by Geoff and Swep
This is the latest newsletter on Gallatin County politics from Geoff & Swep–if you haven’t signed up for this free electronic newsletter I encourage you to do so. The authors have more of an independent perspective and aim to support sensible behavior from candidates and elected officials of either party or nonpartisan individuals. – Cowgirl
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Letter #2015-6 Montanans for Sensible Government
July 28, 2015
In this edition:
BULLOCK’S CAMPAIGN FOR GOVERNOR: reason vs extremism
BULLOCK’S LIKELY OPPONENT GIANFORTE: extremist masquerading as technocrat.
NANCY KEENAN CHAIR OF MT DEMS: a seasoned pro takes over
MELISSA ROMANO RUNS FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
DIRK SANDEFUR RUNS FOR STATE SUPREME COURT
GALLATIN COUNTY DEMS ANNUAL GALA: a tribute to Dorothy Eck, Sept 11th @ The Emerson
BULLOCK’S CAMPAIGN FOR GOVERNOR
On the heels of a very successful legislative session, Governor Steve Bullock has wasted no time getting started on his 2016 re-election campaign. Under Bullock’s leadership, Montana once again has a budget surplus and was rated as the most fiscally prudent state in the country.
Working with sensible Republicans in the Legislature, Bullock managed to pass (1) significant education funding, (2) a compromise Medicaid expansion program which will bring billions into the state economy and cover a majority of the remaining uninsured Montanans, (3) a campaign finance disclosure bill mandating reporting of all dark money, and (4) the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water compact.
This is an impressive list for a Democratic Governor in a state whose legislature is controlled by Republicans, and it speaks to what makes Bullock such a good Governor; he is pragmatic, politically skilled, and willing to work with sensible Republicans for the good of the State.
Bullock’s opponents – mostly far right Republicans such as Art Wittich– fought every one of these sensible and popular bills, using deceitful and bullying tactics. They did succeed in shooting down a $150 million public works projects bill (Bullock proposed $400 million) that would have brought much needed repairs to roads and bridges all across the state, but especially in the hard-hit Baaken, and would have made key investments in the Gallatin Valley, like renovating MSU’s Romney gym into a student center. Besides the much needed construction jobs this would have brought to Bozeman, moderate local Republicans – who were furious at Wittich and others for shooting down this funding – have been vocal in making the point that investing in MSU – which is one of the major drivers of our local economy – brings multiple returns.
The 2016 Legislative elections are likely to see a major battle within Republican ranks as Wittich and others like him will continue to try to root out the moderate Republicans and the moderates will fight back and even try to unseat legislators like Wittich. This will be a crucial battle one that we will watch closely and possibly may find it important to lend some support to moderate Republican candidates.
BULLOCK’S LIKELY OPPONENT GIANFORTE
Bozeman Billionaire Greg Gianforte has said that he is “considering” a run for Governor but so far has declined to actually announce even though he has hiring staff in the Bozeman area and elsewhere who presumably would be the core of a campaign team.
Gianforte is touring the state, touting his high-tech experience and his role in private funding for a software training program for high school students. He made his fortune at RightNow technologies, which he founded and sold to Oracle in 2011 for $1.5 billion. Republican Senator Steve Daines was Gianforte’s employee at RightNow, and they remain good friends. Like Daines, Gianforte will likely try to appeal to independents and moderate Republicans by presenting himself as a moderate, a proponent of the tech future for Montana with experience in generating good jobs. While Daines was able to get elected as a moderate, he quickly showed himself to be allied with the far right; supporting expansion of the coal industry, opposing marriage equality and opposing Medicaid expansion. Given what we’ve seen so far from Gianforte’s we can expect the same from him.
Gianforte also has a record of conservative Christian activism. While no one should fault him for his religious beliefs, the concern is over his willingness to let those beliefs dictate his political stands, raising the specter that if he were to be Governor he try to impose those beliefs on all Montanans. Through the Gianforte Family Foundation he and his wife set up in 2006 he has supported organizations such as the Montana Family Foundation which has fought for the use of public money to fund religious education and has lobbied against abortion rights and anti-discrimination legislation affecting the LGBT community.
The Gianfortes were prominent opponents of Bozeman’s successful non-discrimination ordinance. Greg Gianforte lobbied Bozeman Mayor Jeff Krauss, claiming that the non-discrimination ordinance would trample “religious freedom,” and proposed instead a “religious freedom” law that would protect businesses that discriminate based on their religious beliefs.
The Gianforte Foundation is a major contributor to the creationist Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil museum, and to anti-abortion “pregnancy counseling” centers around the state, including Zoe Care in Bozeman.
Gianforte gave an indication of how his politics is guided by his conservative Christianity in a recent speech to the Montana Bible College in which he railed against Social Security, saying that the Bible doesn’t council retirement, and Noah never retired.
Gianforte’s may attempt to paint himself as non-ideological technocrat, but his connection to the hard-right is very clear in his funding for The Montana Family Foundation, which supports “pro-family” candidates for the state legislature, and viciously attacked moderate Republicans during the last election primary.
The foundation is run by former hard-right legislator Jeff Lazloffy, whose 23 year old conservative Christian daughter Sarah was elected to the state legislature and put in charge of the House Education Committee where she worked tirelessly to promote state funded religious education (aka “school choice”).
NANCY KEENAN CHAIR OF MT DEMS
Nancy Keenan has taken over the chair of the Montana Democratic Party. Nancy is a very savvy strategic thinker with an aggressive style and tireless energy, drawing on a lifetime of political experience both statewide and nationally. She grew up in Anaconda, worked in the smelters, then served in the Montana Legislature and as State Superintendent of Public Education. She ran an aggressive campaign for the US House in 2000. Most recently she was the national director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading women’s rights advocacy group, where she was instrumental in helping Obama’s re-election.
Nancy has deep experience running campaigns, is a longtime respected collaborator with Senator Tester and most leading Montana Democrats, and is highly respected nationally.
Keenan is aiming to revitalize the State Party and make it more effective in generating voter turnout, shaping Party strategy and messaging and raising funds to support state and local candidates.
Background on Nancy
MELISSA ROMANO FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
Melissa Romano already has hosted fundraisers around the state, including in Bozeman. Her goal of maintaining Montana’s excellent public education system in the face of increasingly aggressive ultra-conservative attempts to undermine it makes this race critically important. Melissa is endorsed by Amanda Curtis and our current Superintendent of OPI, Denise Juneau.
Romano’s current opponent is Elsie Arntzen a six term state legislator and elementary school teacher from Billings who last session voted for guns on campus, sponsored several anti-abortion bills, and is supported by the Montana Family Foundation. Arntzen’s voting record can be seen here.
Some words from Melissa’s bio: Melissa Romano is a collaborative leader and problem solver in and outside of her classroom. Having worked as an educator for more than ten years, Romano is a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Currently, Romano is a fourth grade teacher at Four Georgians Elementary School in Helena, Montana. In addition to her work in the classroom, Romano works hard to continually achieve improvement in the public education system in Helena, throughout Montana and at a national level. As a Core Advocate with Student Achievement Partners, Romano has connected with expert educators across the nation about pertinent issues educators face on a daily basis.
JUDGE DIRK SANDEFUR FOR STATE SUPREME COURT
Since last year’s highly successful re-election campaign by Justice Mike Wheat, in which he defeated Lawrence VanDyke – a hard right conservative with no experience as a judge, whose funding came largely from out of state conservative organizations – we know that out of state ultra conservatives like the Koch brothers view the Montana Supreme court as an easy target and will target it again in 2016.
Great Falls Judge Dirk Sandefur is running for an open seat on the Court and has been endorsed by seven retired Montana Supreme Court Justices as well as the retiring incumbent whose seat he is running for, and a long list of state judges. He is a third-generation Montanan from a family of “working people of little means”, who worked his way through law school, then served as a police officer, county attorney and now State District Judge. Sandefur is widely known and respected throughout the state and has already raised over $104,000 in campaign contributions from individual Montanans across the state.
Sandefur’s current opponent is a University of Montana Law professor named Kristen Juras. She made the news in 2009 when she made a very public and unsuccessful attempt to force the U of M student newspaper the Montana Kaiman to drop its sex column. She threatened to take her case to the Board of Regents and the Legislature. Juras served as advisor to the campus Christian Legal Society.
In 2012 former Governor Brian Schweitzer registered a formal complaint against Juras for failing to disclose that she was a paid consultant for Charter (Bresnan) Communications – not a neutral law professor – when she presented a study to the legislature backing Charter’s egregious claim for a huge tax break. Juras was cited by U of M for violating university policy. Charter funded a shameless attempt to pass their tax evasion scam by ballot initiative, but ultimately settled with the state.
Gallatin County Democrats are holding their Annual Gala on Friday September 11 at 6pm at the Emerson Center Ballroom. The event theme will be “A Toast to Dorothy Eck”. Funds raised through the Gala will fund staff to work on voter registration, voter turnout and support for key County and Legislative candidates. Anyone wanting to provide financial support to the County Dems can do so through Act Blue at or directly to Gallatin Co. Democrats, PO Box 344, Bozeman, MT 59771.
Swep & Geoff