The GOP has thrown out its leaders, and replaced them with more ideologically conservative purists.
Jim Peterson, the Senate President, has been sent packing (literally–poor Peterson could be seen carrying his office contents, including a giant plant and a few framed pictures and a box of supplies, to his car yesterday.) Peterson’s license plate reads “REDST8”–perhaps the right-wing newbies mistook it to mean he’s a commie.
Peterson stood for re-election but was roundly defeated in favor of Christian fundamentalist, anti-cannabis crusader and hard-core rightist Jeff Essmann. Essmann proudly declared yesterday that the “Republican message was well received by voters,” though it’s hard to see how anyone could arrive at this conclusion given that the GOP won only a single statewide race and lost the rest.
Art Wittich, lawyer for the right-wing Montana Policy Institute and also a lawyer for ultra-shady American Tradition Partnership (which ignored Montana Law on the way to buying house and Senate seats for Tea partiers with secret money) is the new Senate Whip. Wittich has also called publicly for an investigation into whether hungry kids might be fed via a statewide “gleaning” program, meaning hungry kids would be fed the scraps that restaurants usually throw away.
Young gun Mark Blasdel has taken over as House Speaker. Blasdel belongs to the Todd Akin school, believing that abortion should illegal in all cases including rape. I would suspect that this position helped him gain the Speakership. Also, Blasdel is on the ALEC education task force, ALEC being the corporate front group that ghost-writes most of the legislation that state Republican legislators introduce.
Gordon Vance, a car and ATV salesman from Bozeman, will be majority leader.In Vance’s first session he only introduced one bill – a bill to help out his pals in the motor sports industry. And in 2011 he spent his time introducing bills to root out the many undocumented workers he believes have infiltrated our state, and bills to help insurance companies, and the State Fund, make more profit.
And Austin Knudson will be Senate Pro Temp. The right-winger is a former college Republican (yeah, those insufferable twits) turned attorney. He was swept in by the ATP-fueled TEA Party takeover in 2010, and has had an unremarkable career. Knudson was elected by railing against health care reform, then he eagerly accepted taxpayer funded health care benefits for himself. (So did Essmann, Wittich, Vance, and Blasdel.)
For the Dems: Jon Sesso of Butte will be Senate minority leader and Robin Driscoll of Billings and Cliff Larson of Missoula will be the whips. In the House, minority leader will be Chuck Hunter and Reps. Margie MacDonald, D-Billings, and Edie McClafferty, D-Butte are minority whips. Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula is caucus leader.