Big Weekend for Democrats

The Big Weekend is soon upon us, the state Democratic Convention in Bozeman.  It will be an exciting time. Democrats will continue to celebrate their success in state government, not only the electoral successes (four of the five state offices) but the policy successes that have brought record economic growth and job creation to the state, with historic investments in education, low tuition at the universities, a booming tourism industry, and many other good things with many more to come.

Hopefully there will also be some lampooning of the lunatic asylum known as the Montana Republican Party, as well there should be (what else is a Democratic gathering good for if you can’t have some fun talking about the bat crap crazies?).  Speeches will be given by the Democratic stars Jon Tester, Steve Bullock and Angela McClean, and Linda McCulloch, Monica Lindeen and Denise Juneau, and of course the Party director Nancy Keenan as well as democratic leaders such as Chuck Hunter and John Sesso, as well as candidates for chair Jim Larson (incumbent) and Louise Bruce.

Bozeman is an interesting location for this event, as the home turf of the tech entrepreneur Greg Gianforte, who might (or might not) run for Governor with his billion dollars, and try to become the Outsourcer in Chief.  Democrats may also discuss the outrage that Gianforte and his wife perpetuated locally, namely, actually leading the charge against a proposed Bozeman ordinance that would prohibit businesses from discriminating against LGBT people. He has even said publicly that the city would be better off without LGBT people altogether.

But the centerpiece item of business at the convention will take place on Saturday morning, the election of Party Chair.  Two candidates are running. First is Jim Larson, an old union hand who has chaired the party for the last two years.  His substantial contribution includes having gone out and gotten a world class executive director, Nancy Keenan, who has only been on the job a few months, as well tidied up challenges with good results.  He will face off against Louise Bruce, who is a member of the executive committee.  Bruce is the food service manager at University of Montana Western in Dillon, and is trying to mount an insurgent candidacy along the lines of what was accomplished at the GOP convention this past June, when Will Deschamps got run out of town by a crowd with pitchforks.

One interesting distinction:  the GOP used a private ballot for that election, whereas the Democrats, according to national rules, must use an open ballot to elect officers.  I predict that at the convention, Bullock, Tester and the other elected officials will likely speak their public preference for Larson, as will Keenan, whom I assume Bruce will release from duty if she is elected.   But regardless of what happens, a person voting against Keenan and Bullock will have to do so publicly, and I think that’s a tougher vote than a GOP member who has ballot privacy.

One thing should be made clear, by example: If anyone is interested in how the disunion and ugly division within the GOP has been working out, please read yesterday’s Great Falls Tribune.  The GOP is going after Tim Fox, alleging that his chief aide has committed “official misconduct.”  That’s the equivalent of the Democratic Party making a similar accusation against Governor Bullock’s staff.  It’s crazy.  At this rate, Tim Fox might have to switch parties.  The Tea Party clearly wants him out, and they are now in charge of the GOP.

Speaking of which, the GOP convention got a lot of press, but the word is that reporters are simply ignoring the Democratic Convention – presumably because we won’t be knifing each other.  I certainly hope this isn’t the case. This would never happen if Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison were still around to explain to everyone that it is wrong to cover one and not the other.

Larson has a decent case for re-election.  He will argue that the Party is moving on a very good track with him and Keenan at the helm, that the 2014 Senate and House losses (Zinke and Daines ,beating Lewis and Curtis) were pre-ordained.  He will point to the popular Amanda Curtis’s support (she recently wrote an email publicly endorsing Jim Larson), and highlight his selection of a new and highly qualified executive director, as well as a mini-convention to replace Walsh which was widely praised, and big fundraising successes.

What case Bruce will make is not entirely clear, but we can assume that it will be “anti-establishment” in nature.  The only missive that has been sent out has been not from Bruce but Dirk Adams, who is supporting her.  Adams has complained in the past of excessive Union influence at the party, and also criticized the party for supposedly focusing too much on abortion rights, which is ridiculous.

My view is that Keenan needs breathing room to work her magic and that she’d do better with Larson.  The thing that matters most in 2016 is the re-election of Steve Bullock.  I’d ask people to envision what the party would be like if the entire state government were controlled by Greg Gianforte.  How’s that look?  As between Larson-Keenan on the one hand, and Bruce on the other, I think let’s stick with the former.  They will get the job done in 2016.


23 Comments on "Big Weekend for Democrats"

  1. Hmm, maybe the press isn’t covering it because no invitations were sent out. I didn’t get one. Funny, got one last year.

  2. As executive director, Nancy Keenan is an employee. If she endorses anyone for any party office, publicly or privately, she’s out of line.

    On 3 August, Louise Bruce’s essay on why she’s running for chair was guest posted on Flathead Memo ( On 28 July, I posted a note on Bruce and on the challenges facing the Montana Democratic Party ( Louise is not the tool of Dick Adams or anyone else. I’ve known her for years, consider her an extraordinary political talent, and know she would be fair, aggressive, savvy, and determined to win elections.

    • Cowgirl missed the mark with this post. First, she (he?) is wrong about Bullock or Tester endorsing anyone for party chair. Why would they? I’m sure their objective is party unity and that they’ll stay above the fray. Did Daines or Zinke endorse anyone for party chair at the GOP convention? No. Also, a bad analogy of the Democratic convention and “an insurgent candidacy along the lines of what was accomplished at the GOP convention this past June, when Will Deschamps got run out of town by a crowd with pitchforks.” I think you’ll see very few pitchforks at the Democratic convention. Second, I don’t see Louise Bruce canning Keenan if she’s elected. Keenan is extremely popular with the party and “releas(ing her) from duty” makes no sense. Third, Cowgirl writes, “the GOP convention got a lot of press.” I must not be getting the same newspapers as the Cowgirl. The only coverage I saw was basically telling us who was elected chairman. I imagine that’s the same coverage we’ll see at the Democratic convention. Finally, James Conner, I agree with you that Keenan, as executive director, won’t be endorsing anyone. That would be unprecedented.

      And a quick comment to Greg Strandberg: I occasionally blog. I didn’t get an invitation, either, so don’t feel bad. I did, however register as a guest and will be attending. You could do that, too.

  3. I have a differing opinion of Louise Bruce. I know she brings out the best for young voters that has been sorely lacking by Larson…. she has great values that include the young voter, the conservation Democrat and the blue collar worker. It is nice to have Nancy now, but I believe the Democrats have keep the younger generation out, especially our Native Indian Young adults for way too long, and refuse to push Purple Counties to flip to blue. The Democratic office of the party here in Montana had problems enough for me to become an Independent….They told me I would get help if I gave help… I did help the party at functions and got ignored because Beaverhead County wasn’t good enough or purple enough for the democratic party????

    I am not saying Democrats don’t have good Ideas. but I have noticed that they have favorites in the machinery, and they will spend all their money trying to get those Favorites elected first and foremost. ( take Frankie Wilmer for example)( Sorry Frankie I do love you to death but your election is a prime example of what went wrong) and Ignore others who can help the parties image, and make the state bluer. We lost a lot of close races( by the way mine wasn’t close, but that beside the point. I didn’t start flipping out like Greg or Bob Brigham) I continued to work behind the scenes. I still do to produce a fairer Montana.

    Whatever happened to a rising tide lifts all Boats????? Democrats aren’t bought up like the Koch and ALEC Tools in the GOP are….. but why all the favoritism????

    Secondly, if it wasn’t for Obama’s people doing door to door Homework in 2008, This states party would still be in the dark. Not exactly knowing where democratic crossover voters were… Let alone whats left of moderate GOP voters, who are not tied to the fringe of the GOP and are currently jumping ship…. and the dems have yet to do any real pulse polls to see where dems are, or where we share interest with the GOP Moderates. wheres the dem party on trying to get the message out in the papers. WHy no pushback past their own website. WHy aren’t we applauding the Papers protecting free speech and Montanans like the “Bitteroot Star?” Telling our side as liberals isn’t a given, we should be pushing everyday to get the message out!

    Therefore the party seems to have a disconnect, and Larson was part of that last election. I like him But I feel his tenure hasn’t helped enough to keep him.

    I think Mrs Bruce sees that disconnect. She has been a loyal Dem party member all of her life. and she knows Montana’s people better than most, because she works alongside the average voter.

    Louise and her husband know rural farming and ranching intimately, They are small business owners, and spend countless hours working for the college here. Probably the hardest working member I have seen in years, for getting young people interested in left leaning Politics…. Iron clad party worker, I believe she is the next logical step in Democratic Politics for this state if the party wants to stay current and stop disenfranchising upcoming voters…..

    I dont care what Dirk Adams says, but he is paying his dues now as a democrat and that’s a good thing…. Louise has been paying those dues forever. and I think it is time for the democratic party to start treating the whole of their party better, then just the chosen old reliable old few. Time for some new blood….

    By the way “Nodding your heads Dems doesn’t Row the boat get out the “F”ing oars and row for real.

    • I’d rather have the Party continue on as it is. Let their own misguided strategies and tactics do them in. Then the non-corporate, free-from-Back-East Democrats can pick up the pieces. The current Democratic “leadership” benefits from poor precinct showings and terrible turnout. They don’t want that to change, as it protects their terrible reign.

      • And these types of comments are why you are not invited Greg, or percieved as a Liberal anymore. Heck, I quit them and I still got an Invite.

      • Drunks for Denny | August 14, 2015 9:09 PM at 9:09 PM |

        As much as I dislike the current Democratic party, when the alternative is the Tea Party-led GOP, I’ll vote Democrat everytime.

        Nationally, though….I dunno. The Donald has won me over, as someone who believes in America like my hero Denny. And he won’t be bullied by classless dames.

        • You can stay home. Or do like many do, skip the down-ticket races. Democrats have a big problem with that. Third-party candidates, usually Libertarian, are pulling in 4% each election. That’s around 20,000 people. Even today on the TV news Keenan said turnout was key.

          So, that’s really the only leverage disaffected voters have – their ability to influence the election by not voting. Still, the Democratic Party in Montana doesn’t seem to be swayed by this, as win or lose, leadership remains the same.

  4. Using an open ballot to elect officers is an effective control mechanism. It keeps people from voting their conscience.

  5. Why is Montana Cowgirl going to such pains to disparage Louise Bruce? Whoever wrote this crude hit piece, presuming to read Louise’s mind about who she’d appoint and what her strategy will be, obviously didn’t go the trouble of calling Louise and asking her basic questions.

  6. Losses by Lewis-Curtis(Walsh) were pre-ordained. Interesting that if Larson makes that statement is he stating that the party leaders selected weak candidates to start with knowing they would be beat,then doing very little to help them. Don’t know if I would call that success. Maybe Adams is right regarding party focus on abortion. the recent release of videos of harvesting fetal parts by right wing group unethical as it may be is a very powerful tool to use to sway middle of the road voters. The GOP is not going to let Montana forget Nancy Keenan headed up a national pro-life group. I tried to get info on the state convention here in Lake County to no avail. Lake County facebook was last updated May 13,2015. That post listed new officers. I have signed up twice with Lake County Dem’s to receive their e-mail and received none.(so much for reaching out) I believe none of the officers are Native American in a county that is 25% Native American. Cowgirl believes getting Bullock re-elected is what matters most. From the polls I’ve seen he will have no problem. The dem’s really should be worried about retaining the other 3 major offices. They also should try get back a seat on PSC and to elect more dem’s in purple leg.districts. Norma points out the party missing the mark on young voters. I have 5 children age 19 to 29. They never have been approached by any Montana Dem’s and they are enrolled in a Montana Native American Tribe. I agree with Conner and High Point Democrats need a secret ballot this appears like Bruce will lose if Bullock wants Larson. It does seem like Cowgirl is saying all is milk and honey in the Montana Democratic Party so how dare someone rock the boat.

  7. This is one of the best discussions I’ve read on the strengths and weaknesses in the Montana Democratic Party. We certainly need to identify how we can be stronger and more effective. I don’t quite understand Greg Strandberg’s statement that the current Democratic “leadership” benefits from poor precinct showings and terrible turnout, but my “gut” response says he’s right. I do know that in the 2014 primary, fewer than 17% of the registered voters chose the Democratic candidates. That fact really makes my “gut” roil.

  8. Wow! The convention was in his backyard, yet the author of 406 Politics does not have a Tweet, tidbit, or post about the event. Am I missing something?

  9. Dear Cowgirl:
    You missed the mark regarding the contested Chair’s race.

    Here’s the real story:
    Democrats gather every two years to elect Officers. There was NO disagreement regarding what Democrats accomplished during the legislature – which was a lot in spite of anarchists masquerading as public servants under a Republican banner. There were no ideological purity tests. There were no circular firing lines. There were differing points of view on how to elect more Democrats. Each team played well and one team scored more points. Back to work.

    “A woman named Louise Bruce”

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