Tag Archives: Rick Hill

Former Congressman Thinks Math Teacher Not Fancy Enough to Run for US Senate

Former GOP Congressman and failed gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill has taken to the internet to attack a Butte math teacher who is running for U.S. Senate. Hill wrote on his Facebook page that state Rep. Amanda Curtis has a “course [sic] nature.”

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Presumably Hill is referring to Curtis’s popular down-to-earth and heartfelt YouTube videos. She made these every day during the 2013 legislative session for her constituents, something Rick Hill would never have stooped to do.

Congressman Hill, during his tenure in the nation’s capital, was known for being something of a diva. Hill was rated by George magazine as the “second most-difficult boss” in all of congress. [Source: The Associated Press, “Magazine Finds Hill Second Most Difficult Boss in Congress,” June 19, 1999.]

To earn this dubious distinction, George noted that the Congressman:

–“angrily hurled a letter opener at an aide”

–Shouted: “I DON’T EAT DELI!!” to a staffer who brought him the wrong sandwich

–“fills some afternoons playing Free Cell, a computer game”’

And Hill went through three chiefs of staff, three legislative directors and three schedulers in two years.

There’s no sign his diva mentality has let up since. He appears to have insisted that his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign pay for a new car for him to cross the state in luxury.

As a math teacher, Amanda certainly doesn’t spend several months a year golfing at private clubs in California and Arizona (as Hill does), and she likely has enjoyed the occasional deli sandwich without turning up her nose or throwing a fit.  If that makes her “coarse” then so are most of the rest of us.  As a state legislator, she speaks directly to her constituents in YouTube videos for everybody instead of only to a select few at fancy dinners paid for by corporate lobbyists. She understands the key pocketbook concerns of most Montanans and presents a striking contrast to most members of congress. I think most people would call that a good thing.

 

Few Surprises on Election Night

The votes are in and the favorites generally won their races last night.  Walsh, Lewis, Zinke, Daines.

Resources were mattered.  Zinke and Walsh had them, and it made the difference.  Matt Rosendale was a bit surprising given that he spent about even with Zinke, but in the end, in a crowded field full of aspiring lunatics, the moderate candidate will often win. Just ask Rick Hill or Mitt Romney.  That’s an important reality for the Tea Party to grapple with, which is that they have very primary insurgent victories for all the trouble they try to cause.  This year, oddly, it was centrists who tried to act like Tea Partiers–Rick Hill, for example–but even that didn’t work.

John Bohlinger put up a good fight but in the end, Walsh stayed the course and delivered a resounding victory, as one would expect a sitting Senator to do. Bohlinger was always facing a peculiar challenge of having to persuade voters that he is no longer a Republican, and that, plus a lack of funds or organization, probably weighed him down heavily.    Walsh will now have to amp it up.   Nate Silver is giving him only a fractional chance at winning the race.  I personally think Daines is beatable, because he is a member of Congress polling below 40%.

John Lewis gave away a surprising 40% to John Driscoll, but Lewis saved his money, kept his powder dry, and now has some good ammo to begin the shooting war with Ryan Zinke.  That will be an interesting affair.  Expect a swiftboating of Zinke, given his questionable use of funding and the strange ambiguity surrounding his military record, which even his fellow Seals are talking about.  Meanwhile, expect Zinke to try to hang Obamacare around Lewis’s neck, through the Baucus connection.  This is a campaign that will be won by the smarter, savvier operation, I believe.  Lewis is probably the Dem’s best chance in a decade to recapture this seat, although this is simply by virtue of the fact that he is a legitimate candidate. None of the nominees since 2002 has even raised real money or mounted a serious campaign.  That’s going to change now.  And remember the best thing that Democrats always have going for them: Republicans in Montana seem to be getting better and better at losing races they should win.  They are simply not good at modern political strategy.

Also, good news in Ravalli County: the two wing-nut county commissioners and a treasurer who have turned Ravalli into a statewide Tea Party farce, all incumbents, were sent packing in the GOP primary. The TEA Partier in the Bozeman County Commission race, Barb Blum, also lost in the primary contest for that open commission seat. In Lake County, TEA Partier Rory Horning failed to unseat incumbent county commissioner Bill Barron.  Bad news in Broadwater County, where a top two style non-partisan county commission election sent forward not just the popular Laura Obert but also TEA Party bigot Tim Ravndal,  who made national news for comments he made that implied support for violence against gays. Ravndal was kicked out of the Helena TEA Party and formed his own new conservative TEA Party. (If this were a Lee Newspapers blog, you’d be reading how these commission races show equal wins for TEA Partiers and main street Republicans.)

In the Public Service Commission race, Brad Johnson easily Derek Skees in the GOP primary.  He will now face Galen Hollenbaugh.  Skees is a Flathead County agitator whose base constituency is made up of skinheads and recently arrived bible-belt transplants.  These nuts once thought they had a glorious Tea Party future but it’s kind of crumbled now.  Skees has now been beaten by a guy who ran his last race for public office out of a rehab facility.

GOP Honchos: Zinke is Slinky on Abortion

zinkeslinkyIt has not been a good week for Ryan Zinke, the former state legislator from Whitefish who is running for Congress.  He is in the midst of a nasty GOP primary and his fellow Republicans are ganging up on him and making life very tough.

It’s good drama, and it could bode well for Jon Lewis if he beats out Jon Driscoll, as I expect he should, for the Democratic primary in the House race.

This week, Zinke was (predictably) criticized by right-wingers, heavily, for having made several votes in favor of women’s medical privacy in his time as state senator. His votes would actually reduce the need for abortion, by improving access to birth control and prevent unintended pregnancy in the first place, but facts don’t matter to his opponents, who would probably outlaw birth control altogether. (He also made many anti-choice votes.)  The state newspapers had two separate articles over the weekend describing Zinke’s mixed abortion position and now, today, a third one has been published.

Yesterday’s piece reported that the Three Amigos–Rick Hill, Ken Miller and John Brenden, all former GOP state chairs–are slamming Zinke for being pro-choice and for having voted on occasion in favor of the environment. They say he is not a true conservative but rather (gasp) a moderate.  Thus in their view Zinke does not pass the conservative purity test that we have often seen applied in GOP primaries.

zinkeputin (1)

To review, Zinke is in a race right now against Corey Stapleton, Matt Rosendale and Elsie Arntzen among a few others. These are all current or former state legislators.

Arntzen is said to have extraordinary personal wealth at her disposal, but if she does she clearly hasn’t spent much of it. She’s not really that visible, nor has she done or said anything to separate herself from the pack or establish a brand.

Stapleton and Rosendale each have put a fair amount of resources into the race although only one of them–Rosendale–seems to be speaking the language of the Republican base.  He has an ad on TV, in case you haven’t seen it, in which he shoots a drone down with a rifle. And, Rosendale tends to come across as a lunatic, some kind of cross between a white supremacist and an inmate at a maximum security prison.

 

Zinke’s TV ad, meanwhile, shows him walking in a field and talking about his grandmother (and he tweeted several times this week about his grandmother) but does not position him in any way on the GOP spectrum, and does not provide the viewer any memorable visual like Rosendale does.  And the narrator says Zinke is the right kind of conservative, which is a dangerous thing to say in this climate of rabid TEA Partiers when there is no elaboration. The implication of the TV ad is that Zinke is an old fashioned conservative, but that drone doesn’t fly these days among the Tea Party.  I believe it could be a misstep for Zinke to have spent so much money on so bland an ad, because he should have foreseen the concerted attacks on his conservative cred, and done something more along the lines of Rosendale–something to boldly brand himself as a wingnut is needed to win the GOP primary.

Zinke has misfired before with the statewide GOP electorate, notably in 2012 when he joined up with Neil Livingstone as his lieutenant governor candidate. That campaign was never much more than a whisper.

The strange part is that Zinke is rumored to have shot and killed dozens of Iraqi soldiers in the 1990s in the first Gulf War.  I would have thought that shooting and killing foreigners would earn an automatic victory in a gun-crazed GOP primary nowadays.  Isn’t that what every Tea Party voter dreams of? And yet Zinke seems like he might be stalled, floundering.

Then again, without any polling data it is tough to say who is leading this race.  Public Policy Polling or Rasmussen will no doubt soon publish some data and maybe then we’ll know where it all stands.

If I had to guess I’d say it’s now a three way heat between Zinke, Rosendale and Stapleton.  Stapleton is running statewide for the third time; Rosendale has spent a boatload on his TV ad; and Zinke has a strong following the Flathead but the attacks against him are probably wearing him down.

For some unknown and odd reason, Zinke and Artzen, though opponents, have the same campaign treasurer.

arntzenkuney zinkekuney

One hilarious item in the Zinke coverage is that the top anti-choice activist in Montana, the president of the state’s Right To Life chapter, Greg Trude, is supporting Zinke.

Trude was asked how he can support a candidate who has taken pro-choice votes. Trude said Zinke has a 100% pro-life rating from his organization. The reporter asked to see the organization’s official candidate ratings. Trude said he doesn’t have any on paper, but that he keeps all candidates’ scores “in his head.”

Urgent Emergency

Steve Daines and Ted Cruz at a TEA Party caucus press event.

Steve Daines and Ted Cruz at a TEA Party caucus press event.

As you all know, Montana Republicans are a nativist and xenophobic crew, who hurl “out-of-state” as a nasty insult and love to tout the number of generations back that their lineage has lived in Montana.  Many a pale chest is thumped mightily as if these men had a role in choosing the location of their births.

So we should assume that the GOP power brokers are currently holding an emergency meeting in a smoke-filled room somewhere, urgently trying to decide how to handle a shocking development within the party: Continue reading

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to….

Matthew Monforton—GOP legislative candidate Matthew Monforton.  Since Monforton wrote a letter to the editor in the Bozeman Chronicle this week denigrating the elected body he himself is seeking to join as a “parliament of whores,” he is clearly is this week’s winner.

If the GOP-TEA controlled legislature is full of  people he calls “whores,” why does Monforton want to be part of it?

Monforton waxes apoplectic against the “whores” elected by the Montana Republican Party in this letter, yet has he accepted the Republican Party’s cash Continue reading

Pastor Who Called for Death Penalty for Gays Convicted, Could Face 30 Years for Fraud

himesWhen religious-right lobbyist Harris Himes stepped up to the podium in a legislative committee in 2009 and said “I stand before you a potential prison inmate,” it was perhaps the truest statement he ever made.

The anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-minority pastor from Ravalli County was convicted last week of defrauding a member of his congregation out of his life savings and could face up to 30 years in prison.

Himes, who represented himself in court, claimed he was innocent of the charges, calling them a “witch hut” trumped up by “gay and pro-choice activists.” He told the jury pool that “I am a fundamentalist, Bible-thumping conservative Christian,” and that his trial was part of a war on Christianity.

Rev. Himes had claimed at the start of his trial that he would be calling some “15 and 20 witnesses” to support his case including many who would fly in from Mexico to do so. But that apparently didn’t end up panning out. As the Bitterroot Star reported, “Judge Loren Tucker, who has appeared clearly exasperated by Himes at various points in the trial, asked Himes what he proposed to do with the jury’s time with no witnesses to testify.”

Himes also argued his case in the court of public opinion.  In a KGVO talk radio interview during the trial, Himes said he believed that children in public schools were destined to go to hell.  He later went back on the same program to reiterate that what he meant to say was that public schools “jeopardize the salvation of a child.”

He lobbied heavily in the legislature for bills to repeal the ban against discrimination against gays, and also for bills to eliminate Montana’s constitutional right to privacy. During the 2011 legislative session, he even told legislators that he believes gay people should be put to death.

Himes partnered with TEA Party legislators like Bob Wagner and Derek Skees to back outrageous proposals like the birther bill, among others–including Sen. Greg Hinkle.  Himes also worked closely with Rep. Kris Hanson, R-Havre, who sponsored Himes’ bill to prohibit cities across Montana from passing local non-discrimination ordinances. He lobbied heavily against public schools, women’s rights, tribal sovereignty, equality, and domestic violence and bullying protections over the years.

Himes has also led or worked closely with several religious-right lobbying  groups in Montana including leading the Montana Values Alliance, serving as state coordinator for the Montana Eagle Forum, a stint as president of the Montana Family Coalition–all groups that worked closely with the Montana Family Foundation and the Montana Catholic Conference.  He has been a featured speaker at Montana Republican party trainings and events.

Indeed, Himes has had quite a following among Montana’s hard right wing.  Dallas Erickson, another religious right activist in Montana, compared him to Jesus Christ in a recent op-ed.

Harris Himes' novel is called

Harris Himes’ novel is called “Stand”

And many do not know that Himes is actually an author.  His fictional work “Stand” is available on Amazon.com. Surprisingly no one has yet written a review of “Stand”, but here is an excerpt of this future blockbuster:

Satan s face was ugly.
“WE MUST WIN THIS BATTLE WITH GOD!” he thundered.
“WHAT DO I WANT?”
“THEIR SOULS AND THEIR SPIRITS!
SPIRISOULSPIRSOUL!” screamed his Shades.
Satan seeks to destroy all men and women. But the Christian Church stands in his way. Maybe.
Pivotal wars. Abortion. Marriage. Islam. America’s sovereignty.

The page-turner is “aimed at galvanizing the church and her pastors and priests and leaders to regain the moral leadership in the public forum which they once held, dating from before the Revolution—to become God’s Watchmen, warning the people, before it’s too late. ”

Himes reportedly spent two years writing the novel. But if sales remain flat in the near future, he shouldn’t worry too much. He’s could have have up to 30 years of hard time to rewrite it soon.

News About Federal Races

 The news this week is that Corey Stapleton is jumping ship to the US House race after receiving word from Steve Daines, or a Daines team member, that Daines will be running for Senate.  Stapleton had declared his status as a Senate candidate earlier in the year.

Stapleton has raised an impressive amount of money so far, $230,000, but has squandered most of it.  The newspaper today reports that he only has $80,000 left, which he will transfer to his new campaign.  What he’s spent $150,000 on is anybody’s guess.

The better news is that there might be as many as a dozen GOP candidates in the primary for House, clawing at each other, accusing each other of of not being “conservative enough,” and generally tearing each other down to the point that none will have any money or credibility by the time one of them is nominated in June of 2014.  Such a scenario will reflect what happened to Rick Hill in 2012, who was left limp and broke after emerging from a bruising primary in which, ironically enough, Stapleton opened fire at him with negative campaign ads.

Stapleton his now citing his work with the Martz administration, in canceling a computer project, as an event in his professional life that qualifies him to be congressman.  Not exactly a big-picture type of theme for a candidacy.  His Wikipedia pages have also been interesting. 

But Stapleton will be strong in Billings, having run many campaigns there.  Sonju and Zinke and Scott Reichner will fight for the Flathead Valley vote, Champ Edmunds will fight for wherever he is from (near Area 51, perhaps), if anybody there even knows who he is or that he even exists.  Brad Johnson, who ran his last race for statewide office while housed in an alcohol rehab facility, says he, too, might be running for the house.

Jon Lewis, Max Baucus’s chief aide, is now the only candidate on the Dem side, and we will see whether his Max Baucus pedigree brings him money.

Stapleton, by the way, said  that he wants to be in Congress to stop Obamacare, prevent the raising of the debt ceiling, and effectuate other such obstructionism.  And, he said that he would like to be a congressman, especially on the Syria issue, because he would have access to the intelligence briefings from the Pentagon.  God help us all.

No word yet about John Walsh or John Bohlinger, and their plans to run for the U.S. Senate against the presumptive candidate Daines.

 

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.

 

The Purge

by Cowgirl

The major fight that has broken out in the Republican party nationally and in the Montana legislature is now playing out in the Lewis and Clark county republican party. The local GOP group  has devolved into a modern day version of the Salem witch trials as Republicans hurl accusations at each other to purge their own ranks of alleged moderates. Continue reading

Sports-minded and Fun

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was forced to come out yesterday and plead with fellow Republicans to be more “circumspect” when they talk about guns.

It’s not helpful” for GOP lawmakers to be speaking publicly about some of their ideas right now, he said.  Boehner’s pleading is a little late.  In the wake of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, several GOP lawmakers are now calling for arming teachers as a way to prevent mass shootings 

Bringing guns into schools is also a pet project of Montana Republicans.  Just last session, Republicans in the Montana legislature pushed a bill to allow guns in schools (House Bill 558).

And who could forget the fundamentalist Christian school in Montana that decided to raffle off a semi-automatic assault rifle as a school fundraiser this fall.

Stillwater Christian School obtained the assault rifle came from the NEMO rifle plant. Family members of former gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill’s running mate Jon Sonju are NEMO executives.

In addition to bidding on the assault rifle, you could also attend the schools “Stillwater Shootout” fundraising event down at the shooting range in Kalispell, MT.

School officials said they didn’t see a problem raising money with a semi-automatic assault rifle raffle. Rather, they called it “sports-minded and fun.”

This Christian private school doesn’t just work to instill these beliefs into the young minds of school children, it also gets involved in elections.  This year, school leaders sent out an email before the primary urging GOP primary voters to oppose non-TEA Party candidates.

With the hard-right wing now calling the shots, hardly surprising that GOP legislators didn’t just stop with their bill to allow guns in schools.  Montana Republicans also tried to pass new laws last session to:

Lift the prohibition on carrying concealed weapons in bars, churches, banks, and government buildings. (House Bill 384)

Create fully-armed militia in every town (House Bill 278)

Allow anybody to carry a concealed weapon around without a permit.  (House Bill 271)

Force employers to allow employees to bring guns to work in their cars. (House Bill 368)

Legalize hunting with silencers (House Bill 174)

And when they ran out of gun bill ideas, they tried to legalize hunting with hand-thrown spears (Senate Bill 112)

This is not a joke. These were real bills put forward by Republicans in the Montana legislature, unencumbered by common sense.   Republicans can’t say the public has no reason to fear their proposals when they seem to fear open debate of what they truly believe.