Archive for the ‘Sam Kitzenberg’ Category

by Jay Stevens

Did you see this? Classy:

In opening-day remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Corey Stapleton, R-Billings, spoke directly to Kitzenberg and said his post-election party switch “undermined the integrity of the Senate.”

“On Election Day, the voters decided on an equal Senate and, senator, you decided that they were wrong,” Stapleton said.

Let’s ignore the fact that voters vote for candidates, not necessarily for party control of legislative bodies. Let’s ignore for another moment the fact that Kitzenberg wasn’t even up for re-election in 2006, and the time of his party switch actually benefited the GOP. (Could you imagine how Republicans would have whined at the pre-election bombshell announcement by Kitzenberg that he was switching parties because the GOP increasingly had no room for moderates?)

Instead, let’s focus on the incredible hypocrisy of Corey Stapleton’s remarks.

Remember, Stapleton is a leader of a party that publicly announced a few days after the election it was abandoning its party platform. Got that? Stapleton et al erased all of their pre-election promises…then has the gall to accuse Sam Kitzenberg of unfairly manipulating the election process?

Let’s allow the new Democrat speak on why he made the party shift:

Kitzenberg said he’s comfortable with his decision, and that he’s representing his district, because the Democratic agenda better serves his district and the state.

“I want to fight for the causes that I believe in,” he said in an interview, and those causes include more money for education, lower college tuition and expanded health coverage for Montana citizens. “I think I’m where I should be. My integrity is intact.”

I’m sure not a few Montanans are indeed wishing for a do-over, Senator Stapleton. But not because of Sam Kitzenberg.

by Jay Stevens 

The notorious Mark T pointed this out on the new Montana Netroots blog, but Republican state senator Dan McGee (Laurel) is planning on introducing new legislation that would force a public official to stand for reelection after switching political parties.

Mark thinks this has to do with Sam Kitzenberg’s switch to the Democratic party. So do I.

I’d add that it’s another example of the Montana Republicans’ inability to intellectually or strategically deal with the changing political landscape in the state.

This legislation is a bad idea. First, it’s confrontational, childish, and bitter. (Which, I admit, may be the new strategy of the Montana GOP.) Maybe it’s just me, but I think making politics more negative, divisive, and partisan after an election in which voters expressed violent disdain for negativity and divisive partisanship is self-defeating to say the least.

Would the bill also affect those legislators who caucus with another party? Like the Constitution Party’s Rick Jore who’s planning on voting with the GOP in the 2007 session? If not, the bill would seem hypocritical. After all, Jore’s constituents voted for him in large part because he isn’t a Republican. How would do they like it he’s become a CINO (pronounced chee-no; “Constitutionalist in name only”)?

Add to that the fact that this bill could very well come to haunt the Republican party in the future – what if a Democratic legislator wants to switch parties next session? – and this stunt is a very poor tactical maneuver.

The only possible reason I could see for this bill is to discourage more Republicans from jumping ship. Seriously, why else would you write something like this? And based on Sales’ recent bullying comments towards his own party member, Corey Stapleton, over education funding (“Sales dismissed the idea of putting more money in higher education, saying ‘I think Corey and I are going to have to have a conversation’”), that’s probably a genuine concern. How many moderate Republicans are going to chafe at their party’s new obstructionist tactics? Opposition to education funding and a property tax rebate?

While I admit I’m happy to see the Montana GOP self-destruct, it’s going to mean an ugly, ugly session in 2007. I’m not looking forward to that, even if it means that the Republican party is going to alienate the state’s voters and leave itself in the hands of a few bitter partisan extremists.

Update: I just saw this over at Matt’s but McGee has also drafted legislation that would overturn the recently passed ballot initiative increasing the waiting period that legislators must endure before becoming lobbyists.

What can I say? He wants to overturn the will of Montana voters and roll back lobbying reform? The snarks write themselves.

by Jay Stevens 

How low can you go?

True to Republican party form, Montana’s branch of the party is raising a fuss about Montana state senator Sam Kitzenberg’s switch to the Democratic party. Unwilling to come to grips with the simple fact that their party may indeed be coursing steadily to the right and alienating its members and erstwhile supporters, the group is claiming that Brian Schweitzer directed the switch. And in trying to prove their claim, they’re now requesting telephone records from the Governor’s office and the Department of Revenue.

Fine. Let them do so. But when they don’t find anything, can we all agree that they owe the Governor, Sam Kitzenberg, and the state of Montana a sincere apology? A reimbursement of taxpayer money to offset the requests for the records would help, too.

But don’t hold your breath, folks. The Republican Party doesn’t know how to apologize. The Republican Party doesn’t know how to stop themselves. First comes the requests for phone records, then will come calls for independent investigations, then will come lawyers and depositions and blah-blah-blah until someone has to face perjury charges they’ll be acquitted of, and the taxpayer will be stuck with an enormous bill for a bald, partisan witch hunt that ends up with…nothing.

Instead of all this, I’d suggest the Montana GOP get busy reworking its ideology, its representatives, and its tactics. You’re bleeding voters, folks. Remember this used to be a “red” state, don’t you? You lost the Governorship, the legislature, and both Senate seats. And it’s not because of some shady back-room deal the Good Guv arranged.

Here’s my advice: take a hard, long look in the mirror.

by Jay Stevens 

If you haven’t read about the dramatic turnaround in the Montana state legislature, it’s a hoot. Just a couple of days ago, the Democrats were looking at a 25-25 split in the Senate, and 49-50-1 minority status in the House.

Oh, how things have changed.

First, state Senator Sam Kitzenberg switched parties, moving from the GOP to the Democrats and ensuring a 26-24 majority in the Senate. Why? Well, according to Kitzenberg, the Republican party doesn’t have room for moderates anymore. (The “Kansas syndrome,” if you will.) Jeff Mangan, who served with Kitzenberg, had this to say:

…Last session, Sam and I were seat mates; I, at the end of the democrats and Sam at the end of the republicans. Two moderates who often jokingly discussed whether or not the D tent was big enough for me, and the R tent was large enough for Sam. On more & more issues though, Sam was with the D’s. Sam felt alienated from his party, to the point it could be seen, and felt. Being a moderate in a party long term is difficult, at best. Look at Leiberman nationally or Noennig or Matthews locally. It often feels like one receives more respect from the other side, while being pressured internally from your party. That being said, it is afterall, politics.

Sam is a good man. Sam is strong in his faith and family. Sam is open and speaks his mind, and Sam does not play political games. Sam voted his concience and constituents. Sam has apparently decided that the democratic tent would suit him better than the republicans. That does not surprise many of us. Sam will continue to vote his conscience and constituents and Sam will continue to be on the edge of his political party.

Kitzenberg can use these honest and kinds words right about now, because members of his former party are seeing a grand conspiracy organized by Governor Schweitzer behind the move:

Republicans questioned the timing of state Sen. Sam Kitzenberg’s decision, just months after the Democratic administration of Gov. Brian Schweitzer gave Kitzenberg a job as a Revenue Department analyst.


“We had serious concerns last year when he took that position,” said state Sen. Corey Stapleton, R-Billings. “It was quid pro quo, what did they want from him?

“Our worst fears came true.”

Schweitzer denies the whole thing, of course, and says he and Kitzenberg haven’t spoken “in months.” Add that to a history of tensions between Kitzenberg and his former party over votes that the new Democrat cast favorable to the Schweitzer administration, and frankly there’s a whole lot of nothing here except sour grapes.

In the House, a dramatic count of provisional ballots puts incumbent Representative Emelie Eaton (D-Laurel) in a dead heat with Republican challenger Krayton Kerns:

The turnaround in Laurel’s HD58 stunned longtime political observers, as Eaton ended up erasing a 14-seat deficit through the post-election counting of 20 extra ballots.It started last Wednesday, when Yellowstone County election officials counted 16 ballots that had been rejected by vote-counting machines but were still valid. Thirteen were for Eaton, closing the gap to four votes.

On Monday, election officials opened six additional “provisional” ballots, which are cast by voters who forgot their identification on election day and then provided proof the next day that indicated the votes should be counted.

Duane Winslow, elections supervisor for the county, said Monday that two of those six weren’t counted. One of the voters was not a resident of HD58, and another already had turned in an absentee ballot that had been counted.

But of the four that were counted, all went to Eaton, forging an unlikely tie. That means an automatic recount will occur. But until then, Eaton is the presumptive winner.

If the recount shows that both candidates received the same number of votes, Governor Brian Schweitzer gets to appoint someone to serve in the seat. While I’m available and eager to take on the role, it’s likely Eaton would get the nod instead and give Democrats a 50-49-1 advantage.

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