Amanda Curtis represents the future. Moreover, she represents the long overdue and mighty welcome resurgence of organized labor in Montana’s Democratic Party. Insofar as I can determine, she’s neither a Wall Street Democrat like Hillary Clinton, nor an acolyte of Robert Rubin or Tim Geithner. I think she’s best described as a modern lunch-bucket Democrat who isn’t afraid of the company goons and the Washington, D.C., political consultants. She’ll fight for the 99 percent — and that’s more than good enough for me.
The Democratic Special Nominating Convention is just two days away, and it’s likely Dirk Adams is worried. The contest is down to two announced candidates–Adams and Butte lawmaker Amanda Curtis, since state Sen. Dave Wanzenried has withdrawn his name from consideration. And Adams faces some heavy barriers to being chosen.
For one thing, Adams is definitely not going to want to talk about his support for Citizen’s United, since those voting Saturday have organized rallies and letters to the editor campaigns against the decision. Central committee leaders across the state collected signatures to pass the nation’s first ballot initiative against Citizens United. They’ve driven to Helena to testify in the legislature against election corruption and they’ve organized fundraisers across the state for candidates who championed democratic opposition to the Supreme Court decision that said corporations are people.
This isn’t going to be easy for Adams to evade. Adams is already on the record saying in the Bozeman Chronicle that he supports Citizen’s United, a sentiment he echoed on his campaign website. “I think the Citizens United case was properly decided based on the U.S. Constitution and legal precedent,” Adams wrote.
Adams will also be hoping to avoid discussing Saturday his role in the subprime mortgage crisis. As Politico reported, Dirk Adams was the director of bank that closed because of “questionable” activities. Adams was also executive vice president at Golden West Financial and World Savings. These were among the first banks to sell the risky home loans that led to the banking collapse and subsequent financial crisis, Politico reported. As has already been pointed out, “that background makes Adams an odd fit for a party that’s loudly denounced the predatory ways of big banks.”
A rare, intimate variety of democracy will take its course Saturday morning at the county fairgrounds in Helena, Montana, when the Democratic Party chooses a nominee to replace John Walsh.
Nobody in Montana politics can recall anything quite like this event, so it should make for good theater. Oddly, the proceedings will be both less and more democratic than a normal primary. A small group of party officers from around the state–no more than 175 delegates and possibly as few as 50– will choose the nominee in a caucus. That’s a lot of power in a small group. However, the two most powerful figures in the party–the sitting Democratic senator and governor–don’t appear at this point to have expressed a preference. Which means that Saturday might be, for lack of a better term, a free-for-all. And that’s a good thing, and for bloggers especially.
A candidate that breaks through and excite voters is urgently required. The Governor vetoed 71 bills last session, each bill more idiotic than the next, but if we lose seats he might be unable to sustain his vetoes. Thus the Senate race is perhaps less important than the state legislature in my opinion. Please consult this list of what they’ve proposed in recent years. Greatest hits include House Bill 549, “A Bill To declare that Global Warming is Good for Montana.” This season they are proposing a law that will let sheriffs arrest anyone who tries to implement the Affordable Care Act. There is also a Tea Party-generated ballot measure this year to make voter registration more difficult. Democrats need a showing at the polls to kill it.
Three types of candidates could in theory present themselves on Saturday–big, medium and small. The “big” category, unfortunately, is an empty set. It consists only of two people who could immediately put Daines on the run–Bullock and Schweitzer–both very popular, but both of whom have said they won’t be running.
“Medium” includes politicians whose names many Montana voters are familiar with. But since every current statewide office-holder already sent their regrets (as has Nancy Keenan, former NARAL Pro-Choice America chief and former state superintendent of Montana schools), there’s only one medium sized candidate: John Bohlinger, the former Lt. Governor under Schweitzer. Bohlinger ran and lost to Walsh in the primary but he blames the loss on Harry Reid for having anointed Walsh and sent resources his way (Reid called Bohlinger earlier this year and tried to push him out of the race). There are many party activists who enjoy Bohlinger, but a few who must be persuaded that he no longer harbors any affiliation to Republican causes.
The remainder of the candidates have small followings even if they have big potential. They largely unknown to most Montana voters and include three state legislators–Dave Wanzenried (trucking company employee from Missoula) and Amanda Curtis (teacher from Butte)–as well as Dirk Adams (Wilsall), a former mortgage banker and now rancher who ran against Bohlinger and Walsh in the democratic Party but got only 15% to Bohlinger’s 25% and Walsh’s 60%.
Others have made oblique statements that fall short of committing to a candidacy, or have tried to get surrogates to tweet things like “I’m hearing that so and so is getting into the race.” But this does not count. If you want it, stand up and say so.Tweet
This weekend, Montana democrats sent out an email outlining how the process will unfold.
First, the delegates will vote on a convention chair and adopt rules for the selection process. Next, convention delegates, and convention delegates only, will nominate people they think should become the replacement candidate. On the one hand, this means no one may put their name forward unless a delegate nominates them. It also could mean that a delegate could put a name forward of someone who has previously said no, which could be interesting.
Next, the delegates get 30 minutes to discuss the nominees, but no delegate may speak for more than one minute.
Following this, there will be speeches from the nominees. I haven’t yet seen anything outlining the time limits for these speeches, but there will need to be some limit set so that the process is fair–and so that the windbaggery from some is kept to a minimum. Finally, the delegates will vote.
Paper ballots will be passed out, and delegates must sign their name in order for their vote to be counted. It is not known, however, whether these ballots will be make public. If the nominee gets more than 50 percent of the votes, than she or he becomes the candidate. If not, the person with the fewest number of votes gets taken off the ballot, and everyone will vote again.
The nominating convention, scheduled for August 16 at 9am, will be open to the public, and I hope someone makes it available via streaming video online.
UPDATE: The MDP has sent out a link this morning to a new website with info about the process.
UPDATE: Tipsters report Franke Wilmer is no longer running because she is staying in her legislative race. The legislative races are undoubtedly this cycle’s most important.
If there is someone you like that’s not on the list, let me know in the comments.Tweet
With the announcement that John Walsh has departed the Senate race, the Democratic party is planning a date TBD next week as the nominating convention for Walsh’s replacement. The “central committee” will decide the matter. This group is composed of 175 or so party officers such as county chairs and vice chairs, all members of the executive board, presidents of each chartered Democratic organization, and the elected positions of Lt. Gov, Clerk of the Supreme Court, and Public Service Commissioner. They will descend upon Helena and convene at a TBD location and time probably in the next week to choose a replacement candidate.
Lots of rumors so far as to who will show up to make their case to the delegates, but so far only three candidates have actually said publicly that they will try for the nomination: Dirk Adams, Franke Wilmer and Dave Wanzenried. Two of them, Wilmer and Wanzenried, have excellent legislative careers and Dirk Adams was one of the few who stepped up to run in the primary.
Brian Schweitzer sent his regrets today; Nancy Keenan, widely speculated as the leading replacement candidate, is on record saying that she is not interested. Monica Lindeen also declined as has Denise Juneau.
One name not recently discussed in any great length, but which bears consideration or at least musing because he is one of only two people who could start out in the lead against Daines, is Steve Bullock. He’s 20 points more popular than Daines and even if he lost he’d still be employed. But alas Bullock poured water on this idea today. He’s not in the mix.
Many tips have come in today to my tip line about other names, and there has been rampant twitter speculation about many others. These include John Bohlinger, Linda McCulloch, Carl Borgquist (Bozeman), Ed Smith (Helena), Pam Bucy (Helena) Amanda Curtis (Butte), Mike Phillips (Bozeman), former Schweitzer staffers Dan Villa (Anaconda) and Eric Stern (Helena), Carol Williams (Missoula), Anna Whiting Sorrell (St. Ignatius), Diane Smith (Whitefish), Jacquie Helt (Helena), Elizabeth Best (Great Falls), Casey Schreiner (Great Falls), Kim Abbott (Helena), and Mike Cooney (Helena).
This as you can see is a wide open contest, and the convention promises to be a unique day in Montana political history. So stay tuned and enjoy the theater. Let me know what you’re hearing about who is running in the comments.
John Bohlinger said yesterday that if Walsh retires from the race, he would get in with a commitment of $10 million, the Bozeman Chronicle reported. That’s quite a demand.
There’s never a commitment of money until polling shows you in a close heat with your opponent, so there would be no promise of money from anywhere or anyone to Bohlinger until after he got in, and only then if he were competitive.
But Bohlinger does deserve a mention. He and Dirk Adams were the only other two people to slug it out in the democratic primary, and Bohlinger finished second. And there is something to be said for those who were willing to run from day one over those where not willing to step up to the plate in the beginning.
Bohlinger would bring some interesting things. He was once anti-choice but changed his position a decade ago. That would still mean he might appeal to a few voters that value someone with a right-of-center credential of this sort. He also brings the Schweitzer brand with him, or at least a little of it, which is valuable. And, he was a Republican who left the Republican party (or you could say he was kicked out) because they became too crazy. That again could be compelling story to use against Daines who as a part of the right wing.
Bohlinger is also from Billings, and was a businessman there for many years. And it was he who Harry Reid told to get out of the race and leave John Walsh alone. Perhaps he now has some claim to be the replacement candidate.