Category Archives: 2014 Elections

GOP Leaders Caught Trying to Keep Constitutional Problems with Bills Secret, Dems Call Foul

On Friday morning at 7am, democrats in the legislature succeeded in forcing GOP leadership to reverse their edict that legal memos detailing constitutional problems with bills be removed from the public LAWS website.

In 2013, the MT legislature, through its official Legislative Council made a bi-partisan decision to make the legal review notes created by legislative staff and attorneys public documents.  Every bill undergoes a legal review, and if there are potential problems with the US or federal constitution and other major case laws there was a memo created and those documents were public.

But in 2015, the GOP leadership of the legislature directed its staff to take those documents–and any references to them in the LAWS system–down from the website .   Instead, the GOPers told their staff to keep them in the offices of the legislative staff where most citizens will never see them, and even require members of the public to sign them out when they ask to see the public documents so that the GOP leaders could know who was looking for them. The GOP is very “pro-privacy” when it comes to themselves, but when it comes to what you do, they must know, you see.

Thes Republicans apparently don’t want the public–or the press–to know if their bills have constitutional problems.  This is counter to democracy and good government.

Even legislative staff noted that they had been asked if there were legal review notes in committees, only to have GOP leadership get angry that the staff had answered honestly that such a note exists.  Rep. Essmann (R-TEA Billings) expressed his personal belief that if a law was passed by the legislature, it simply  was constitutional just because the legislature passed it, until a court challenged the law.

Anyway you can see why democrats complained that the notes had been hidden and removed from the website, and the legislative council on Friday morning, January 30, passed a motion to reiterate that the documents needed to be public again – as the legislative council had already affirmed –  with some additional language clarifying for legislators what legal review means.  Sen. Session also asked that the GOP leaders in the future not make unilateral decisions, but take them to the legislative council, which is the process set up for managing legislative staff.  The change was made Friday am as part of a Legislative Council committee meeting.



Republicans Get Calls to Stick with Their Leader on Undemocratic Rules

Interesting developments yesterday on the rules of the Montana Legislature.  Cowgirl tipsters are reporting that Montana Republican lawmakers got calls from Zinke and Daines, members of the the most unpopular U.S. Congress ever (with only a 10% approval rating) telling them what to do to ensure that the will of the people of Montana never sees the light of day.

Here’s what’s happened.

John Adams reports today that new proposed rule to grant speaker of the House Austin Knudsen what members of his own party called an “insanely powerful tool” to basically kill any bill he didn’t like–and require a super-majority instead of a majority to stop him– was rescinded by Democrats and Republicans alike in a unanimous vote of the house rules committee under considerable public pressure and outrage.

The Cowgirl blog was the first to report on the proposed new rule here. So far I haven’t seen reporting on whether the GOP will also canceled its proposed new rules to ban all members of the public from the house floor at all times and ban technology from legislative committees.

But Cowgirl tipsters are reporting a disturbing occurrence related to these rules changes yesterday–indeed an effort to quash, at least for now, a bipartisan coalition of legislators who were  working to fix another problematic supermajority rule in the house.

A small faction of GOP leadership, who set up the committees and also decide which bills go to which committees, have the singular ability to create “kill committees” –committees that they can control to ensure no bill they don’t want pass will ever even get to be considered by the majority of the Montana legislature.   These shenanigans can only be overridden by a supermajority of the legislature as a whole through what is colloquially called a “blast motion”–and a 60 vote supermajority.  Anyway this bipartisan coalition saw that this rule too was contrary to a fair public process and the concept of majority rule, so they had planned to also change this rule.

That is, until, Cowgirl tipsters say, Republican lawmakers started getting calls from Congressman Zinke and TEA Party Sen. Steve Daines – urging them to “stick with their leaders” and leave their supreme powers untouched.   Thus, tipsters say, at least at the committee stage, Knudsen lost his new power to send any bill back to committee to be killed but retained his powers to keep bills in certain committees from advancing in the first place.

This folks is the hard-right GOP’s brand of governing.  We shall see what happens when the rules resolution goes back to the house floor for a vote.  If Montana Republicans are going to continue to follow the orders of and strive to emulate the U.S. Congress, so too will their own approval ratings.

UPDATE: Sources report that the GOP also agreed to remind their proposed rule change to ban the public from the House Floor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  If you are a member of the public you may now enter the House Floor except at limited times–unless you are registered as a lobbyist, in which case you remain banned. 


Cowgirl Blog’s Top Posts of 2014

Happy New Year readers and tipsters.  Here’s a recap of the top ten Cowgirl Blog posts from 2014.

10. TEA Party Leader Jason Priest Arrested. Cowgirl Blog was the first to report this story. Priest was an important figure because he is the rebel leader in the civil war within the Republican Party and runs a dark money group called Montana Growth Network, which was revealed to be behind a major effort to defeat moderate Republicans and even take over the Montana Supreme Court.  Priest also used his dark money group to lead the charge against Medicaid coverage for the working poor last session.  He served as Chair of the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee and as vice-Chair of the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services during the 2013 legislature.  Some of his considerable wealth has come from auctioning off the medical debt of people who can’t afford health care. An interesting letter to the editor was published in the Billings Gazette during the 2011 legislative session which asks about the potential conflict of interest incurred by state Senator Jason Priest. Priest sponsored a bill that could reap financial benefits for the medical debt collection industry he comes from and lead the effort to block tens of thousands of working poor Montanans from getting health coverage through Medicaid–even though the federal government would pick up most of the tab.

9. Dems Make Amanda Curtis U.S. Senate Candidate The enthusiasm generated by Amanda Curtis’ candidacy for U.S. senate shows what a bright future Curtis has in Montana politics – and made this one of the year’s most-read posts.

8. House Republicans Off to a Bad Start with Illegal Secret Meeting First, Republicans were busted by reporters holding a secret caucus in the basement of a Helena hotel.  Now, they’ve proposed a new rule that would bar members of the public from the house floor entirely.  Taking such extreme measures to keep the public out of the lawmaking process is a disturbing trend that does not bode well for the 2015 session.

7. Corporation Seeks to Bypass Politicians and Just Buy a Montana Law  In 2014, a national corporation has decided to get around the corporate campaign donation and dark money group process and just buy the laws directly. Charter Communications tried, and failed to use paid signature gatherers to get its own personal ballot initiative on the ballot to force Montanans to pay its taxes.  Montanans were outraged and Charter failed to gather enough signatures to get their scheme on the ballot.

6. Daines Caught Pretending to Support Meals on Wheels While Voting to End the Program  Congressman Daines’ hypocrisy reached new heights last year when posted a staged Meals on Wheels photo op on Facebook to imply he supports the program.  In reality, Daines voted to cut anti-hunger programs that would have left mostly children, seniors and veterans without food.

5. For the Record: New GOP Legislator Has a Record for Assaulting a Minor If you google  Republican legislator Gilbert Bruce Meyers (R-Box Elder) some disturbing information comes up. The GOP legislator was convicted of assault on a minor for abusing his own children, which is a felony, and sentenced to four years in prison. Meyers appears on the Correctional Offender website known as Conweb.  You can see his profile here. 

4. Questions Emerge About Potential Conflict of Interest Between Mailergate and Silicon Valley Start-up In a bizarre development in the Montana Supreme Court race,  Stanford “researchers,” along with a researcher at Dartmouth College, sent 100,000 fake “voter guides” into Montana, with the look and feel of official state voter guides instructing Montana voters to make a partisan decision on the non-partisan MT Supreme Court race. The mailers became a national scandal. The New York Times even reported on the the story, citing the Cowgirl Blog in the article.

3. GOP Packs Education Committee with Homeschoolers, Crackpots, and Convicts  Now that the large-scale assault on public education is beginning to be exposed by the Montana press, the make up of the House Education committee is particularly troubling. Just this year, Montana PBS captured Montana Family Foundation leader Jeff Laszloffy claiming on camera –over and over again–that there was “no connection, absolutely none” between his public school privatization campaign and bill last session and ALEC.

The PBS expose then shows how Laszloffy’s bill is almost a word for word copy of the ALEC model bill.  When Laszloffy tries to claim that charter schools aren’t for-profit corporations,  the piece shows financial and investment reports showing the high profitability of these private charter schools. The documentary also exposes how ALEC funded the PR campaign Laszloffy used to push these private charter schools in Montana–and many other connections between ALEC and the Montana Family Foundation.

These connections include jointly funded surveys by ALEC and the Family Foundation and articles trumpeting the Family Foundation private school push, all of which appear in Laszloffy’s group’s legislative testimony.    The ALEC bill Laszloffy was caught on tape lying about was sponsored by none other than Speaker Austin Knudson.  You can watch the entire expose online here.

2. TEA Party-Militia Plot Unearthed in Bozeman When the 2014 election season began, the Cowgirl Blog uncovered a nasty plot afoot in Gallatin county and elsewhere, hatched by the local conservatives.  It was dirty, below-the-belt, highly dishonest stuff.  Embarrassed at the fact that they have become a national joke, the right-wing of the conservative movement resorted to an attempt to invade and infect the Democratic Party, Trojan Horse style, and take it over.  Eight  local Tea Partiers filed paperwork to run as Democrats for local legislative races.   The Bozeman Chronicle and the Great Falls Tribune both looked into the plot and found additional candidates and shadiness.

1. GOP Legislature Releases Mandatory Dress Code, Modesty Standard for Women  At this point, most of America has heard of this latest embarrassing behavior from the far-right wing of the Montana GOP.  The New York Times reported this story too, which also the cited the Cowgirl Blog.


Dirk Adams Unloads on Democrats

Dirk Adams, who lost in the primary to John Walsh and then to Amanda Curtis in the special nominating convention this summer, recently mailed a five page screed to Montana Democrats, explaining why the election was lost, how it could have been won, and where Democrats have gone astray.  I’ve obtained a copy.

In sum, Adams implies in this document that had he been the US Senate candidate, Democrats would have won.

Specifically, he says that Democrats’ failure to motivate voters was due to the fact that the party does not stand for anything; and, that there are important issues in Montana which the Democratic nominee should have spoken up about.  Adams lists these issues:  The need for more food scientists (“there is not a single one in Montana), cleaner water in the Berkeley Pit,  (“No Democrat spoke to the Pit this cycle.  Why not?”), and the need for fiber optic cable (“You want your children to stay in Montana? Give them fiber optic cable, not a coal shovel”).

Democrats, Adams says, should have campaigned on these matters because they are “real ideas” and not the “vacuous political jabberwocky and pablum” that we heard from candidates in 2014.  Adams also blames the loss on what he calls the “Big Sky Buy-off,” a term actually coined by the GOP to refer to the choice of John Walsh by Bullock.  Adams calls Walsh’s appointment “a shabby and selfish gimmick” paid for by “the DC guys.”

Adams’ letter, overall, has something of a sore loser’s tone.  He’s not wrong to say that Democrats needed a better game in 2014 and that the two federal candidates might have honed a more penetrating message.   But the blaming of Bullock for choosing Walsh is absurd.  Walsh was an obvious choice and a strong one, for nobody could have foreseen the revelation about his plagiarism.   Harry Reid had nothing to do with it.

And the idea that Adams, who got around 10% in the primary, could have been the answer to our problems because he would have campaigned on the importance of the Berkeley Pit, fiber optic cable and food scientists is equally bizarre.   Ultimately, Adams is making the mistake of discounting the negative effect of the weight of Obama, whose dismal job approval in Montana dragged Democrats down irreparably.  It’s why we got clobbered, and there’s not much we could have done about it.  That’s reality.

You can read the letter here: dirkadamsletter



Lone Male TEA Party GOP Leader Poses as Non-Partisan Women’s Group to Back Local TEA Party Candidate

New TEA Party Plot to Defraud Voters Comes to Light

TEA Party Republicans in Montana know their ideology is so out-of-touch that Montanans wouldn’t support them if they knew the truth about their beliefs.  So they’ve resorted to dirty, dishonest plots to deceive voters about their candidates.  Here is the latest.

TEA Party Republican Bob Brown, of Sanders County, was elected after the local GOP took out ads claiming the local women's civics group endorsed him, they didn't.

TEA Party Republican Bob Brown, of Sanders County, was elected after the local GOP took out ads claiming the local women’s civics group endorsed him, they didn’t.

The male leader of the Sanders County Republican Party filed paperwork with the state to claim ownership over the name of a local non-partisan women’s group called Women for a Better Sanders County.  He then took out ads in the local paper claiming the group supported TEA Party Republican Bob Brown for legislature.  Brown won.  The Missoulian reported the story this week.

This is the only the latest in a series of deceptive plots hatched by TEA Party republicans to deceive the voters of Montana.

This spring a bunch of TEA Partiers filed paperwork to run as Democrats for local legislative races. 

TEA Party legislator Debra Lamm, the Montana Family Foundation’s lobbyist, used a fake address on her campaign materials to imply that she actually lived in the district she now represents (she doesn’t.)  Lamm won.

Cascade County TEA Party leader Cyndi Baker, who ran for school board this may, created a separate fake organization called “Parents Coalition of for Accountability in Schools” to imply that there was a group supporting her campaign for school board. No such organization exists.  Baker did not win.

But only Dick Wells, who is vice-Chair of the Sanders County GOP, went so far as to pretend that an established, respected, legitimate group supported the local TEA Party candidate.  And get this, when the Missoulian asked him:

if he felt it was deceptive for a lone male to purchase “Women for a Better Sanders County” for the purpose of publicly endorsing a political candidate, Wells said no.

Wells said the name was his because he “bought and paid for it” by filing some forms with the Secretary of State.

If this isn’t voter fraud, I don’t know what is.

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to

…the uber-right lobbying group the Montana Family Foundation.

Let’s hear it for the Montana Family Foundation, who went all Twitter Rambo criticizing another organization–for doing the exact same thing they did.

Both organizations committed what most people would consider a minor reporting mistake – they grouped election expenditures together on the same line, instead of breaking out the races onto separate lines.  But the Family Foundation expressed outrage on social media about the error:

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The COPP ruling referenced in these tweets says Planned Parenthood reported their expenditure incorrectly because it lumped mailers it sent together into one reporting line (instead of breaking it out per candidate).

But what takes these statements beyond annoying faux outrage and into the realm of rank hypocrisy is that this is exactly how the Montana Family Foundation reported its own expenditures, for the exact same election cycle, as you can see from this screenshot.  The full MFF filing is here.

The complaint against Planned Parenthood was also crowed over by Tonya Shellnut, another of the Montana GOP’s hypocrisy heroines. Shellnut ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Mary McNally in Billings, with the backing of the Montana Family Foundation of course.

It seems hypocrisy is the backbone of the Montana Family Foundation.  So pat yourselves on the back Laszloffy and crew. You’ve wowed us once again.


GOP Legislature Releases Mandatory Dress Code, Modesty Standard for Women

GOP also decrees:  Don’t get caught in fleece, jersey, or open-toed sandals

The TEA Party House Republican leadership of the 2015 legislature has issued a new edict, the first of its kind that I have seen.

Because they love freedom and personal liberty, they’ve issued a formal mandatory dress code for anyone who seeks to be allowed into the House floor.  Besides demanding “business formal” dress, the new decree calls on women to mind their necklines and skirt lengths.   House GOP leadership are empowered to police the new edict.

This important policy is written in all capital letters, of course, because what else would you  expect from world-class leaders.

Since this new dress code is not particularly clear, the Cowgirl Blog has provided a handy guide below.   After all, the dress code is not just for legislators but also for “LEGISLATIVE STAFF, MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA, INTERNS AND AIDES” who  “MUST ALSO ABIDE BY THIS POLICY IF ON THE FLOOR WHILE THE BODIES ARE GAVELED INTO SESSION.”

Once you see what’s in the dress code, it’s clear it is targeted at women–and probably reporters.  After all, reporters are really the only people who can access the house floor besides the legislators’ own staff–and a handful of high school “pages.”  Last session, reporters were required for the first time to get special permission or “passes” to be on the House Floor at all.  Then the next thing we know, the senate president is looking into evicting the Associated Press from its capital office. Now this. But let’s get right to the dress code. There are eight rules in the edict, however, rule #6 was not released and we must presume it is being kept secret for some reason.

UPDATE:  GOP Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen is now  blaming his staffer for the dresscode, as you can see in the Bozeman Chronicle article that just came out.

First,  women are ordered to be “SENSITIVE TO SKIRT LENGTHS AND NECKLINES.”

(No similar guidance was provided to men to be mindful of tight or sagging pants and hideously short eagle-carrying-an-assault-rifle-in-its-beak neckties.)

The dress code also bans leggings. The legging ban may be a dig at the young women of Skyview High School who are fighting a dress code policy that unfairly targets young women in Billings.

So leggings are out, as are open toed sandals.  However, under this dress code concealed carry holsters under beige suits with bolo ties would definitely be okay –at least once the legislature passes the obligatory “concealed carry for everyone” bill the TEA Party introduces every year. 


Next, I see that “FLEECE AND JERSEY (SWEATSHIRT) MATERIAL ARE NOT CONSIDERED “BUSINESS FORMAL.”  Somebody needs to tell the dudes that wrote this that jersey and sweatshirt material are two entirely different things, but alas until then the rule stands.  Jersey tops like this are banned:

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While this polyester number as shown on former TEA Party Sen. Joe Balyeat is just dandy:



It also appears that men and women are required to wear suits, or suit jackets at all times or, for women  “a suit-like dress” may be worn, whatever that is.  Unfortunately, that means some of the clothing worn by GOP lawmakers in their own official legislative photos does not meet the new code.

This attire on GOP Rep. Christie Clark is now banned:

christy clark 2

Rep. Christy Clark (R-Choteau)

Also banned would be any reporter who showed up to help inform the public dressed like this – as cardigans have been nixed:


While this garb (the closest thing I could find that might resemble the item supposedly known as a “suit-like dress,” and which ceased to be made 30 years ago) would be allowed:


suit-like dress


The dress code also specifies that “JEANS OR DENIM MATERIAL, INCLUDING COLORED DENIM, IS NOT ALLOWED.”  Which means the apparel worn by TEA Party Rep. Nancy Ballance would be banned:

Nancy Ballance


No mention is made of Colonel Sanders ties, but this must be an oversight and I expect further guidance on this Montana Legislature wardrobe staple soon (shown on former TEA Party Rep. Alan Hale).


Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 8.44.49 PM


But it when it comes to requiring respectful behavior, there are some who would say this dress code appears to be geared more toward cracking down on women than on respectful behavior from men.

(I mean, it certainly would make everyone happier if men were more sensitive about the length of athletic shorts worn at the house/senate basketball game and if all Looney Tunes and Tasmanian devil ties were burned – but the dress code makes no mention of these.)

Instead of forcing backward modesty standards on women, here are some guidelines that the 64th Legislature would do better to adopt:

1. Legislators shall not refer to women as livestock, farm equipment, or household pets – and when debating a bill on breast cancer prevention, shall not berate their colleagues for supporting the “boob bill.”

2. Legislators shall take a breathalyzer test before they are allowed a vote, since they seem to think drug tests should be mandated on poor families.

3. High school pages shall be allowed to learn about the legislative process and not relegated to fetching 57 ice-cream sandwiches a day while being ogled creepily.

4. Legislators shall stop trying trying to hide their actions and true plans from the public and the press.

Bozeman Chronicle reporter Troy Carter tweeted a reaction from House minority whip Rep. Jenny Eck (D-Helena) this morning.  Eck said dems had nothing to do with the dress code.

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2015 Legislative Caucuses Meet Today

How this work – and what it means

Today, Montana’s new and returning legislators will convene for the first time to get some training, meet as R and D caucuses, and vote for leadership.

In the 2015 session there are a number of candidates vying for these offices.  Usually those who are seeking to become the leaders of a chamber reach out to members of their caucus to run for the office.  You’ll also often see those seeking leadership positions attempting to position themselves in the press or social media as leaders – or as attack dogs on the Governor or opposing party.

Today, the Rs will meet on the third floor to “caucus,” while D’s meet on the first.  Then the leadership selection process will begin. Until leaders are chosen,  the person of each caucus with the most seniority traditionally leads the caucus meeting and leadership selection to make it fair if leadership positions are contested.

Then those running for leadership need to be nominated and seconded for Speaker of the House or Senate president.  The nominators and seconders both must give a speech telling their fellow lawmakers why those they are supporting should be their leaders.   After that the candidates for Senate President and Speaker of the House give their own speeches.

Interestingly, members of the caucuses still vote by secret ballot and often the ballot count is never revealed and only known by counters, who must ensure the leader gets at least 50% of the vote or set up a run off.  I’m wondering whether this secrecy is actually allowed given MT open record laws and that caucuses are public meetings in Montana.  Legislators’ other votes are public too.

Leadership positions are very important because leadership of each body not only sets the tone of the session but, in the House, the leader is solely responsible for choosing committee chairs and committee members.  Also, it is the Senate President and the House Speaker who in the final days of the session will negotiate a budget with Governor Bullock.  Don’t let anyone tell you that someone wacky is the best fit for these jobs.  The budget and the committee makeup is too important. It needs to be someone who can work with both sides or nothing will be accomplished.  If the house alienates itself too much from the senate and the executive branch – either through leadership choices or committees or both — then it’s members may find themselves outside the loop and not involved when it comes to key negotiations, decisions, and bill passage.

Senate President

Senate President: In the Senate, the to position is the Senate President and she or he will effectively be chosen today by the Republicans as the majority party in that body, although there is an official confirmation vote on the first day of the session to elect this person.

Senate Committees

In the Senate, unlike in the House, a “Committee on Committees” will be elected today to choose who will serve on each senate committee.  This means senate Committee Chairs and membership will not be announced prior to the session beginning in January. The Committee on Committees will likely have Rs and Ds both.

Speaker of the House

Speaker of the House is the leader of the House, and is chosen like the Senate President, with an official vote of the full House on day one of the 2015 session. Because the four positions I just mentioned get voted on by the full membership of each body, depending on how this plays out and who is running, dems could play a role in the selection of the top two leadership positions of each body.

House Committees

In the House, the Speaker of the House personally chooses the committee leadership for every house committee.  For this reason, it is not likely that the committee chairs and membership will be announced today either.

Senate Pro-Tem and House Pro-Tem

Each body will also elect a Pro-Tem – basically a number two to the Senate President and Speaker.  The duties of this position are pretty much whatever they President and Senate want them to be – these two jobs get an official vote of the full house and senate on the first day of the session too.

Majority and Minority Leaders and Whips

Both the senate and the house each get a majority leader and a minority leader whose jobs it will be to serve as spokespeople for their parties during floor sessions (making objections, asking questions, etc).  Each caucus will also have whip positions who are supposed to “whip” their caucuses into voting together. Only the caucuses vote for these positions, not the full house and senate.

The house and the senate operate independently even if they are controlled by the same party – and the chambers do not always agree.  Typically near the end of the session it is the President and Speaker that complete the final budget negotiations with the Governor, this is why these roles are so important and why it is important that rational individuals and moderate Republicans are in these posts.

Each chamber functions under its own rules that are adopted by the bodies on the first day of session.  While many of the rules are the same in each body there are some significant differences.  There are also partisan differences in each body.  Not only has the house traditionally been more partisan and fractious than the senate, but word on the street is that the Senate’s moderating power will be greater this time because some of the most right-wing senators have moved over to the house.

These changes, plus the natural differences and division between the two bodies traditionally, provide use some clues about how the fault lines of the 2015 session will reveal themselves.

Additionally, it is important to remember that the GOP does not have a veto-proof majority and so will need to work with Governor Bullock in order to accomplish anything.

Committee Membership Selection

In the House, the Speaker appoints all committee’s membership and determines who is to chair each.  This gives the Speaker of the House a lot of power – power which has often been used to appoint imbeciles as chairs of key house committees.

There are several rumors circulating about who will run for leadership in the House.  For the R’s, Austin Knudson,  Steve Fitzpatrick and Ron Ehli are both said to be running for something. For the D’s Chuck Hunter, Pat Noonan, Bryce Bennett, Ellie Hill.

In the senate, those rumored to be running include Debby Barrett, Scott Sales, Mark Blasdel, Fred Thomas (architect of two of the worst MT laws –  deregulation and term limits),  and Jennifer Fielder (who has militia ties) are both said to be seeking some position.  This is frightening.  The GOP lacks women in both houses, and we will likely see some tokenism in play here to make it seem otherwise.  For the dems Jon Sesso is among the names being discussed for Minority Leader.

GUEST POST: Your Vote Counts

By Mary Ann Dunwell

Mary Ann Dunwell is Representative-elect to Montana House District 84. She was the progressive democratic candidate and will propose progressive democratic policies to help every Montanan enjoy equal opportunity to succeed. She welcomes your questions or comments at 461-5358

The tight race for Montana House District 84 underscores why it’s so important we exercise our right to vote, our fundamental freedom in a democracy. So many people sacrificed so much for this right, especially veterans who we honor on Veterans Day and every day. By the end of election night, I was up by a mere 20 votes. With provisional ballots counted late this afternoon, we won by 23 votes. I am honored, humbled and don’t take this slim lead for granted. I will represent all Montanans.

This is a win for the young mom I spoke with who was fired from her minimum wage job because she couldn’t get a sitter for her sick child; for the woman with tears in her eyes who asked if I would fight for low income people; for the young couple earning minimum wage struggling to support their family; for the young adults who want to go to college but can’t stomach sky-high loans; for the four-year-old whose young mom can’t qualify for Head Start or afford pre-K; for the woman working a $300-a-week job with no health insurance and living in pain; for the mom whose daughter committed suicide, the sister whose brother took his life, and the mom who struggles to find mental health care for a child. It’s a win for so many others whose voices haven’t been heard.

Thank you to our many supporters who stepped up with me and invested their time, energy and money in our grassroots campaign. You gave up something in exchange for something much greater in which we can all believe – equal opportunity for all Montanans. For those who were not able to vote, I encourage you to please register and vote the next time. Thank you to those who voted this time. Your vote will resonate at the Capitol. Your vote will make sure the people’s voice is heard in the people’s house.

Your vote counts.

Pick Your Heads Up, Democrats

I’ve seen commentary from Democrats on this blog and on Twitter in the days since the election, declaring the Montana election results to be some sort of abject and tragic failure on the part of Democratic candidates, the party, and so on.

That is simply not true.  We did as well as could have been expected.  All of the post mortem commentary leaves one thing out: Democrats in Montana essentially won every race that was winnable. The federal contests never revealed themselves, in pre-election polling dating back 12 months, to be winnable races.  Even though she ran a good race and fought the good fight and generated some buzz, Amanda Curtis never had anything but a highly remote  statistical chance at becoming senator, a miracle required.  It was almost the same for John Lewis.  In a big Democratic year and with a full year or two to campaign, things might have been different. But Amanda was always behind by at least 15 points and Lewis 10, and even if she had lit some type of rare fire and started to tear down Steve Daines, he would have unleashed another three or four million dollars against her, as would the Republican party.  Daines and Zinke were solid Republican candidates in a Republican year in a Republican state. What Lewis and Curtis were each looking for was a monumental upset.  It is not a failure that they did not achieve one.  This was an impossible year for Democrats to send a person to Washington.  It’s just that simple.

The same can be said about our local races–we won what was winnable and we are one of only five states in America where democrats gained legislative seats.  That’s a pretty impressive thing in my view.  And the most important winnable race of all, we won big–the Supreme Court.

So that’s the first point.   The second point is that I would caution people to be careful about simply accepting all of the theories being pushed out there about why Democrats lost.   Because the main and most simple theory is most certainly the correct one:  Montana will not send a Democrat to Washington in a year in which we have a democratic (not to mention black) president at 28% in the polls, in a midterm year, who is fairly inept at articulating what he stands for or believes.

For those who believe that the Democrats should unabashedly come out against the Keystone pipeline, or unabashedly for a pro-immigration position, I have news for you: such positions are extremely unpopular in states like Montana, and very polarizing too. The greenlighting of the Keystone pipeline, for example, is supported by 85% of Montana voters.  Coming out strongly against it, and shouting it from the mountaintop, provides no electoral benefit.

Nationally, I’m not sure that the analysis is much different.  The election was a platform for voters to make an anti-Obama statement, and there’s not much a democrat can do when that’s what an election is about.