the state house split 50-50, and the senate with a clear conservative majority.

The legislature is promising to rehash many issues, and with money short and revenues down, the budget is certain to be the big war. Funding for education and health and human services are already being cut, and certain to come – but along with that we’ve got Republicans proposing tax cuts directed towards Flathead lakefront properties.

Who’s in support and lobbying hard? The real estate industry. The very people who profited immensely for driving real estate prices up and up for the last 6 years, playing an immense part (along with bankers) in the bubble that is the housing implosion.

One of several legislative seats that Democrats have a chance of picking up is House District 100. Willis Curdy, a Grass Valley resident is repeating his candidacy this year, with Bill Nooney, the would-be incumbent having decided not to run after Curdy nearly defeated him in 2008.

4&20 was fans of Curdy last time around, and I continue to believe that he is the better candidate for the seat. An educator, a smokejumper, a trustee on the Missoula Rural Fire District….the list goes on, but his resume speaks leadership and good-as-gold common sense.

Sadly, It takes money to win an election. There’s no other way to say it. Curdy is a hard worker – knocking doors in a huge district that runs from Fish Creek to the Idaho State line and the Ravalli County line. But again – it’s gonna take cash.

Not only that – Champ Edmunds, Will Curdy’s Republican challenger, is all to happy to enjoy and cash campaign checks made out to failed GOP Missoula County Commissioner candidate Jim Edwards. As ya’all might remember, I like to listen to conservative talk radio in the morning to get my blood flowing in the morning, and a few short weeks ago I heard him bragging that he was getting campaign donations made out to Jim Edwards due to people confusing him with the former candidate. When asked what he did with them, he said – proudly – that he was “of course” cashing them, and he and the host had a nice laugh.

Lovely, huh?

Obviously, if Edmunds isn’t honest enough to at least contact the check writer and let them know that they were confused by his name before he cashed the donation, he isn’t honest or trustworthy enough to serve the very citizens he’s taking the money from.

~~~~~
You can donate to Willis Curdy by hitting this link, snail-mailing him a check, made out to Curdy for HD100, to 11280 Kona Ranch Rd. Missoula, MT 59804

In local elections, even a $5 or $10 donation adds up. It’s getting to be the time where signs need ordered, radio spots need to be planned, and newspaper and mailings prepared.

Let’s not let HD100 go to a dishonest man. Again.

by jhwygirl

This post was updated.

Democratic congressional primary candidate Tyler Gernant has gained even more momentum in the last few days with news from both ABCMontana and the Flathead Beacon that the race is too close to call.

That in the context of taking on Dennis McDonald who was, much earlier this year, the presumed winner.

Gernant has worked hard – honestly, I am in awe of his steadfast work ethic and commitment to his campaign. The guy DOES NOT rest. Will he work for me in congress? Will he work for Montanans? You betcha!

TODAY he gained the endorsements of Jay Stevens at Left in the West – who thoroughly articulates his reasons for supporting Gernant and James Conner of Flathead Memo, who also, gives a fine analysis of why he is supporting Gernant along with a nice synopsis of the other candidates.

James Conner is a fine writer who provides (not often enough, IMO) thorough thoughtful nonpartisan commentary when it comes to politics. Moderates and Independents should take note of James’ endorsement.

Matt Singer – one of the finest people I know in progressive politics and someone I admire immensely – has put out a few posts on Tyler (like this one, Rehberg Gets Schooled by Tyler Gernant), and today he takes note of the momentum that Gernant has and says “I’d make a small bet that he pulls off this primary tomorrow evening — a victory that will be newsworthy for his age and the fact that McDonald should have this in a walk.”

Don Pogreba, a 2008 Democratic primary gubernatorial candidate, is calling the race for Gernant, saying “While Dennis McDonald certainly had an advantage in name recognition and connection to the party establishment, Gernant’s had a much more energetic and visible campaign.”

I have to say, all of this brings me great joy. Key factor here now is Getting Out The Vote. Give your friends around the state a call or an email tonight and remind them to vote in this important primary. Make sure your fellow coworkers have gotten their ballots in, or offer to get them to the polls.

Not registered? Head over to the fairgrounds. You can register right there.

by jhwygirl

The energy has been high on Tyler Gerant’s congressional democratic primary campaign for weeks now. He’s out raised his other primary contenders – including the former head of the Montana Democratic Party – in the last two FEC filings. His strong position on clean energy and green jobs – along with his consistent position on coal – have garnered the attention of the Montana Conservation Voters.

Gernant speaks to Montanans and the everyday challenges we face. In a strongly increasing corporatized America, Gernant dares to talk about rewarding work, not wealth:

“Somewhere along the line, we forgot the American dream – that anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules should have the opportunity to reach the top.”

That can be achieved, Gernant said, through reforming the tax code to “reward work instead of rewarding wealth” and promoting rural energy production like wind and solar power.

In the last few days, two notable letters to the editor have appeared in newspapers around the state. Sheila Mansfield Miller, speaking for her family, tells Montanans that Gernant has many of her “Uncle Mike’s” (the late statesman Senator Mike Mansfield) characteristics, saying that he is “principled, intelligent, and actually listens to others more then he talks.”

Not bad characteristics, huh?

Missoula Mayor John Engen endorsed Gernant on Friday, calling Tyler “an extremely gifted leader.”

I admire his quick wit, his intelligence and his commitment to the people of Montana. His hard work on the campaign trail, which has included multiple stops in communities throughout the state, and his well-thought-out policies on job creation, new energy and deficit reduction make him the stand-out choice in a talented field of candidates.

Montanans need a leader who will listen and represent – someone who will work for policies that lead to high paying sustainable clean energy jobs for Montanans. Gernant knows that Montana is positioned to be a leader in new energy, and he has taken the time to explore the possibilities of combining both new energy with the jobs that can be created here in Montana. Here’s Gernant in Bozeman, where Independent Power Systems employs 40 people working on solar energy panels:

Gernant is the next Representative that not only Democrats need, but that Montanans need. Someone who understands what it’s like to be the underdog – someone who will fight for hard-working Montanans by ensuring that policies regarding energy, jobs and taxes benefit us here at home.

Tyler Gernant will bring in home in November. Help get him there by voting Tyler Gernant this Tuesday.

by Pete Talbot

The federal deadline for the final campaign finance reports before the primary election was yesterday and there are some interesting numbers.

In the congressional contest, the far right and the far, far right did pretty well.

Of course, Republican incumbent Dennis Rehberg has an obscene amount of net receipts: $913,941.

Next up on the Republican side is Mark French at $58,068. That’s a nice chunk of change for a guy who makes Mussolini look progressive.

The moderate in this race, A.J. Otjen, raised $23,013.

On the Democratic side, Dennis McDonald has the highest net receipts but Tyler Gernant isn’t too far behind: McDonald, $167,716; Gernant, $124,565.

Sam Rankin of Billings made a showing at $8639.

Unfortunately, Melinda Gopher didn’t report, so she either didn’t raise the $5000 needed to require a report or she just didn’t report. Neither of these is a good sign for her campaign.

This is too bad. For a while there I was leaning toward Gopher but unfortunately a candidate needs more than passion and a progressive platform to take out the likes of Denny Rehberg.

Sam Rankin seems like a decent guy but like Gopher, his campaign lacks the organization it will take to give Rehberg a run.

Gernant seems to be gaining momentum while McDonald looks to be treading water. Add to that McDonald’s nebulous stand on coal development … well, unless something new breaks, I guess I’m leaning Gernant.

by jhwygirl

Montana Conservation Voters recently sent out an email that all but reverses their previous (disappointing) stance of not endorsing in Montana’s hotly contested Democratic and Republican primary races for the U.S. House of Representation.

MCV’s email highlights Tyler Gernant’s strong stance on helping bring Montana new jobs through support of sustainable clean energy. The emailing also highlights Dennis McDonald’s flip-flopping ways on coal. Theresa Keaveny, Executive Director writes:

Hello, MCV members inquiring about the U.S. House primary,

Some of you have asked about Montana Conservation Voters’ endorsement in the U.S. House of Representative’s primary election. MCV did not endorse in this race, as we are focusing resources in state legislative primaries. We have included information on the Congressional race on the MCV web site at http://www.mtvoters.org including the press release and video by Tyler Gernant about Dennis McDonald’s comments on energy development and the Otter Creek coal tracts, and Dennis McDonald’s statement. Both are found below. I am sending this to you and posting on the web site as voters make up their minds who to support in the June 8th primary. As candidates make further information available, it will be posted on the web site.

The email contains more – and I’ve linked it up on my google docs account.

~~~~~
A while back, Gernant did a Clean Energy and Jobs tour of the state, and stopped in at Thirteen Mile Lamb and Wool Company in Belgrade, where he spoke with Dave Tyler. Dave ranches a beautiful spread where he organically raises sheep and cattle on land that chemical fertilizers and herbicides. His ranch is also certified “predator friendly,” as Thirteen Mile Lamb and Wool uses natural less invasive methods of control:

Our principal protection against native predators are our guard dogs and llamas and our own vigilance; because we have chosen not to use lethal control methods against coyotes, bears, wolves, mountain lions, our ranch is certified as “predator friendly”. It is a choice which, like many of our land management decisions, acknowledges risk in the interest of learning how to coexist with native species while caring for the land.

Watch Dave talk about his ranch and its sustainable solar water heaters that he uses for their wool production. As Dave explains, Tyler Gernant is the type of candidate we need in both Washington:

Thirteen Mile offers some great products. The hats are just some of the lovely items they create, sustainable, here in Montana.

by jhwygirl

Gernant’s been at testing the waters and campaigning now for more than a year, and as we near the less-than-two-weeks before the primary election (Tuesday, June 8th!), it’s television ads that make-up some of the last efforts to reach voters that a candidate may not have reached over the last 10 months.

For many voters, it’s the only information they’ll gather on the candidate…so while it takes more than a television ad (things like blood, sweat and, sadly, money), this kind of visibility is important.

He’s got two playing around the state. This one’s my favorite, probably because he’s confronting one of the more empty but oft repeated criticisms of his candidacy. Pretty bold, if you ask me.

Gernant has 16 videos uploaded on YouTube. You should check them out.

So while I’m at it, I am going to go ahead and call on supporters to send some $ to the campaign to help keep these things on air and rolling around the state. “There’s no other way to say it,” I’ve told supporters that I’ve called, “running a campaign takes money.”

You can donate to Gernant here.

by jhwygirl

Cowgirl took a hoof to my congressional candidate Tyler Gernant today, with a title that misguidedly uses the word “analysis” and a proof-positive that is pretty much pot-kettle-black. {Sigh}

So let’s do some analysis. Not like I hadn’t looked at the numbers – I made mention of that in a comment to a previous post. So I could of written this post up a week ago, but I didn’t really want to go there. But since MtC did, well as any lawyer would say, the door’s been opened.

So let’s look at the last quarter –
Dennis McDonald claims total contributions of $24,262 (link)
Tyler Gernant claims total contributions of $23,566 (link).

BUT, when you take out “In-kind: Campaign Services” donations from Dennis McDonald’s staffers (maximum $2,400 from three of them, and $2,300 from the other) – a total of $9.500 – well, that brings McDonald down to $14,762 in total contributions.

Gernant has some “In-kind” donations himself – $110 in office supplies from his dad, $120 in promotional pencils from someone in Billings, and $163 from Tyler (himself). That’s a total of $393, bringing Gernant down to $23,173.

Gernant $23,173 to McDonald’s $14,762?

Cowgirl’s making hay over the fact that Gernant got $362 more in out-of-state contributions than McDonald? And Gernant has family that now live out-of-state? While McDonald is from San Francisco? That’s the “nearly pot-kettle-black” part I mentioned above.

Let’s look at loans the candidates make to themselves: Gernant has loaned himself a total of $1,800 bucks the whole campaign. McDonald’s loaned himself a total of $10,835, with $9,835 coming just this last quarter.

Wouldn’t you think McDonald would be doing better at raising funds as we drill down to the primary?

Sure seems to me like Gernant has some momentum going….and maybe that’s why she’s going after Gernant instead of going after the other Dennis’ PAC money…something our own b’birder Pete points out in his comment to Cowgirl’s post.

Of course, Dennis Rehberg’s pulled in over $153,000 this quarter, with $53,000 of it coming from PAC’s (Gernant has $0 PAC, McDonald with $100).

Some of Rehberg’s PAC and industry money?

$1,000 from the Sugar Cane League PAC in Louisiana (and another $500 from the American Sugarbeet Grower’s Association in Washington DC).
$1,000 from the BP North America Employee PAC in Illinois.
ConocoPhillips Spirit PAC out of Oklahoma gave $1,000.
Another one out of Oaklahoma – Devon Energy Corporation PAC – gave $1,000.
Employees of Northrop Grumman Corp PAC of California gave $1,000 ($6,000 to date).
Chevron Employees PAC (of California, too) gave $1,000 ($2,000 to date).
EnergySolutions Inc Fund/Effective Govt (tea baggy sounding, no?) out of Washington DC gave $1,000 ($2,000 to date)
Florida Sugar Cane League PAC (of Washington DC) $1,000
Halliburton/Brown & Root PAC (Washington DC, of course) $1,000

The list goes one.

I didn’t know Montana grew sugar cane.

“I challenge white male privilege in this election”

by JC

Well, that didn’t take long! Two days ago 4&20’s own Pete Talbot wrote up a quick profile of Montana’s Congressional race. And of course, by doing so, he had a few things to say about Melinda Gopher. First off, the platitudes:

“I really like Ms. Gopher. Her straightforward campaign is quite refreshing and her enthusiasm for progressive issues is contagious… The inspirational, refreshing and candid Ojibwe woman.”

Then the digs:

“A few things bother me, though: her late entry into the campaign leaves her way behind in fundraising and organizational staff, her ability to do outreach to constituencies outside of the human rights’ sphere is questionable, and the fact that she’s using Republican talking points against primary opponent Dennis McDonald. Please, Melinda, stick with the issues and leave the negative, policy-avoiding rhetoric to Rep. Rehberg.”

To all of which Gopher replied on her blog today:

“I got in this race, after failing to seeing an electable Democratic candidate step forward. My family has a long and proud tradition in the state of advancing equality. To attempt to pigeonhole me in a particular constituency is unfair, as Pete Talbot does in his post on 4& 20 Blackbird…

First, Talbot singles me out: no other candidate in this race has the track record I have in addressing Montana civil rights and environmental issues, and that includes the incumbent. Second, McDonald’s representation–that was detailed as, a friendship of sorts, by two different writers; of a crime family hit man are not Republican talking points–his electability is fair game and a valid consideration in this race. Certainly Montana voters I have spoken to, now too many to count–are alarmed. Third, accusing me of policy-avoiding rhetoric is just plain untrue. All one has to do is read my campaign blog right here, to see that I–unlike all of my other opponents, have been doing that very thing. Every forum, rather than play it safe, and deliver a canned five minutes, I put my skin out there and do just that–I talk about the issues. Of course, Talbot chooses to single me out and hold me to the high bar. And thats ok, I expect that, I was prepared for it, that is why I will win. Thank you Pete Talbot.”

Yes, thank you Pete Talbot! For once we get to see a candidate who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo, and speak her mind, no matter whom gets in her cross hairs. And it is our very own Pete Talbot who gets to sharpen Ms. Gopher’s foil!

Much ado has been made about all of the regular political process for the democratic primary to pick a worthy opponent to try and unseat Denny Rehberg. And much of that primary already has consisted of three dems trying to garner some attention by trying to differentiate themselves from the other. But what it really comes down to is who has a chance to beat Rehberg in the fall.

Traditional politics would tell us that the candidate with the most money and name recognition will do best. But the 2008 campaign would tell us differently, when John Driscoll ran a campaign in which he did virtually nothing–didn’t raise any money, and didn’t run a traditional effort. And for that he won a third of the vote. Not a single candidate running against Rehberg in the last 4 elections has garnered more than 40% of the vote, two of which ran conventional campaigns fullof money, staff, and outreach: Velazquez in ’04 and Lindeen in ’06. So what’s a candidate to do?

If any democrat is going to have any success in unseating Denny, they’re going to have to take an unconventional approach. And Gopher seems to be settling into hers: grab the bull by the horns and twist them till they cry uncle. Speak truth to power.

One way I think about which of the candidates would have the most success is by looking at how Rehberg would respond to them. How will McDonald and Gernant campaign against Denny? How would Gopher? If Gopher were to take Rehberg head on like she went after Pete, then I think she has a fighting chance. After all, what is Rehberg going to do? Go negative on a Native American woman activist rising out of her HIll 57 roots? Ignore her? Answer her policy challenges? Most likely he would try and swat her aside, as he previously did with challengers Driscoll, Lindeen, Velasquez, and Kelly. McDonald and Gernant pose large targets for Rehberg. Gernant with his youth and inexperience. McDonald for his role as party insider and out-of-stater baggage.

Many people would like to make this an election about ideas and policies, where if we could have a rational debate, that reason would win, and Rehberg lose. But the national political climate is anything but attuned to that sort of rhetoric. Candidates bandy about policy points finely tuned to match a poll indicating where the wind blows.

I want a candidate who is willing to attack Rehberg for all they’re worth. A candidate who isn’t afraid to step on some toes as she guns for the jugular and rips the silver spoon out of Denny’s mouth. And the only candidate I see that seems willing to do what needs to be done in order to beat Rehberg seems to be Melinda Gopher.

Pete’s lamentations about his perceptions of Gopher’s downside can be addressed: money can be raised; staff built and organized; and outreach expanded beyond her traditional base. As to the “the negative, policy-avoiding rhetoric” he decried, well, that’s politics. I see plenty of policy meat in Gopher’s writings, indicating a keen mind willing to jump into the policy arena and debate: “I challenge any of my other opponents to delve as deeply into the issues as I have; they all lack the political courage to do so”. And that negative rhetoric, well, I have to agree that McDonald has some baggage that is just going to make him an easy target in the fall, and make for an ugly campaign.

People have lambasted me for wanting to make Rehberg’s character an issue in this election. But I think it is key, as the regular policy debates have become useless talking points dictated by polling and regulated by media megaphones. And no one seems concerned about Rehberg’s lack of achievement. In fact, many think his lack of achievement is a bonus, as it leaves him with little controversy over his accomplishments–there are none. I think that if voters were to look to the character of our candidates, they will see a clear difference between Gopher and Rehberg.

But the race has finally hit the first turn, and is heating up. This should be fun!

by jhwygirl

That, from Democratic primary candidate Melinda Gopher:

There is one intractable fact and I will hammer this home: Dennis McDonald is not electable. I am hearing it from Democrat, Republican and undecided voters alike. His advancement in the June primary will most assuredly guarantee another Rehberg win in the fall. A.J. Otjen is not convincing as a credible Republican challenger, she has not put the effort into it. Mark French is on the extreme right fringe. At the same time, long time Republican party veterans already concede this seat will fall in the Democratic aisle.

Melinda Gopher has some guts. She titled her post “Melinda Gets Tough with Montana,” and truly, she is saying what plenty of people have been pondering…but none have put in print.

(I don’t know that I’d write off A.J. Otjen as unconvincing or not credible, but I believe Gopher is being kind describing Mark French as being “on the extreme right fringe”)

Her most recent blog post, published yesterday morning, takes Dennis McDonald (and others) to task for a number of things…but mainly she “gets tough” with McDonald on a number of issues, including his AFL-CIO endorsements, his associations with mobster “Jimmy the Weasel”, and his handling of the 2008 congressional race (as head of the Montana Democratic Party).

While she somewhat unfairly blames the lack of support for Jim Hunt on McDonald’s leadership (Hunt lost the Democratic congressional primary in 2008, and the state party wouldn’t help a candidate until after they win the primary), she does allude to him having made decisions in the past that brought him to an advantage in this year’s race:

“I have another question,” she asks. “Did Mr. McDonald manipulate the state party strategy in 2008 to position himself for this race? I would have to say, based on his statements on the campaign trail; yes he did. As he likes to say; “this office is the only statewide race we (Democrats) did not win, so I wanted to come back and finish the job myself.””

Gopher doesn’t stop there – she then goes on to highlight Montana’s hugest disappointment – Representative Dennis Rehberg, Montana’s 10-year congressional do-nothing:

We cannot deny history, this is a pivotal race on the national stage. This race is where the tire meets the road for the Democratic electoral strategy in 2012. It is where–for too long; the person occupying the seat of this nation’s largest geographic district has been literally “drunk at the helm.” This is why Montana is at the bottom in disposable income, we cannot afford to educate our children, we cannot retain those fortunate to receive an education. We have a disjointed leadership in D.C., while passing three bills in his entire nine years–as Tyler Gernant points out—all to name federal buildings: Rehberg is the 12th wealthiest member of the U.S. House. His response to largely his own failure to lead, disguised as faux right wing earmark rage, just stated this past week: we are all on the Titanic.

Her piece is lengthy, so really – go read it. Melinda is a pretty straightforward speaker who I’ve yet to see mince words. Clearly, she does the same with her writing.

by jhwygirl

I certainly hope the Dems in Kalispell are paying attention to this.

Democratic candidate for HD8, Dane Clark, of Kalispell was handing out tea party pamphlets, packin’ heat (because rumors of agent provocateurs, it seemed prudent) and passing out campaign lit for Mark French, Republican primary congressional wingnut racist bigot from Sanders County.

~~~~
James Conner never writes enough for me. I wish he wrote more – but it looks like he’s done two pieces recently, both regarding Flathead County politics.

I did read his eulogy for friend Loren Kreck, back when he posted it a couple weeks ago. Loren Kreck is an environmental hero that I had never heard of, yet generations of Montanans – generations of people – will benefit from his diligent work to preserve the North Fork of the Flathead.

James? You did Loren righteous. It’s a beautiful piece of writing.

by jhwygirl

Haven’t met Willis Curdy yet? Curdy came late to the HD100 race in 2008….and this time around, given his hard work last time, along with his very impressive resume, he’s clearly the winning candidate. We liked Curdy before, we like him even more now.

Curdy is a 4th generation Montana, small business owner, retired high school teach and retired smokejumper Willis has years of experience dealing with it takes to make Montana a strong state. His plans include working on Protecting Access to Public Lands,creating good paying jobs with benefits, assuring there is quality education at all levels, and supporting community organizations.

You can meet Willis Curdy at a fundraising reception for Willis Curdy at the MEA-MFT office, 1001 Southwest Higgins Ave, on Thursday, April 8th from 5:30 to 7:30pm. For more information, contact wcurdy@bridgemail.com.

If your unable to attend, but would like to support Willis in this important legislative race, please donate online or by sending a check to “Willis Curdy for HD100” 11280 Kona Ranch Road, Missoula, MT 59804.

by Pete Talbot

No breaking news here. This is a short story about Missoula in the ’90s and an alternative party. It was called the New Party and I was a member.

Lately, there has been a lot of venting, some with good reason, over Democratic disappointments: from Obama to Baucus to Tester to Schweitzer. This talk inevitably leads to a call for a third party.

Here’s a very personal third party experience:

After watching a majority of Democrats on city council vote against sustainable land-use planning, affordable housing, a city-wide living wage and numerous other progressive measures, I heard about a third party being formed. I had attended a Missoula County Democratic Central Committee meeting; made up of mostly good old boys and girls whose main concern was where to hold the party’s summer picnic. Then I went to a New Party meeting. Energetic folks from all walks of life were talking strategy: how to recruit and win campaigns, what good policy was and how to achieve it, how to do outreach to the disenfranchised, and much more. I was hooked.

It worked well, for awhile. Missoula’s New Party had four-of-twelve seats on council. With sympathetic votes from two-or-three other councilors, and even the mayor, progressive legislation was enacted.

New Party Icon

A Fair Economy.
A Real Democracy.
A New Party.

We had, at the least, a half-a-dozen year run. Missoula was the better for it.

There were other New Party chapters in places like the Twin Cities and Madison, Wis.; Little Rock, Maryland, Chicago and New York.

I went to a few workshops and conventions. I bunked with Hispanic and African-American activists. I heard from some of the best of the left, folks from outside Montana’s typical political circles. I even met Barrack Obama at a Chicago meeting when he was running for the Illinois Legislature (he was endorsed by the New Party).

And what struck me was how connected we were, all hoping for the same things — things that the Democratic Party had promised: decent health care and a good education; peace; gender, social and economic equality for all. It was transforming.

New Party principles were basically stripped down Democratic principles.

The demise of the New Party started with a Supreme Court decision against fusion voting, in a 6-3 ruling that said folks couldn’t vote on more than one party line.

(Fusion voting wasn’t an easy sell — more complicated to explain than our ingrained two-party system — but it’s actually pretty straightforward. The State of New York does it successfully. Here’s how it would work.)

The SCOTUS decision and some other factors killed the New Party in Missoula. There were a couple of hard-fought contests that the NP lost by small margins, which took some wind out of our sails. And, of course, leadership in the two major parties vilified the New Party, occasionally joining ranks to defeat a New Party candidate. NP membership started drifting away toward other, more specific causes, such as smart growth, gay rights, economic justice, and labor and environmental issues.

I turned my attention to the Democratic Party in hopes of building coalitions and advancing progressive policy. At the time, the state Democratic Party was on the ropes: a Republican governor, and Republican majorities in both chambers. We fared a bit better on the congressional landscape with Pat Williams and Max Baucus, but they had their foils in Ron Marlenee, Rick Hill, Conrad Burns and Denny Rehberg.

Party conventions were sparsely attended. (I was actually elected to the state’s executive board because I was the only person running for the western district seat.) But Democrats made a comeback, picking up seats in both the state house and senate, some statewide offices and finally governor and our other U.S. Senate seat. Nothing like winning to help build the party. So now there’s a machine, and probably not a lot of room for questioning and dissension in the ranks, or for perceived interlopers such as myself.

After reading this account, one might think I have a great fondness for third parties. I do. But I’m not willing to give up on the Democrats, yet.

Montana’s perennial candidate Bob Kelleher (D,R,G) wanted a parliamentary system of government — with its multiple parties and coalition building inherent in that system. Perhaps not a bad idea. But since that isn’t likely to happen in my lifetime, I’ll keep working, and pushing reform when necessary, for the party that best represents the people.

Corporate domination of politics has to be reigned in. We need strong campaign finance reform and lobbyists need to be subservient to legislators, not vice-versa.

Then, maybe, citizens will have renewed faith in and accountability from their elected officials.

The populist movement of the late 1800s came about because the difference in the two major parties at that time was minuscule. Let’s hope that message hasn’t been lost on Democratic Party leadership. As should be obvious, the electorate really wants the change that was promised in 2008. Please, pay attention.

by Pete Talbot

Many comments on the blogs I read say the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans: health care, war, the environment, the economy — Congress and the President have not done the job and there’s no salvaging the system. Sometimes, it’s hard not to agree.

There needs to be monumental change, the comments say. Maybe a third or fourth party, maybe revolution, maybe anarchy — but I haven’t seen consensus on the best solution or, really, any viable alternative.

One reason I’m still a Democrat is Denny Rehberg. He defines the distinction between the two parties. Any of the three candidates running in the Democratic primary for Montana’s lone U.S. Representative would be so much better. Here are just a few, recent Rehberg antics:

Pogie writes about Rehberg’s earmark grandstanding.

Montana Cowgirl posts on Denny’s posse.

And then I get an email (I’m a subscriber) from Rehberg’s e-newsletter. He’s outraged about the U.S. House vote on the health care bill, and writes:

Tomorrow, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi plans to force a vote on her government-takeover of health care.

Ah, if only it were true. The Republicans should be jumping up-and-down at the lack of a public option, serious regulation and oversight — really, the lack of teeth that this bill has.

And it’s not like the Republicans didn’t employ some of the same voting procedures Pelosi might try when they controlled Congress, but I guess that’s different.

Denny, reading off a teleprompter, even posted a YouTube video that was so riddled with misinformation, and fear and loathing, that it boggles the mind.

So, seeing as there’s no strong third-party candidate in almost every race on almost every ballot, I will remain a Democrat, knowing that doing nothing will continue to get folks like Denny Rehberg elected, and re-elected.

by Pete Talbot

Knowing nothing of Melinda Gopher before the forum, I was impressed by her depth, her knowledge of the issues and, mostly, her passion.

When asked why she hadn’t filed yet and why her campaign was, at this point, lower key than the other two candidates’ campaigns, she responded, “I’m building intrigue.”

I wouldn’t call her the “winner.” All three Democratic Congressional candidates showed their strengths but Gopher gets the inspiration award. And, of course, any one of the three would be so superior to our current Congressman.

Dennis McDonald talked about his credentials, his ranching experience, his support from organized labor and his ability to work across the aisle. He also emulates the Schweitzer/Montana populist style in his campaign persona.

Tyler Gernant billed himself as an outsider — a young newcomer who touts “life experience over political experience” and “represents everything that isn’t Washington.” He called himself “the anti-incumbent.”

This was the first forum to be held where all three candidates attended. It was sponsored by the Missoula County Democrats and about 75 people showed up for the 90 minute presentation.

Gernant seemed to me to have the tightest policy proposals, from taxation to trade to the deficit. A Republican fellow I ran into at the forum said the he was the most impressed by Gernant, for what that’s worth.

McDonald had a strong opening stump speech. He’s the party’s highest profile candidate and is adapting to his role. But he also wasn’t above questioning the party status quo — he had problems with the Tester wilderness bill and was aggressive on health care reform.

Gopher talked about growing up on Hill 57 in Great Falls (I’d never heard of it — doesn’t sound like one of the Electric City’s most prestigious neighborhoods). The sixth of seven children, she called herself a “scrapper.”

All three were strong pro-choice supporters. All three opened with jobs being a priority. All three expressed disappointment with our current energy policy.

And all three were gracious toward each other, although Gopher, sitting in the middle, said with a smile that she was ready to take on Rep. Rehberg, “as soon as I dispatch these two guys sitting next to me,” which got a chuckle.

Here’s some other info I gleaned: Gopher said she wanted to “steer the Democrats back on track.” McDonald made local references to the closing of Smurfit and Macy’s — always a good move. Gernant touted a pay-as-you-go policy to rein in debt.

Gernant spoke of this being a “transformational time” to change how business is conducted in Washington, and that he’s poised to take on the challenge. He said it’s time to “move away from divisive politics” and become actively involved in finding solutions.

McDonald mentioned that he’s visited all 56 counties in Montana, shaken a lot of hands, and his work effort and “lifetime commitment” to Democratic policies make him the best candidate to take on Rehberg. He also said his main platform would be “empowering people.”

Gopher advocated for single-payer health care, tackled immigration reform and disparaged our continued role in questionable wars. She also called herself “the most improbable candidate.”

A final note. As I’ve said time-and-time again, I am not a reporter. If you want more accurate quotes, a more objective view and more depth, tune into MCAT’s channel 11 on Sunday, March 14, at 8 p.m. for a replay of the event.




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