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.