Tag Archives: Rick Blake

Who Cares What the Voters Want

At first glance, it would seem that the wealthy Whitefish landowner who spent big bucks trying to put a slate of developer and industry toadies on the Whitefish City Council suffered a big defeat when citizens voted down the entire special interest bunch.

However, wealthy landowner Rick Blake didn’t come out of the affair too badly at all.  That’s because the County Commission turned around and appointed him to the Whitefish City-County Planning Board directly.

When you think of all the rulings Rick Blake will be in a position to make for his wealthy development industry friends, the $25,000 of his own money he spent on personal attacks aimed at progressive candidates in the Whitefish City Council election doesn’t seem like such a poor use of funds after all.  (He can just wait a week to upgrade the AV system in his yacht in Belize, so it’s really no big deal.)

The appointment was reported by the Informed Whitefish Facebook page, and now appears on the County Commission web page.

The Whitefish City Council elections were a high profile fight between Republicans backed by Blake and big developers on one side and the rest of us on the other. When all of the candidates Blake supported lost, voters seemed to be speaking out strongly against the ideas espoused by Blake and the developers.  But we’re not talking about people with a record of listening to voters.  Remember, these were the guys who sent out an official county governance survey only to those who owned property–whether they lived in the Whitefish area or not.  The more property you owned, the more votes in the survey you got.

And so it goes with Republicans in the Flathead, who don’t even try to hide their actions.

Political Quick Hits

Back in the National News

Rob Kailey at Left in the West this week highlights
 just what kind of wackos the fringe elements in Montana have attracted. It’s a must read, especially given the fact that Chuck Baldwin understands very well he his chances of becoming Governor. So is the latest piece by James Conner at the Flathead Memo.  It’s a takedown of Baldwin’s introductory statements to Montana voters that the leaders of the old confederacy weren’t racists, and were people who Baldwin holds “in the highest regard.”   In yesterday’s Daily Inter Lake,

Baldwin makes clear the Fanning-Baldwin political strategy in a field of nine gubernatorial candidates.

“The pie is going to be sliced mighty thin, and in Montana, there is no run-off in the primaries. That means, whoever gets the most votes — no matter what the percentage — wins,” Baldwin wrote. “It is very conceivable, therefore, that the winner will receive far less than 30 percent of the votes. Do you see the opportunity Bob and I have in this election?”

As a former presidential candidate, he poses a real threat to the candidates running for Governor, most of which have never run for statewide office before.  Even those who have, such as Hill, or have some national media experience, such as Livingstone, face losing home turf to Baldwin, who is also from the Flathead.


This Is Embarrassing

Apparently flying a giant flag above a furniture store isn’t good enough for veterans to support Ken Miller.

After at least two months with a “Veterans for Miller” page up, (which can be seen here) he still only has one supporter.  Maybe that’s because unlike Steve Bullock, who has a record of helping Veterans, Ken Miller has only ever flown a flag.


 Sour Grapes

One angry loser in the recent Whitefish City elections was Rick Blake, who in an odd parting shot at the winning slate of candidates, hurled the tax and spend label, then bragged that he had spent an eye-popping $22,786 attempting to defeat the winners.

UPDATED Analysis: TEA Party Republicans Lose Big in Montana Local Elections

Montanans saw sweeping victories for progressives from across the state today. And while it is yet to be seen whether this will translate into a wave of momentum for the Dems next year, one thing is known. The TEA Party legislature proved itself guilty of a major overreach during the last session. In turn, TEA Party Republicans were soundly rejected by voters.

Nowhere did the phenomena manifest itself more dramatically than in the Flathead, where the TEA Party candidates backed by Chuck Denowh, John Sinrud and the Realtors, Ricky Lynn Blake and a slate of developers and self-funded shadow PACs spent big bucks on attacking their opponents–and were all defeated.

Congratulations to John Muhlfeld, John Anderson, Richard Hildner and Frank Sweeney and the large numbers of voters who turned out to defeat a well-funded crew of special interest nutjobs. The victories weren’t limited to Whitefish either.  The only openly self proclaimed Tea Party candidate in the Flathead County elections, Erik Jerde, garnered a soul-crushing 34 votes out of 1275 cast in Kalispell. Those whom supported Tea Party poster boy Derek Skees in 2010 also all lost…Askew, Vail and Wise.  Tea Party candidates lost in the Flathead Valley Community College Trustees election as well as the municipal elections.

In Great Falls, a woman who refused all donations beat the leader of the Cascade County TEA Party, Cyndi Baker.  As the Great Falls Tribune reports, the TEA Partier had the most campaign signs of any candidate and the second largest campaign war chest.  Baker blamed her defeat on teachers, despite losing by a margin of 84-16.

In Helena, the conservative candidate was defeated by Matt Elsaesser, who was re-elected by a wide margin, and newcomer Katherine Haque-Hausrath. Progressives also had major victories in Missoula including Caitlin Copple, Cynthia Wolken, Alex Taft, and others, as D. Gregory Smith at From Eternity to Here writes.

Billings also had a big win against the TEA Party, where the Billings “Montana Shrugged” TEA Party leader Jennifer Olsen was easily routed by Ken Crouch.  Progressives Brent Cromley and Becky Bird also won handily.   Denis Pitman, the conservative minister of Fuji Spa fame, is still in (proving the power of incumbency).  However, Pitman’s opponent probably succeeded in halting his higher political ambitions now that voters know he checks his family man-of-God morality at the door once profits are on the table, and for that, we can be thankful.

UPDATE: In Bozeman, progressive Cyndy Andrus defeated Bill Fiedler by a whopping 4,289 votes to 2,209 votes. Fiedler was a member of the developers’ crew–he’s a member of the board of directors of the Southwest Montana Building Industry Association.

So, even though TEA Party Republicans won a legislative majority in 2010, they made a mistake in interpreting their one-time wins as a go-ahead to let voters know their true beliefs and goals. So it appears that focusing on nutjob bills over jobs was indeed a bad idea.  They paid for it in the off-year elections.   The progressives also won because they fielded some terrific candidates–people who actually cared about their community and its people more than getting a platform on which to scream TEA Party platitudes and shut down government.  They worked very, very hard on the doors, raised money to get their message out, and voters responded well.

Congratulations to the winners!  Here’s to a repeat of this in 2012.

The Ground Zero of Slime

City Commissions have been the hot topic in Helena and Great Falls of late, but nowhere are local politics filled with more intrigue, money, and slime than in the Flathead.

A city election would normally be a local contest with little statewide interest. But this is Whitefish, where the local races are ground zero in the fight between those who want unregulated development at all costs, and those who support zoning protections for local citizens against big developers and polluters.  Political observers and members of the conservation community from around the state have been keeping a close eye on the upcoming city elections in Whitefish and so should you.

That’s because same big money shadow groups that spent $3-5 million to give us the Great TEA Party Legislative Disaster of 2011 cut their teeth playing in Flathead area politics, spending hundreds of thousands to influence recent city races and creating a myriad of single issue PACs  with innocuous sounding names to obscure the money trail.     To put that in perspective, the average city commission candidate here in the state’s capitol city raises $1,000 bucks or so.

First, the race for mayor:

Turner Askew,  is a current city council member and is now running for mayor.  Askew is a big shot commercial and industrial real estate broker, known for doing whatever the development industry asks.   But Turner Askew isn’t just a member of the development industry who is backed by industry cash.  He’s also an original member of the Flathead Business and Industry PAC–the group behind the one of the sleaziest political smear campaigns in recent memory.

The TEA Party has also thrown in with Askew.  In fact, the TEA Party mega-millionaire donor Ray Thompson, who was exposed by Mother Jones for bankrolling some of the TEA Party’s most radical candidates is helping to fund his campaign.

Running against Askew is John Muhlfeld.  John is well-liked and has a reputation for coming to all meetings prepared. He’s the founder of ‘River Design Group’ which has been recognized by Outside Magazine as one of the best places in the country to work.  He’s supported by local folks, no PAC’s.

Here’s who’s running for city council:

Richard Hildner is a teacher at Glacier High and is probably the most knowledgeable candidate in the race.  He’s known for attending more council meetings than the councilors.  It’s hard to go wrong electing teachers.

Frank Sweeney is a local business attorney and has been the recipient of the majority of the personal attacks and political action committees bankrolled by wealthy landowner Rick Blake. Actually, Blake was a truck driver (born Ricky Lynn Blake) until he married an heir to the Avis car rental fortune.  Blake, like Askew, is also founding member of Flathead Business and Industry Association PAC.  Perhaps thinking one PAC wouldn’t buy him enough influence, Blake also founded a one-man PAC oddly titled “We Love Stumptown.”  Sweeney has served as chairman of the local planning board and several other volunteer boards, and has lots of local support.

John Anderson, is another local attorney running for city council. He’s currently president of the local Chamber board. He seems to be a young family man who has a way of bringing folks together and who also has local support.

Then we have Mary Vail, who is most known for being a hard core supporter of one Derek Skees.  She sits in the front row of many of his lectures. Vail will probably tout her service on the local library board, but her supporters are the usual right wingers. These include Askew and Blake’s wives and several other folks from the development community.

Word on the street is that candidate Doug Wise registered to vote here only three years ago. His known associates include Rick Blake, Turner Askew, and Ryan Zinke.   When asked about city issues, Wise seems to regurgitate what he’s been told to say by them.  Once the discussion becomes more in-depth however, Wise is any thing but.  His money comes from the development community.

Finally, we have Life Noell, who is a young guy with a reputation for his great energy.  Noell is a big advocate for medical marijuana and would probably do better to focus there rather then the city council race. He’s indicated that he is not willing do any campaigning that would cost more than $50.