It’s time to take a deeper look at the election results in Montana.
First, the obvious and very bright news. The Governor’s race ended at about a 4 point margin for Bullock, with the governor receiving slightly over 50%, and so state government will largely remain in the hands of normal people, not ideologic loons. Bullock earned a second term as a common sense leader who has stewarded a strong economy. Gianforte was dragged down by his own past associations with extremist causes, controversies and ideas. His message did not quite captivate, nor did his attacks seem to draw much blood because there really wasn’t much to attack Bullock on, so Gianforte faced a difficult task.
The result itself was not surprising since the Cowgirl Polling Average had it between 6 and 7 and the last vestiges of undecided voters usually break toward the challenger in the final days.
But we should thank Steve Bullock for delivering the win, for this time would be truly dark without his victory. Comically, the GOP declared today that because they picked up a few legislative seats, that they will now demand concessions conservative agenda. Well, it doesn’t work that way. Bullock might be constrained by budgetary realities, but he has built up a massive surplus. Bills are passed by a majority of lawmakers – not at the whim of the GOP hardliners in the tinfoil hats.
As for the State Auditor, Secretary of State and School Superintendent races, the results were not entirely surprising. Matt Rosendale and Corey Stapleton had run a combined four times for statewide office and Elsie Arntzen is a long serving Billings-area state Senator which means her name is exposed to a large population center. Melissa Romano, a stellar candidate who did the best of any Dem in the tier B statewide races, I hope will be back. But again, a tidal wave goes in only one direction and cannot be ducked under. It was simply a bad year to run for state office. It took close to seven million for Bullock to keep his distance from Gianforte. What chance did minor candidates with little name ID have in such a year?
The Attorney General’s race was never competitive because Larry Jent was a very late entry with little support. Nor was the congressional race really up for grabs although Denise Juneau gave it her best. That house seat is (maybe) winnable only under extreme conditions, meaning when it’s an open seat, when it’s a big Democratic year. Look for Juneau to run for something else in the future, perhaps Governor.
One bright spot: Jill Stein did not receive sufficient votes to create an automatic ballot spot for the Green Party, meaning that the Libertarians will continue to spoil the fun for Republicans but no minor party will affect Democrats. That’s important for Jon Tester in 2018.