Guest Post: Montana Gets a Special Election

by Progressive Cow


Ryan Zinke’s at Interior.  All in all, it could be worse. Zinke, for those don’t remember, was once a moderate Republican state legislator from liberal Whitefish who once supported many things environmental, as well as basic abortion rights too (his position on abortion in his state legislature days was “government stops at the mailbox.”)  Once in Congress, he began behaving more like a Tea Partier, and will do so, in all likelihood, as SOI.  But at least we have a Montanan in there.  And of course, Jon Tester can breathe easy now.

Much more fun than a Zinke discussion is to ponder the scenario by which he will be replaced: a special election, the first in Montana since 1969.   The political parties will privately nominate candidates by convention, to run against each other in a special election which will take place about three months after the day on which Zinke resigns from Congress (unlike for Senate vacancies, there is no appointment by the governor to fill the vacancy).  So this means anywhere from April to June, in all likelihood, depending on Zinke’s confirmation.

On the Republican side, Ed Buttrey has announced that he will run.  Buttrey will have to overcome the serious obstacle of having carried the Medicaid expansion bill for Governor Bullock, not a good credential at a convention of crazies.   Richard Spencer, the neo nazi, has also declared interest.  Greg Gianforte must surely be thinking about it.  He has unlimited funds, higher name ID than anyone else, and probably feels confident that he can do what Steve Daines did–become a Congressman and then immediately run for Senate two years later.  The problem is that the several dozen lunatics who show up to the nominating caucus might not like him.   He ran a limp campaign for Governor and is viewed suspiciously by third-generation types.  Tim Fox is likewise viewed as too liberal by many GOP rank and file characters, although among the establishment he’d do well at a nominating convention.  Jeff Essmann is already kicking the tires on his own behalf, making calls.  Corey Stapleton and Matt Rosendale have just found state jobs, and it’d be surprising to see them start running for federal office so soon but if either of them did, it’d more likely be Rosendale. He has money, which will matter.   If Denny Rehberg wanted his old job back, he’d be against a field of smalltimers.  Rick Hill, who ran for governor in 2012 and was once a Congressman, could make a claim. Even Neil Livingstone is rumored to be making calls, yes, that Neil Livingstone–the one wrote a book on how to pick up a prostitute while overseas.   Tea Partiers might be hoping that Matthew Monforton of Bozeman, a blogger, legislator and first-rate crazy, will take a shot and thus give us some amusement.

On the Democratic side, look for the usual suspects–Denise Juneau, Monica Lindeen, Jesse Laslovich, Dirk Adams, and perhaps even Amanda Curtis to throw their hats in the ring.  Juneau could be perceived to be an heiress, but Curtis has one this tournament once before, at the special nominating convention in 2014 to replace Jon Walsh for the Senate.  Laslovich is nearing the end of his job for State Auditor and risks nothing. Dirk Adams, who ran for Senate in 2014, might have an equal or better claim than any of the these candidates since all of the above have been trounced recently in statewide contests, but Adams lacks political savvy and frequently misfires.  Though he does have money.  Strangely, John Bohlinger, if he could be persuaded, might actually be the strongest name if the party would consider him, because he would go big in Billings among independent voters, and put a wrench into what might otherwise be a dull and predictable loss for Dems.    Zeno Baucus, Max’s son and a prosecutor, is a name that’s been kicked around.  Name ID is always a good thing.

The big unknown, of course, is the 800 lb. gorilla, Brian Schweitzer.  It’s doubtful he’s much interested since he took a pass on an easy Senate run in 2014.  Schweitzer is now making money as a mining executive and it’s not often that politicians cash their chips out and leave the casino, and then return later and cash them back in to play some more.  The exceptions are the cases in which there’s little work to do, and this qualifies.   Schweitzer could literally show up at the convention, clear the field, take the nomination, clear out any A-listers from running on the GOP side, and then run a two-and-a-half month campaign against whatever hapless yokel the GOP puts forth.  That’d enable Democrats to take the seat for the first time in twenty four years.  


55 Comments on "Guest Post: Montana Gets a Special Election"

  1. Zinke, who used his SEAL creds against the wishes of other former SEALS, is NO friend of the enviroment.

  2. Other than Curtis, none of the potential Democratic candidates mentioned here offer much encouragement for any badly needed change in the future of the party. Time to take off the retreads and put on some new tires.

    • Describe what kind of new tires you’d like.

      • Admittedly, there is no easy answer to your question. The easy answer is anyone who isn’t part of the current Party organization. Despite a few successes the Democratic Party needs a new direction, statewide and for sure at the national level. It is obvious the present day MT voter has rejected most of who is being offered. And it may be the electorate in MT is just to hard right on the whole and it won’t matter. But it is more obvious there is nothing to lose in trying a new approach. The harder answer as to who will represent that change is yet to be determined.

  3. What about Romano– she came pretty close in Nov?

  4. this article is very nasty toward some good people, especially Amanda. She put her behind on the line in a tough campaign with little notice and almost no support from the democratic party in the state. I worked on that campaign and getting them to even produce yard signs was like pulling teeth. Denise is a good person but her energy position is no different from Stinke’s. The debate was painful listening to them try to out “I’m in favor of coal” each other. The rest of the names mentioned are all party hacks with no progressive credentials. If we want to make a difference it would be wise for the party to start begging Amanda to run. She might do it for us, but she owes the dems nothing.

    • You’ve touched on the other big challenge besides coming up with new, better candidates like Curtis and that is making changes within the Democratic Party itself, both structurally and in who is running it.

  5. Congress ‘small potatoes’ for Brian Schweitzer, who is ‘larger than life’ and wouldn’t tolerate being in the shadows of a Democratic minority in the House of Representatives with virtually no power, just doing holding actions….I’d figure Brian Schweitzer has the ‘chops’ for 2020…BIG.

  6. Adams does not enjoy a good reputation. He and his business entities are currently defending multiple lawsuits such as this one.

  7. “Tim Fox is likewise viewed as too liberal by many GOP rank and file characters”….clearly, this is another sign of the impending apocalypse.

  8. While, My First pick would be Amanda Curtis, I also see a path Forward for Denise Juneau. Had Curits had the same Amount of time, as Daines she would have whipped him easily enough for US senator. she waS DAMN CLOSE for just a couple of months campaigning!

    We need new Liberal Blood in there.

  9. I know how a lesser name Dem could win. Don’t run so much as against your opponent, run against Nancy Pelosi. Run to the middle, Testor like. Say you are going there to align with Ryan and the 63 who voted against Pelosi and promise to be a thorn in her side and the nanny staters and represent Montana values. And if the reps want to put up a nutball, hit all of the lobballs that come your way.

  10. once again Norma speaks the Truth. May I suggest one more name?

  11. What the party needs to do is anticipate what the issues will be in the late spring, early summer and find a candidate that speaks to Montanans on those issues. By the time Zinke is confirmed, the republicans will have put forth their legislative agenda.
    Then they really need to understand how the republican will vote on hose issues. Since it is likely that many of the proposals will have a negative impact on Montanans, the Democratic must link the republican candidate to those issues that have a serious negative impact on Montanans. This could be accomplished best by forcing multiple debates so that the contrast can be made.
    Amanda had Daines on the ropes, but lacked information on a few of the republican proposals. This cannot be allowed to happen again. She also had one of the best tv ads that I have ever seen. The car drove down a middle class neighborhood showing her upbringing and the American Flag being proudly flown.

    Yes I think that Amanda is the best choice.

    • Amanda also came in at a bad time for Democrats around the country, especially in Montana. But, she needs to drop the gun BS. Montanans don’t care about gun control measures. This issue along with banning coal mines shouldn’t even be a topic in Montana at this time. Guess we’ll learn the hard way again.

  12. Some further thoughts:
    1) there needs to be at least five debates, all scheduled before the mailing out of the ballots. Once the absentee ballots are mailed out and sent in, the debates become meaningless.
    2) the issue of multiple debates can be defended as a means for ALL parties to get their message out in the short time period that will be available.
    3) if the republicans don’t want the debates, there shouild be a large hue and cry over what are they trying to hide.
    40 the Democratic candidate should provide specifics rather that generalizations. When the statement comes up about the dangers of regulations, the response should be along the lines of “So you in favor of more Berkeley Pits”. Then on coal, which will definitely come up, the Democrat should quote the words of Robert Murray (CEO of Murray Coal) and the impact of declining demand on the coal industry.
    5) SPECIFICS, SPECIFICS always when providing anwswers to force the republican into corners.

  13. not a progressive cow | December 21, 2016 1:16 PM at 1:16 PM |

    “Ryan Zinke’s at Interior. All in all, it could be worse… Once in Congress, he began behaving more like a Tea Partier, and will do so, in all likelihood, as SOI. But at least we have a Montanan in there. And of course, Jon Tester can breathe easy now.”

    With attitudes like this about the environment, and Interior is the most important cabinet position affecting the lands of Montana, it’s no wonder they have lost the support of the grassroots in the state, and suffered the losses in statewide, PSC, and legislative races.

    This post by “Progressive Cow” shows a total capitulation on environmental policies by the Montana Dem party. And it presages extreme difficulty for dems to lure disaffected environmentalists into voting for “progresives” in future dem elections. If there is one thing that the Clinton debacle should have taught democrats is to not take your base for granted.

  14. Mike Jopek wrote the following at the Beacon.

    I found it hopeful that the president-elect nominated Rep. Ryan Zinke to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior. Zinke, who grew up down the street, has a good understanding of public lands issues facing our state and nation.

    Zinke helped when it came time to conserve thousands of acres of private and state public lands surrounding Whitefish. Zinke is an outdoor enthusiast. I’ve seen him towing a river raft through the streets of Whitefish numerous times, returning from floating the Flathead.

    Out of all the president-elect’s cabinet level nominations, Zinke offers the most promise to Montana. He always looked underappreciated as the sole state member of the U.S. House. Running an entire federal department of 70,000 civil servants while managing 75 percent of our federal lands will clearly articulate Zinke’s vision.

    Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines should earnestly vet Zinke’s nomination and, absent clear objections, summarily confirm him. It’s good for Montana to have one of our own leading a federal bureaucracy. Feels like a win.

    Sure, we can find plenty of policy places to disagree with Republicans like Zinke, but for today extend him the courtesy to lead. Over the course of the next probable eight years, Zinke could do a lot of good.
    ===end quote===

    If any of you don’t know who Mike Jopek is and what his politics are, do your own research.

    • Mike makes salient points. But once he becomes SecDOI, he answers not to public opinion in Montana, but to opinion in the White House — and Trump’s White House is not looking all that green at this point.

    • If Zinke offers the most promise of all Trumps appointments, then we are totally screwed. He is nothing but a suck up.

  15. Lots of good names and strategies being suggested.
    (Almost sounds like prompting the Athletic Director and Team Loyalists about what kind of strategy
    and which Coach to hire
    to make for a winning season.)

    I’m taking a different course.
    I’m telling all Democrats which person I trust.
    *To deal with Ryan’s plan for enforced austerity.
    *To deal with the New Administration.
    The name of the person that will have the respect of people in Congress.
    Democrats your best campaigner is also the person I most trust
    to stay informed and to actively represent Montana.
    I trust Amanda Curtis to stay informed. To be a cooperative worker. To keep us informed about doings in Congress.

    • If Amanda really wants a chance in Montana (along with the rest of the Democrat Party) she/they need to drop the gun control BS. Why the heck would anyone in Montana support that as a campaign issue? Good luck running with that as part of the platform.

      • James, the “whole gun control BS” is a lie I can guarantee you. It was one of many lies and exaggerations used by Amanda’s last opponent to smear her. I would guess we own more guns than the average Montanan (25+). Amanda has in fact given away two brand new beautiful rifles in raffle drawings for her non-profit community radio station in the last year, does that sound anti-gun/anti-2nd? (Please buy a raffle ticket for a rifle next year, it might be a Henry this time!) I believe the ONLY thing she has EVER said about guns is that universal background checks are a good idea so terrorist and convicted felons can’t just go to a gun show and arm-up. I know Amanda supports our entire Bill of Rights, which includes the 2nd Amendment. If you are ever in Butte you can go shooting with us at the range just behind our house. (I would post a pic of her shooting a AK-47 with the brass flying but this site won’t let me post pics.) Don’t believe the lies they are feeding you, we are very average Montanans in every way.

        • Right. Never mind. Her cynical sarcasm is a real inspiring vote getter on gun rights, religion, etc.

          • You do know that video was a hack job don’t you? It was heavily edited from more than 80 separate videos to take all her words out of context. Watch her real videos and I bet you will be surprised by what she really says, most of which I would bet you would agree with. The MTGOP paid to make a false video and lie to you. Believe the lies and liars if you want. But I speak the truth. Your choice….

        • Kevin, there are some things in her Youtube videos that make me cringe as a rural Montana Democrat. The link below (posted by Craig Mure) is a Republican hit piece, but there are some things within those videos that sabotaged her last run. I am just being honest. This is not the time in America or Montana to be bashing God and guns. Period. I am going to offer you my opinion as a rural Democrat who sees where the work needs to be done. If Montana Democrats are going to make a change, you guys have to expand the base out of the urban centers and reservations. A prime example… Bullock lost Rosebud County, a county that is pro-union and includes an Indian Reservation. Rosebud County is a prime example of the people the Democrats have left behind this past election.

          • James, you hit the nail on the head. A. Curtis has revealed her disdain for the same people that Hillary called “deplorables.” No magic words will make her video revelations disappear. These “deplorables” won Montana for Trump. Given Curtis’ documented loathing for these voters, which mirrors Hillary’s own denigration of these same hard working Montanans, just how on earth would they ever vote for her when those videos are rerun next to Hillary’s documented contempt?

          • She never bashed God or guns, you are buying into the MTGOP lie. You can edit video to make anyone say anything and that’s what the lying, deceitful, MTGOP did. But hey I guess buying into a lie is what you want to do deep in your heart.

        • People will knock me on this, but I truly believe Amanda Curtis is one of the future faces of the Democrat Party in Montana. But, hear me out…she is going to have to wait a couple of year for the pendulum to swing back. I admire her tenacity. I just think right now Montana Democrats need to channel a little more Baucus and Schweitzer and a little less Obama. People want to see Amanda out there shooting an AK-47, you’re going to have to show people that Amanda is like them and not sit on Youtube being disrespectful to Christian beliefs. If you have an hour, I recommend watching this, it’s Brian Schweitzer on MTPBS in an excellent video on what it takes. I truly believe Amanda has what it takes, but I feel her time will be the future and not necessarily the present. But, it’s important she is making her name known now. The Democrats bench is thin and we need more people like her down the road. The Schweitzer piece:

          • I’m a Democrat who does not want to see Amanda Curtis blasting away with an AK-47. I want to see her aiming verbal blasts at the reactionary Reactionary Republicans who want to gut Social Security, privatize Medicare, repeal Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, cut food stamps and nutrition programs for women, infants, and children, and reduce taxes on the rich. I want to hear her not popping away with a pistol, but popping shots at Trump’s warmongering advisors.

            Frankly, it doesn’t matter what her position on gun control is. Trump will be President, and Republicans will control Congress. If they do anything on guns, they’ll loosen laws and make it easier to pack in public and to shoot first and sort out the guilty later. If gun control becomes a major issue in the special election campaign, it will be proof that Montanans have lost their minds.

            • It doesn’t matter. Those issues didn’t matter to the people who voted for Trump last time. Guns have been an issue for the past 20 years in Montana elections!



              • In 2012 Bullock lost Rosebud County, although not by much. Tester carried it, but with a plurality, not a majority. In 2016, Bullock lost Rosebud by a large margin, and Juneau lost it by a larger margin yet. I believe they lost Rosebud because they were perceived as being insufficiently committed to mining coal and rescuing the Colstrip plants from old age and competition from other energy sources. I doubt they lost because they were deemed untrustworthy on gunpowder issues.

                I recognize but don’t share your level of concern on firearms as a political issue.

          • The “Obama” vote was for Hillary, Bernie Sanders won the Primary. Amanda is the most like Bernie of any of the Candidates.

            • Yes, for Curtis and Sanders!
              No. Christmas day was no time for guile and gall.
              Guile and gall to make Comment at Cowgirl with cheap fiction
              paste up echoes of false prophets,
              mumbling feeble aspersions against mediated illusions of a working class person,
              considering running for a possible Election to Represent Montana.

              Some Commenters got no care. No try.

  16. Amanda should obviously run. MT went for Bernie even when his campaign was effectively over. Unless a Tester replica runs, we need someone who will echo Sanders and draw the attention of Our Revolution. If the candidate can be tied to mainstream Dems, Obama, or god forbid the Clintons, we should just hand the seat to the GOP outright.

  17. I’d vote for Juneau in a heartbeat. As for guns, unfortunately the NRA would pour whatever money necessary into a campaign against anyone wanting sensible regulation. You know, like the kind you have to go through just to drive a car.

    • “unfortunately the NRA would pour whatever money necessary into a campaign against anyone wanting sensible regulation.”

      One more reason to support campaign finance reform.

    • Juneau in a heartbeat?

      But a lot of people didn’t the last time they had the opportunity.

  18. I would support Amanda Curtis,but here’s a thought to be on the safe side in such treacherous times- Baucus might be looking for a job now that the sociopath will appoint another crazy bastard for Ambassador to China

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