UPDATED Analysis: TEA Party Republicans Lose Big in Montana Local Elections

Montanans saw sweeping victories for progressives from across the state today. And while it is yet to be seen whether this will translate into a wave of momentum for the Dems next year, one thing is known. The TEA Party legislature proved itself guilty of a major overreach during the last session. In turn, TEA Party Republicans were soundly rejected by voters.

Nowhere did the phenomena manifest itself more dramatically than in the Flathead, where the TEA Party candidates backed by Chuck Denowh, John Sinrud and the Realtors, Ricky Lynn Blake and a slate of developers and self-funded shadow PACs spent big bucks on attacking their opponents–and were all defeated.

Congratulations to John Muhlfeld, John Anderson, Richard Hildner and Frank Sweeney and the large numbers of voters who turned out to defeat a well-funded crew of special interest nutjobs. The victories weren’t limited to Whitefish either.  The only openly self proclaimed Tea Party candidate in the Flathead County elections, Erik Jerde, garnered a soul-crushing 34 votes out of 1275 cast in Kalispell. Those whom supported Tea Party poster boy Derek Skees in 2010 also all lost…Askew, Vail and Wise.  Tea Party candidates lost in the Flathead Valley Community College Trustees election as well as the municipal elections.

In Great Falls, a woman who refused all donations beat the leader of the Cascade County TEA Party, Cyndi Baker.  As the Great Falls Tribune reports, the TEA Partier had the most campaign signs of any candidate and the second largest campaign war chest.  Baker blamed her defeat on teachers, despite losing by a margin of 84-16.

In Helena, the conservative candidate was defeated by Matt Elsaesser, who was re-elected by a wide margin, and newcomer Katherine Haque-Hausrath. Progressives also had major victories in Missoula including Caitlin Copple, Cynthia Wolken, Alex Taft, and others, as D. Gregory Smith at From Eternity to Here writes.

Billings also had a big win against the TEA Party, where the Billings “Montana Shrugged” TEA Party leader Jennifer Olsen was easily routed by Ken Crouch.  Progressives Brent Cromley and Becky Bird also won handily.   Denis Pitman, the conservative minister of Fuji Spa fame, is still in (proving the power of incumbency).  However, Pitman’s opponent probably succeeded in halting his higher political ambitions now that voters know he checks his family man-of-God morality at the door once profits are on the table, and for that, we can be thankful.

UPDATE: In Bozeman, progressive Cyndy Andrus defeated Bill Fiedler by a whopping 4,289 votes to 2,209 votes. Fiedler was a member of the developers’ crew–he’s a member of the board of directors of the Southwest Montana Building Industry Association.

So, even though TEA Party Republicans won a legislative majority in 2010, they made a mistake in interpreting their one-time wins as a go-ahead to let voters know their true beliefs and goals. So it appears that focusing on nutjob bills over jobs was indeed a bad idea.  They paid for it in the off-year elections.   The progressives also won because they fielded some terrific candidates–people who actually cared about their community and its people more than getting a platform on which to scream TEA Party platitudes and shut down government.  They worked very, very hard on the doors, raised money to get their message out, and voters responded well.

Congratulations to the winners!  Here’s to a repeat of this in 2012.

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30 Comments on "UPDATED Analysis: TEA Party Republicans Lose Big in Montana Local Elections"

  1. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | November 9, 2011 10:20 PM at 10:20 PM |

    Yes, it was a very good day except for the fact that my friend Stuart Lewin lost the mayoral race to a very inferior person. Stuart is a highly intelligent man of great integrity and morals who was an early and fierce critic of the coal plant fiasco. His opponent is a man who has lived off the government his ENTIRE life, yet feels that the Teatard Party has merit. Sad that Stuart lost. If he had won, we may have FINALLY opened the books on the entire coal plant scandal and the city’s involvement. But as it is now, the perps walk. They simply walk away from their crimes, just as Tim Geeorgy did today. HEY, if you don’t wanna do the time, reesign!

    Tim Geeorgy now joins Booby Gannon, another famous perp walker, who got away scot free! Geeorgy committed one of the biggest heists of public money in Great Falls history. He did the crime, but just in the nick of time, resigned! And now, he’s doin’ the perp walk, walkin’ away with HIS/OUR money. (bout nine million down the crapper at this point) And THAT, my friends, is the biggest problem in the country right now. The criminals are walking!! With OUR money! And NOT being held accountable!! S & L Scandal, banking scandals, housing scandals, war profit scandals, yet NO ONE going to freakin’ JAIL!

    Uncle Sam has become Uncle Scam for the criminal element.

  2. Nice to see that so many of the TEA partiers in the Flathead that were backed & financed by millionaire DC lobbyist/congressional candidate Diane Smith (R-Whitefish) got the shaft.

  3. Aware and Not Stupid | November 10, 2011 9:56 AM at 9:56 AM |

    Helena didn’t have a ‘known Conservative’ in the City Commission race. Elsasser is a nice enough young man, not terribly bright but trainable and the new commissioner is a dedicated, committed Socialist by her own admission…..lovely! But what else would we expect being elected from the city limits of Helena. People’s brains don’t begin to engage in this town until you get outside the city limits. I think our current City Attorney Dave Neilsen could see the handwriting on the wall and decided it would be easier to retire than have to defend these idiots. My sincere condolences to our Mayor and Commissioner Ellison, they’re stuck having to work with these lefties.

  4. “a well-funded crew of special interest nutjobs?” In Whitefish? That’s not very nice. If I am included in that group, then truth be told, I spent $50.00 and lost. (I still have 1,950 out of the 2,000 business cards I bought, so that cost me about 10 cents a vote.) But wait, I can give the other 1,950 campaign cards away in the 2013 election! So, if I, Life Noell, am one of your previously mentioned ‘well funded’ nutjobs, then I guess it must be CRAZY to get 503 votes in Whitefish with less than $1.15 spent in campaign materials. Man, that’s about what? 1/20th of a cent per vote? Nutjob? Who isn’t :)

    • “Nutjob” has more to do with politics than anyone’s business acumen. Curious though, ARE you a nutjob?

      • Ryan~
        I would say no, as found through a voluntary psychological evaluation in 2010, it was determined that I am not a ‘nutjob’. Others can tell you that I’ve made mad decisions, I would say I’ve made some bad decisions. Being human, I’ve made mistakes.

    • Apparently it needs to be broken down for Life Noell, no they weren’t talking about you. Since when does $50 qualify as ‘well funded’? They’re referring to Mary Vail and Doug Wise who were heavily funded by the Tea Party.

  5. Don’t forget the Missoula referendum asking lawmakers for a constitutionamendment that says corporations aren’t people. It passed by a whopping 75 percent!

  6. Way to go Missoula! I’d be interested to hear how you did it-are you planning a post?

  7. I think you are being asked if you are a right winger. I’m guessing no as you seem to be young and a medical cannabis advocate.

  8. Really, nothing about the Billings Library bond initiative passing, approving a $16 Million tax increase during a recession. Quite a feat and with a mandate of 57%. Billings voter turn out was a record setting 64% because of that and most likely had a lot to due with getting progressives to vote (resulting in psycho Jennifer Olson losing by only 200 votes, thank god). Ward 4 with the highest voter turn out in the city had an uncontested city council race. Moreover, every one of our 5 wards approved the bond. The heights came in with 50.3% and was the lowest supporting ward. Clearly the library played a big role. Very happy to see that nearly 100% of MCV endorsed candidates won. They also made the difference. My heart goes out to Walzer for losing by 3 votes, but it should be a reminder to everyone who runs that you have to work until the very last minute of a campaign and take nothing for granted. A great day for local government in Montana. Cheers!

  9. The Skees video is back-watch it befor it comes down. Someone download this!!!! http://derekskees.com/?page_id=446#

  10. What happened in Bozeman, Cowgirl?

    • Good news in Bozeman. I have made an update to the post. Thanks also to Pete and Jay who have included updates about other issues on the ballot in Missoula with the corporate personhood resolution and Billings with the library bond. Congratulations on your wins.

  11. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | November 10, 2011 6:52 PM at 6:52 PM |

    DOPEY REEBURP WHIMPS OUT! Details at ten! BWHAHAHAA! But it’s too late. Dopey already done WHIZZED in his tea!

    http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20111110/NEWS01/111110016/Rehberg-drop-lawsuit-against-city-Billings-over-handling-fire?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Frontpage

    • Yep, frivolousness lawsuit Meet… cold hard reality! Dennis “The menace” Rehberg thinks no one will remember how he blasphemed a good fire department come election! We will remember his insult in the whole state. The guy who tried to chisel the city of Billings out of money, and give fire fighters a black eye!

  12. ALL n all a great day for SANITY! Good job Montanans!

  13. In the same way Tea Party members shouldn’t have interpretted their win last year as a ringing endorsement of their policies, progressives in this election shouldn’t interpret wins where they have big union and voter machines who will always vote at the polls in an off-year election that few people paid attention to as some ringing endorsement of liberal policies. Union members and liberals are always going to vote no matter what, so normal independents and conservatives not paying attention or voting isn’t a ringing endorsement of anything.

  14. This is a message to Congressman Denny Rehberg, if you tie your horse to the tea party wagon, you will lose. And this just shows me that Denny Rehberg will lose to Sen. Jon Tester in 2012, and he will probley lose big if he is caught with Michele Bauchman and her ilk. As far as the Baker loss I wonder if it will affect her soon to be husband Cleve Looney in his re election campaign? And as far as teachers defeating her, no it was the fact that she tried to blackmail the taxpayers of Great Falls, that defeated her. Now as far as Whitefish, I think they tried the tea party experiment with their man Derek, and I think they have woke up and smelled the coffee.

  15. It was very gratifying to read J Olsen’s FB page. My favorite part is that she lost by 200 votes but some how “the people lost today” and since she did not win it can only mean a “majority of people like Government waste.”

    Jennifer Olsen
    I lost my city council election by approximately 200 votes. Im so happy to know that there are atleast 1900 people in my district who want to see their taxes reduced! Thank you to all who voted for me. Unfortunately the majority of people lime government waste.
    Like · · Tuesday at 10:58pm near Billings, MT ·

    6 people like this.
    Chandler Smith keep up the fight Jen; we are behind ya. So close; wish we could have sent some our Virginia supporters to assist on your campaign.
    Tuesday at 11:05pm · Like

    John Johnson Jennifer you did great. Wonder if it were just 2 of you running you would have won.
    Tuesday at 11:43pm · Like · 1

    Jennifer Olsen I know john. Its quite disappointing….but thats how it goes. There is always next time. Too bad for the next 4 years out taxes will most likely be raised. The people lost today.
    Tuesday at 11:45pm · Like · 1

    Karla Dimick At least this way you can sit in the gallery and hassle them. Sometimes you can be more effective questioning the ones in charge from there?
    Wednesday at 3:05am · Like · 2

    Lori Moore Bailey ‎=( sorry Sis
    Wednesday at 3:57am · Like

    Martin Bailey Behold why I gave up on America long ago. My eggs are in spanish and I do believe america is dead. Sorry about the loss it was close and you should be proud. In a broken system you can only fight in vain and you did a good fight.
    Wednesday at 7:07am · Like

    Michael Woody Sorry about that little one.
    Wednesday at 7:38am · Like

    Dan O’Neil Jennifer, very sorry to hear that. My suggestion is don’t give up. Try again next time because Billings and Montana need more people like you to hold public office. I’ll support you for council again in the next election and for Governor in 2022!
    Wednesday at 7:41am · Like · 1

    Joanne Blyton Jennifer, good job, sorry there are so many liberals in Billings.
    Wednesday at 8:11am · Like

    Lisa Adams Jennifer, I lost too, by about the same amount – 200.
    Wednesday at 8:19am · Like

    Jessica Johnston Really sorry to hear it, Jennifer. You would have made a big difference. Wish I could’ve voted for you.
    Wednesday at 8:37am · Like

    Doug Kary Thanks for having the courage to step up and give the people in that district a choice! Courage, you did not loose, you gained insight, and did somthing only a few Americans will ever do… stand for somthing!
    Wednesday at 8:42am · Like · 3

    Lark Chadwick Jennifer – you have my deepest respect and constant support!
    Wednesday at 8:49am · Like · 2

    Jennifer Allen I just wish I lived in your district. Need to move a couple blocks west.
    Wednesday at 10:36am · Like · 1

    Jennifer Olsen It’s all about the name recognition…..I have it now, so I will put my name up there again…..I’m not done yet. I’m just sad to see such a liberal council now in Billings. It’s going to be a tough 4 years….
    Wednesday at 10:39am · Like · 2

    Rick Dow Sorry to hear that, Jennifer… Thanks for getting out there and trying to wake people up. Next time, indeed!
    2 hours ago · Like

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