Tag Archives: Denise Juneau

Senate Candidate will be chosen next week

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.

 

 

 

Clues About a Walsh Replacement?

by Cowgirl

Some terrific intrigue for my readers to nibble on this evening.

We had news today that a “source” is saying that Walsh is “deliberating” dropping out of the race.  This source could be any of many Montana political insiders and not necessarily one associated with the campaign.  But Walsh’s own spokesperson did seem hesitant to go so far as to say that Walsh is committed 100% to staying in the race for the long haul.   He also cancelled his public events for the next two days.  And, Walsh himself has not been visible this week and will not return calls.

I would suggest that all of this must mean there is a good chance that tomorrow Walsh will announce that he is leaving the race.  As James Conner points out, “Monday, 11 August, is the last day Walsh can withdraw from the ballot. The deadline for submitting a replacement candidate is 20 August.” Mr. Conner wrote a piece earlier today on this race at the Flathead Memo that’s worth reading. 

If none of this turns out to unfold as I am suggesting, then what we have instead is a bad case of disorganized crisis management.  It’s one or the other. It cannot be neither.

There’s another thing I learned tonight, courtesy of an astute tipster: Nancy Keenan’s name appears to have been fully scrubbed from the website of the political firm that she works for, Hilltop Public Solutions.  That’s a political consulting firm with an office in Billings as well as other cities around America.  This cannot be a coincidence.

Keenan would be an excellent candidate and presents us with a real shot at having a female as a top-tier elected official, the first since Judy Martz.  Keenan is a former Schools chief for Montana for two terms and former national head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, has been mentioned as one of the top replacement candidates.  She ran for Congress in 2000 and Denny Rehberg’s cronies tried to attack her for being a single woman and not having a family.

Denise Juneau, meanwhile, is a name that is being mentioned as well. She too would be a very strong candidate and would certain bring out not only progressive votes but also many female votes and many Indian votes too.

One final piece of intrigue.  Hilltop Public Solutions is, in addition to employing Keenan, the firm that has been doing all of Walsh’s campaign work, taking a hefty fee.  The firm is a collection of former Baucus and Tester staffers.  Much of what we are reading and seeing about Walsh today–the sources, the spokespeople, etc.–is the work of this firm.   So if Walsh has reached the end of the line, he is, in his final hours,  depending on a workforce with a serious conflict of interest.  It’s interesting if nothing else.  And it’s proof again that politics is a place where self interest always lurking.  I suppose, however, that I can’t blame them for wanting to dump him in favor of Keenan, who will most certainly hire back the firm, which is her former employer.

More important, if Keenan is the indeed the deal, it’s good news all around and it’s about as good a way for Democrats to spin out of this entire episode as anyone could have hoped for.  She has a lot of energy and spunk, is smart, can raise money, and will talk bluntly and straight.

Big Weekend in Montana Politics: Dem Dinner, and Bohlinger, Driscoll, Turiano, Arntzen enter race

It’s a big weekend for Democrats in more ways than one.  Tonight is the Mansfield Metcalf Dinner, the annual soiree at the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds at which people drink, eat, and cheer on their favorite democratic politicians.

Make sure to look for me with my spurs and my chaps, and my donkey pin.

Tonight’s guest speaker is Cecile Richards, who is the head of Planned Parenthood of America. This is a good choice as it shows the that Democrats are becoming more comfortable in recognizing how important their stance on medical privacy really is.  And her appearance could not be more timely, coming on the heels of a horrible incident of vandalism of an abortion clinic in Montana.

Others on the list include John Walsh, our new senator, as well as Governor Steve Bullock, Senator Jon Tester, and Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen, Superintendent Denise Juneau and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. And don’t forget the popular Ed Smith, the clerk of the Supreme Court, as well as state House and Senate Leaders Jon Sesso and Chuck Hunter. Bring your money but don’t drink too much, especially if you are giving a speech. Hopefully, we can at least be assured there will be no poetry.

Even bigger news occurred Friday, when a number of politicians entered some of the top races. John Bohlinger officially entered the race against Senator Walsh. John Driscoll, the nominee for U.S. House in 2008, filed to run in the Democratic House primary against John Lewis. And Drew Turiano, a white supremacist, has filed to run in the House Race as well (the GOP always tries to have at least one white supremacist on the ballot). And Elsie Arntzen made her candidacy official, too. She presents a stark contrast to the other candidates in this crowded primary (and most other GOP primaries), and was immediately endorsed by Rick Hill.

The Bohlinger deal is interesting since he had given indications, around the time Walsh was appointed Senator, that he would bow out. But now he’s in it for certain. The 77-year-old Republican turned Democrat is a former Lt. Governor, former clothing merchant from Billings and former Marine boxer, and is well known among voters and has a freewheeling style and says what’s on his mind, contrasting to the more measured Walsh. Bohlinger has not raised much money and Walsh has raised a good clip (half a million or more), but that stuff matters only when the money is spent. We shall see how and when (or if) the Walsh campaign chooses to spend some of its war chest in the primary against Bohlinger. Bohlinger, meanwhile, is trying to fashion himself as a progressive, outsider alternative to Walsh. He says Walsh was anointed by Harry Reid and others in Washington.

By the way, word on the street is that Bohlinger has been denied a speaking spot on the program tonight. That would be okay, I suppose, if the rule were that only incumbents or unopposed candidates got to speak. But that’s not the case. We will see if Bohlinger causes a fuss (or even attends). We might even be lucky enough to hear from his and outspoken political advisor on the subject. I can’t wait. Dirk Adams, by the way, is also not listed on the program.

Nor is Driscoll, the new House candidate. But that is definitely a good thing because he is the Democratic equivalent of a Tea Party imbecile (if such a thing could even be said to exist). He has said that he plans to run for office without raising any money. We’ll see how that works out for him. Driscoll also claims the odd distinction of being the only Democrat in Montana history (so far as I can tell) to win a nomination and then immediately endorse his Republican opponent.  As the Democrat nominee in 2010 he endorsed Rehberg. That’s reason enough not to listen to anything he has to say and to let your Democratic friends know that Driscoll is simply a fraud.

You can buy a ticket at the door, and don’t miss it: 6-9 P.M.  Eat, drink and be merry, and cheer on (and donate to) our candidates. And if at any time during the festivities it gets slow or boring, just remind yourself what the Republican dinner must be like.

2014 Field Shaping Up

Now that Schweitzer will be on the homestead and not the hustings, what will the field of candidates look like in 2014, for either Senate or House, assuming Steve Daines runs for Senate?  Anyone looking for a ticket to DC needs to get in the the game soon, to start raising money and organizing.

There are many names being floated on the Dem side.  Many have statewide name recognition.  Denise Juneau is in the second term of her stint as the popular state schools chief in Montana.   If Juneau were the nominee, she’d be the first native American nominee for federal office since Bill Yellowtail in the 1990s (unless you count Schweitzer, who was adopted by at least one tribe, but I don’t think that counts).

John Bohlinger, Schweitzer’s Lt. Governor, is quoted today in the Billings Gazette as saying that he, too, might be interested in filling the vacancy left by his old boss.  Though he is sprightly for 77, Bohlinger could nevertheless campaign with great authority on issues such as Medicare and Social Security.   He could also, in theory, run as either an Independent, Dem or Republican, which makes for great blogging.

There is Franke Wilmer, a state legislator from Bozeman who ran for Congress in 2012.  She is a professor of political science at MSU, and very active in politics and knowledgeable on public policy.   John Lewis, Max Baucus’s senior aide, has also been mentioned.  Would his boss hand over to Lewis a piece of his giant campaign-cash nest-egg to help his right hand man?  Stephanie Schriock, who is the president of Emily’s list and a Butte native, has been mentioned.  Schriock could raise significant money, making her a very strong horse, perhaps as good as any we have–even despite the fact that she’s been gone from Montana while, and lives in the one place that you don’t want to live when you are considering running for office in Montana–Washington, DC.    Stephanie knows campaigning and fundraising, the two things usually missing when candidates make weak showings. Kim Gillan, a former state Senator from Billings, has valuable experience running against Daines in 2012.

There’s been talk of John Walsh, the current Lt. Governor and former national guard commander.  Walsh would make an interesting candidate.  Democrats with military backgrounds always present problem for Republicans, who like to warmonger but don’t like to serve, or who like to complain about deficits but also like to create wars while cutting taxes.  It’s hard to imagine why Walsh, who as LG makes a good salary and gets to work with Steve Bullock would want to do the DC thing. Walsh told Chuck Johnson that he hadn’t really thought about it at all, but did not deny interest.

Lee Newspapers is reporting that Amanda Curtis, a tough, smart young legislator from Butte, America, is taking a look at the house seat. Her name has also come up for the senate.   Curtis took transparency and making the legislature work for people to a new level –she made daily youtube videos during her first legislative session this winter, and they were phenomenal. She is a natural–a Wendy Davis type in MT– and we will hear more from her.

Kendall Van Dyk, unfortunately, has said he will not run for statewide office in 2014.  Given his record of winning tough races (he ousted Roy Brown from his senate seat in Billings), that’s a loss for us.  Monica Lindeen, the state auditor, likewise said this week that she does not want to go to DC.

On the GOP side, we have Ryan Zinke and Jon Sonju and Corey Stapleton.  Zinke’s career looked bright for a while, but it took a slight hit after he chose to run on the ticket with Neil Livingstone, whose gubernatorial campaign did not go so well (he was revealed to have authored a manual for business travelers about how to pick up hookers).   But Zinke has a powerhouse resume because he is not only a navy seal but was actually a member of Seal Team Six, in the decade before that outfit went in to get Bin Laden.  And he is rumored to have “shot many Arabs” during the Gulf War, a fact that will no doubt appeal to conservative voters in Montana.

Jon Sonju was Rick Hill’s running mate, so in theory, he has the same credential to run for Congress as Steve Daines did. Daines had been Roy Brown’s running mate in 2008.  Actually, Sonju got significantly more votes in 2012 than Daines did in ‘08.   The Sonju name is big in the Flathead Valley, where Sonju Industries, the family business, has long had a major presence.

Stapleton, who stepped up and took hard shots at Rick Hill during the gubernatorial primary but then came up short on election day, is a former naval officer and raised a decent amount of money in his race for Governor but lacked Hill’s name recognition.  This would be his third run for statewide office.  He ran for auditor once, too.

Speaking of Rick Hill, he too might run, I’m hearing his name from a few sources.  He would have to overcome the bad taste that he left in voters’ mouths when he took an illegal campaign contribution of $500,000, only to be ordered by the court to give it back.  That case is still being litigated, not a good thing for an aspiring US Senate candidate.  Court is not a good place to campaign from.  The only place worse is rehab.

Then, a trio rounding out the field of possibles, we have GOP legislators Scott Reichner of Big Fork, and Champ Edmunds of Missoula, and……drumroll please…..Krayton Kerns, the chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee and the biggest wingnut this side of the Mississippi.  Kerns has written that our society will soon collapse, because of the Obama presidency, and that we will all soon be without power, food or fuel and will have to take to the woods to survive.

 

Schweitzer Takes a Pass on Senate

Brian Schweitzer surprised the state of Montana today when he announced that he would not be running for Senate.  It’s surprising because he was such a heavy favorite.  But it’s unsurprising too, because he has long maligned the US Senate as a do-nothing institution that he wants no part of. Others, too, have observed that the Senate is not a good fit for him.

And so thus concludes, for now, a tremendous political career in Montana, in which Schweitzer moved mounds of earth, changing the political landscape.  He showed conclusively that a Democrat, and not a Republican, can be trusted to get things done.  The record is well known–record budget surpluses, renewable energy development, economic development, protection of public lands, and all the things that the GOP whined about for two decades but never solved.   And, we will miss Schweitzer’s no-bullshit gamesmanship in which he engaged with his opponents and reduced them, usually, to rubble.  I’ve never witnessed a politician who so relishes mixing it up with his opponents. It made for some of the best political theater the state has ever seen. I would imagine that the members of the Montana press, with maybe a few exceptions, are not very happy about the news.  

Also, Schweitzer helped turn the state Republicans into a joke. The Democrats have never been stronger. That’s saying something, especially when you consider that in 2004 the GOP was amid a 23 year imperial rule, and that Montana is very red.

Steve Daines will now run for the Senate. Expect an announcement soon. Whether he will attract serious opposition is an important question.  But he will vacate a House seat, and so we should expect many candidates from both parties to run for that seat, rather than against Daines for Senate.   The GOP House primary should be entertaining.  Look for the usual suspects, like Stapleton, Sonju, Hill, Zinke, Livingstone, Edmunds, Reichner, and probably many more.   On the Democratic side, it could be Juneau, Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List, Lindeen, McCulloch, Wilmer, and so on.

And on it goes.

 

Baucus to Leave Senate; Will Schweitzer Step Up?

by Cowgirl

So Max has answered the question about his future. News broke this morning that he willl not run for relection, and will instead retire at the end of ’14 to his new home in Bozeman.  We wish Max well in his retirement. So ends 40 years of elections and office holding, which began in the 1970s when he literally walked across the western half of the state to campaign for his first job as a house member.  He is probably looking forward to a rest now.

So now the question is, will he or won’t he? Continue reading