For starters, it's pretty narcissistic to begin with when you claim you're the candidate who'd legislate according to Biblical principles - that is, you speak for God - so it isn't much of a surprise that French blames everyone but himself for his defeat: voter fraud, crossover votes, liberal conspiracies, etc & company. I guess God was busy on election day.
Still, this isn't the first time I saw crossover mentioned as a cause for Republican primary election results. I'm not sure what the basis for the accusation is - the only factual or statistical evidence supporting it is that the number of voters participating in the Democratic primary shrank in 2010 compared to 2008, and the number participating in the GOP primary rose. For example, in Yellowstone county, 19,218 votes for Democratic House candidates were cast in 2008 (pdf) as opposed to 8,925 in 2010; in contrast, 11,071 Yellowstone county votes were counted in the 2008 GOP House primary compared to 22,510 in 2010.
Of course, it was the Democratic primary that had all the pull in 2008, as the Democratic presidential nomination was still in play when Montanans headed to the polls that day. Which suggests that independents and Republicans crossed over to vote in the '08 Democratic primary - despite French's assertions that no "moral conservative" would so such a thing. And in 2010, voter enthusiasm greatly favored Republicans, which probably explains the reversed numbers in primaries this year. State voter turnout numbers support that theory, too, as conservative counties generally had higher turnout than liberal counties. Missoula - after posting very high turnout numbers in the 2006 and 2008 primary and general elections - posted an anemic and state-low 20.59 percent voter turnout.
And even if crossover accounted for the swinging election numbers, it probably didn't have any effect. It was Hillary Clinton, you remember, who Rush Limbaugh urged Republican voters to vote for in Democratic primaries...yet Obama won easily in Montana in the 2008 primary. And while John Driscoll won the Democratic nomination for House over Jim Hunt - an actual real, live candidate - Bob Kelleher's equally baffling victory for the GOP Senate nomination in a primary election no self-respecting Democratic voter would have participated in suggests there was something else at play other than malicious crossover voting.
The fact is that most people take their votes seriously. If they cross over, it's because they feel strongly about a particular race, and they do their best to fill in their ballots responsibly. The absolute and final proof of voters' good nature is Mark French himself. After all, if liberal voters crossed over to the Republican primary to maliciously wreak havoc in the Republican camp, it's the self-aggrandizing buffoon and extremist candidate they would have voted for as the much weaker opponent in the general election. If mean-spirited liberals had voted en masse in the Republican primary, Mark French would have won his party's nomination for Congress.
Is Rehberg just not willing to put his money where his mouth is on his opposition to health care reform or are other health care opponents fearful that a Rehberg signature could sink their repeal proposal?
After watching the latest McDonald/Rehberg debate on television Sunday, I was surprised to read this story in today's Helena IR with the headline "Economy, immigration at heart of House race." This is simply wrong. For example, it is impossible to argue that health care reform isn't a major current issue, yet the AP story didn't report on the discussion of health care reform at the "debate." I wish there were some online source I could link to...but since there isn't, those of you who watched will also remember that Rehberg also faced strong accusations from both of his opponents that he'd allowed "partisan bickering" to hold up progress in Congress.
At the accusation, Rehberg feigned a shocked face and tried to claim that he'd be happy to work with anyone who offered. Desparate to come up with an example, he was only able to think of his work with another of D.C's biggest duds, Bart Stupak, on the so-called "Northern Border Caucus." Stupak, who claims to be a Democrat, is so unpopular that more people are clamoring to take credit for his resignation than to admit they are collaborating with him on something, so it's not exactly something to brag about.
So why is it so hard for Rehberg to get others to work with him?
Perhaps Rehberg's record of failing to pass meaningful legislation prevents others from wanting to join him on a big project they actually hope will pass. Could be that his lack of legislative prowess makes his signature an albatross of sorts to a proposal. Only if by "prowess" you mean the ability to pop the top off a Bud Light Lime with one's teeth is Rehberg going to be your go-to guy.
Actions speak louder than words, and while Dennis Rehberg has shown that he'll say anything to try and score political points, he'll ultimately only do what's best for his campaign coffers, not what's best for passing legislation. For example, when it comes to putting his money where his mouth is on his opposition to health care reform, Rehberg has once again done nothing.
Nothing of substance that is. Rehberg has had no problem kicking the old "work ethic" into gear when it comes to speaking to the media and collecting campaign checks from those who want reform repealed:
Rehberg said Montana Republican legislators are right to be pushing the state's attorney general, Steve Bullock, to join 18 other states in challenging federal health care legislation. Last week, more than 70 Republicans signed a letter to Bullock, claiming to represent a majority of Montanans on the issue.
...can be found in an email sent out by the Madison County GOP Chair Dan Happel this week. Since Happel encourages recipients to share and comment, I'll paste his entire email in the extended text for your commenting pleasure. To paraphrase, it appears that a "very conservative" Republican platform has gone even further to the right, and by further he means they've gone...birther.
I have no idea why this item of extreme interest was excluded from coverage by those reporting the convention According to Happel, the Montana Republican party passed a resolution
"for the requirement of complete documentation of candidate eligibility before candidates for President, Vice President, US Senators or Representatives can even be placed on the ballot."
Like the birther bill introduced (and going nowhere) in Congress, the Montana Republicans voted their support for requiring candidates to submit a birth certificate: a wink and a nod action that some Republicans are going to have to try to maintain is somehow not related to the birthers' claims. Hmmm...Republican candidates want to win the votes of the birthers, but still want to pretend not to actually be that stupid one of them.
This could get tricky. What if a Montana reporter asks the candidate if she or he agrees with this new tenant of the Montana GOP core platform? I mean look what happened when MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked one of the birther bill's sponsors on the show if he believed Mr. Obama is a natural born citizen, Rep. Campbell (R-CA) hedged, saying, "As far as I know, yes, OK?" He told Matthews, "it doesn`t matter whether I have doubts or not." Birther association also became an embarrassment for the Ohio GOP, and all they did wrong was have a speaker tell a birther joke at their convention--Montana Republicans added birtherism to the list of their fundamental beliefs.
I guess I am not at all shocked to find that the Republican Party is packed with birthers that still, still, have not figured out that our own president released his birth certificate like two years ago. But I am kind of surprised that the Republican party leadership were unable to quash this ridiculous addition to the platform that could be a real embarrassment for its candidates. It could also be evidence of growing internal division in their ranks and/or a general state of chaos.
It will be interesting to hear Rehberg publicly respond to questions about this from the media or in the final debate in Whitefish this weekend.
Read Happels entire missive in the extended text. There are lots of other gems in this that weren't in the paper...
But the vote totals for Melinda Gopher and Sam Rankin, and the lower than expected total for Tyler Gernant, are surprises. Gopher and Rankin were running soapbox candidacies on a shoestring. I expected each to receive around five percent of the vote. And I expected a much closer race between McDonald and Gernant.
What happened? Two things, I think.
First, I believe that early voting hurt Gernant. His campaign gathered steam during the last half of May, but by then a lot of Democrats, the ones who reject the idea that they have a responsibility to keep their minds open until the campaign ends, had voted - and a lot of them voted for McDonald. Early voting almost always helps the initially better known candidate.
Second, most Democrats understood that none of the Democratic candidates had an ice cube's chance in a blast furnace of beating Rehberg. That provided an opportunity to cast a protest vote against the Democratic establishment, which was represented by McDonald and Gernant.
Your guess is as good as mine, folks. In any election that gives Sam Rankin 16 percent of the vote in a four-way race, you've got to scratch your head. It's not random -- that's only a few points lower than you'd expect if all Democratic primary voters cast their ballots randomly. It's not cross-over voters: Republicans actually had a race in the US House, and a lot more disputed and contentious legislative primaries. (Not to mention county commissioner races.) A protest vote, as Connor suggests? That assumes the voters are very well informed -- they'd have to know who the "establishment" candidate is, and who the outsiders were -- and thinking strategically.
Let's be frank, people. This is the second year in a row that Montanans in large numbers picked irrational candidates in the primary. In 2008, it was Driscoll and Kelleher. And that time around, we blamed new voters turned out for the Clinton-Obama brouhaha who were uninformed about the down-ticket races and lost in the blizzard of candidates on the primary ballot. But this year, turnout was low, and the US House race was the showcase event. Was it really a conscious decision?
(Note that Republican voters, on the other hand, supported Dennis Rehberg nearly unanimously, despite warnings that we were facing an "anti-incumbent" tidal wave.)
As jhwygirl notes, Gernant's campaign has been picking up steam. Good for him. He's earned it. Some of the comments from posts jhwygirl linked to...
James Conner: "I'm voting for Tyler Gernant...He's a young man with considerable intelligence and promise who the strongest - and the strongest by far - of the four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Montana's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives....
"Gernant, by comparison, is hungry. He's running a tightly organized campaign, a tactically brilliant campaign that inspires his supporters. Gernant, not McDonald, is the future of the Democratic Party in Montana. My sole complaint, and it's not a trivial complaint, is that he sometimes pussyfoots around issues, has trouble giving a strong, straight answer to a straight question, and does not exhibit the degree of historical vision that I believe we need in Congress. He's very much focused on the here and now, on Montana and the present....
"Gernant's reticence on this is one reason why I've waited so long to endorse him. The other is my deep and abiding anger, fury to be blunt, at the Democratic Party for bungling health care, the kind of anger that makes a man unwilling, indeed unable, to make the Hobson's Choices that politics requires. But a comparative lack of historical vision is an affliction of youth that time will cure. The counterweights are Gernant's energy and optimism, and his sparkling intelligence. McDonald represents the past. Montana should hitch its future to Gernant's rising star."
Pogie: "I think Tyler Gernant wins this race narrowly tomorrow. While Dennis McDonald certainly had an advantage in name recognition and connection to the party establishment, Gernant's had a much more energetic and visible campaign. Here in Helena and driving around the state (admittedly the Western part for the most part), I've seen more signs for Gernant and he has been much more active in the traditional media and the the 'net. It's going to be close, but I think Gernant wins with 50-55% of the vote in a four person race.
"If Gernant does indeed win, it's time for the traditional labor power brokers to reconsider their approach a bit. I don't think they have the influence in Montana progressive politics that they used to-or still seem to imagine that they do. A Gernant win would be a further sign of that diminished role."
And here's a pretty cool video from the Gernant campaign, touting Tyler's online efforts:
Okay...before I explain the reasons I'm supporting Tyler Gernant for U.S. Congress, I want to remind anyone who's still undecided to check out the profiles of all the Democratic House candidates I've posted: Dennis McDonald, Sam Rankin, Tyler Gernant, and Melinda Gopher. Obviously this endorsement is one man's opinion; the links and videos and articles on each candidate will help you make up your own mind, and based on the policies and positions of each, not on the word of a political hack.
So...after all of that, I suspect you, like me, will come to the same conclusion: Tyler Gernant is the best candidate for US House, and he deserves your vote in the impending primary.
Dennis McDonald and Melinda Gopher also good candidates, of course. McDonald's a stand-up guy, a real mensch, and has served the Democratic party faithfully and well for years. And Gopher's record as an activist is exemplary. She's a fighter, absolutely dedicated to the causes she believes in.
But I'm endorsing Tyler Gernant.
There are a number of considerations. First, his policy portfolio is right on, as he's campaigning around a green economy - absolutely crucial on so many levels. Environmentally, it's the best chance we have of dramatically reducing carbon pollution while preserving our way of life. Economically, it's a chance - and a short-lived one, at that - to rebuild the country's manufacturing base. Politically, it's a golden opportunity to unite labor and environmentalism towards a common cause. Gernant is also campaigning around pragmatic, progressive financial reform that would make taxation fairer for working- and middle-class Americans, while reducing our nation's deficit. He's the only candidate in this election that speaks to the problem of Montana's young people leaving the state -- even as they'd prefer to stay -- to look for work, benefits, and affordable living, which is an issue that's resonates strongly with me on a personal level...
And he's in favor of a Constitutional Amendment protecting privacy! Which is cool.
But to be honest, there's not much difference between the Democratic candidates on policy. This isn't like the Republican primary, where the future of the GOP lies in the hands of the voters tomorrow. Dennis McDonald, for example, does support the Otter Creek coal venture, unlike Gernant; and Gopher emphasizes more than any other candidate using the office to work with and provide more aid to rural communities and communities in poverty. But all three candidates generally share the same values. And then there's Rankin who...well...does want to slash Medicare and Social Security benefits.
Which brings us to a second consideration: how is Gernant as a political candidate? And, here, Gernant wins hands-down over any other House candidate of either party. There's nobody, of either party, who works harder. Nobody. Period. He's been at this thing for, what? Over a year? Relentlessly hitting the phones and raising funds, relentlessly traveling the state and talking with voters. His campaign is slick, his videos are professional, the whole effort is mature and serious and ready for prime time.
Compare that to, say, Dennis McDonald's lackluster fundraising and his lack of verve required of a legitimate candidate expecting to take on a long-time and deep-pocketed incumbent. If he struggles to ward off Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno questions from a College Republican with hand-held video, how's he going to beat off the crippling negative campaigning from the Republican Party's varsity squad? Still McDonald, at least, raises money and understands how to run for office, which is more than you can say of Melinda Gopher, who entered the race late, has raised next to no money, and went negative, wildly lashing out against the other candidates, the party, and EMILY's List, among others, and squandered her opportunity to challenge Gernant and McDonald to match her passion for economic justice. And Sam Rankin, well, he's John Driscoll 2.0 with weirder politics.
Tyler Gernant is an excellent candidate and can win this race in November. And given his understanding of the political process and his campaign skills, I have no doubt he'll have the energy, single-minded determination, and patience to do battle and prevail in the US House of Representatives on behalf of the people of Montana.
After several incumbents were ousted this year by angry voters frustrated with Washington, more lawmakers could be in for a rude awakening when 11 states hold primaries Tuesday.
Incumbents on both sides are facing questions about whether their politics are compatible with the base of their parties. At least a few incumbents are sweating it out, hoping voters won't send them packing.
In most cases, incumbents don't have too much to fear. In several races, they run unopposed from within their own party. But a few find themselves facing the prospect of an intra-party ouster. The following are races next week in which incumbents are facing the testiest challenges.
Rehberg is one of three incumbents named. In the Billings Gazette Friday, Rehberg's office accused democrats of "planting the story." Yeah, because Montana's Democrats are so in with Fox News...
Actually a closer analysis reveals that Fox News tends to view Rehberg as joke more than anything. Let's take a look at recent Fox coverage of Rehberg. Though Fox is generally very favorable to Republicans, Rehberg also appears to be rather inconsequential on a national scale--to the point that that Montana's leading Democrat gets more Fox News love.
They also mock the "I read every bill" mantra Rehberg always Tweets about, such as when one reporter got curious and:
queried the office of Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) to find out if the Congressman read the bill. I have no idea whether Rehberg truly read it or not. But Rehberg's spokesman Jed Link knew better than to dip his toe into that cesspool.
"We prefer not to comment," Link responded in an email.
Bio: His first job out of college was as probation officer, before he became a trial lawyer for 17 years. He bought a ranch in Montana in the 1970s, and currently owns and operates a ranch in Melville. McDonald has served as the President of the Montana Cattleman's Association. He served on the International Trade Advisory Committee under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush. McDonald was chair of the Montana Democratic party from 2005 to 2009.
Issues: (from his website) McDonald advocates making a significant investment into our "aging infrastructure," exploiting the "opportunity" to "wisely and safely take advantage of our traditional energy resources" while "investing in alternative and green energy," and "fully fund education and train teachers." McDonald also supports U.S. energy independence through judicious use of Montana's coal reserves. He also "firmly" supports "our constitutional right to keep and bear arms."
As a lawyer and probation officer, he made his career defending those who have the least voice in society.
"As a rancher, Dennis has been a leader in the agricultural community. Since he started ranching in Montana in 1972, he's been a founding member of two major national agricultural groups, R-CALF and the United States Cattlemen's Association. He also served as President of the Montana Cattlemen's Association.
"As Chairman of the Montana Democratic Party, Dennis crisscrossed the state discussing issues at kitchen tables and town hall meetings. His tireless efforts led to the election of Jon Tester in 2006 and to Democratic victories in every Tier-B race in 2008-the first time that's happened in Montana since 1948.
"As a member of the President's International Trade Advisory Committee, Dennis traveled the globe and fought against the Central American Free Trade Agreement. He was appointed to this position by President Bill Clinton and re-appointed by President George W. Bush.
"Basically, Dennis has the leadership, tenacity, and experience to be an effective leader in the United States Congress. He has served tirelessly in these and many other leadership positions trying to make life better for the least among us."
Democrats campaign for U.S. House seat: "McDonald, 66, was born in Salina, Kan., in 1944, to parents who lost their farm six years earlier during the Great Depression. He still has a copy of the bill of sale from when his parents were forced to sell the last of their livestock and equipment. He keeps it in his pocket and looks at it now and then to remind him of where he came from.
"'I think feeling failure within your family is a huge motivator,' McDonald told a reporter in 2007....
"McDonald said he often is reminded when he is out on the campaign trail of the difficulties his family faced so long ago. He criticized the federal government's response to the current economic crisis as a 'knee-jerk reaction to bail out the big banks.' He said the federal government should be focusing on 'investing in Main Street, not Wall Street.'
"'We need to invest in ordinary people because when you do that, you'll experience an extraordinary return,' McDonald said. 'That's the fundamental history of this country. Whether it's the Homestead Act, the GI Bill, or the (Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008) or the investment in education, all of that was focused on investing in citizens, that's what built our country.'"
Candidate statements - U.S. House seat - Dennis McDonald: "I'm prepared to lead in a different direction. I propose we move from an economy based on debt, consumption and speculation to one that promotes savings, productivity, innovation and hard work. It's not a radical idea. It's just a matter of reordering our priorities. We simply have to stop letting Wall Street call the shots while our Main Streets dry up and blow overseas.
"I propose we make a national commitment to invest in ordinary people because when we do we will realize an extraordinary return. Those tried and failed trickledown schemes don't benefit everyday folks. We know that now. They just bring bubble economies, unemployment and heartache to too many Montanans.
"My vision is to shake things up and refocus our priorities on the things we know will work: investing in education, renewable energy and developing our natural resources in an environmentally sound manner."
Will Mafia client come back to haunt McDonald?: "McDonald - Democratic candidate for Congress, former chairman of the Montana Democratic Party, and a rancher near Melville for the past 22 years - was once the lawyer for the acting boss of the West Coast Cosa Nostra crime family.
"Jimmy 'The Weasel' Fratianno. He killed people.
"Some of McDonald's political opponents have been making hay with the Fratianno story for more than a year, since shortly after McDonald announced he was running against Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg in this November's elections.
"The Montana Republican Party ran a television ad about Fratianno last March - 20 months before the election - juxtaposing photos of McDonald in his cowboy hat with those of Fratianno and other "mob-looking" images including a black-and-white of what viewers are led to believe are the feet of a dead man in a morgue with a tag hanging off the big toe.
"'McDonald even befriended Fratianno,' says the voice-over of the ad. 'They hung out together in Vegas.'
"But McDonald says the true story is not what the Republicans would have you believe. McDonald is not ashamed of his involvement with Fratianno.
"'I took a crook and turned him into a witness,' he said. And, together with federal prosecutors and the FBI, McDonald and Fratianno helped take down more than two dozen other mobsters."
Bio: (from his campaign website) Born and raised in Billings, Rankin graduated from Billings West High in 1963 and subsequently earned a bachelor's degree at Rocky Mountain and Eastern Montana colleges. After school, he spent a year in India with the Peace Corps, after which he was drafted and served in Vietnam as a medic, earning honors. After returning home, Rankin worked for JC Penny's for a couple of years before entering the real estate business. Since, he's also worked as a teacher, including a one-year stint at the St. Charles Mission on the Crow reservation in Pryor.
Politically, Rankin "directed John Anderson's bid as an independent candidate for president in 1980." (I assume he means for the state of Montana.) He ran an unsuccessful 1982 campaign for the Montana House, and withdrew from a 1992 challenge to Ron Marlene. Rankin in 1985 served on the Democratic National Rules Committee and was a 20-year member of Common Cause.
Issues: (from his website): Rankin favors cutting Medicare, saying "people fifty-five and under should prepare for needing less health care by practicing healthy life styles." Social Security also faces Rankin's wrath: he favors cutting future Social Security benefits, warning those "56 and younger" to expect benefit reductions and wants to reduce SS benefits for wealthy recipients and raise the age for receiving payments to 70.
Concerning taxes, Rankin wants to close inappropriate loopholes for businesses; he favors a path to citizenship with penalties for immigrants who entered the country illegally; wishes to "preserve the status quo" on gun laws; supports the recently passed Congressional health-care bill; supports funding "green alternative energy," while supporting coal and natural gas production in the "short term," hoping to find a way we can burn coal "cleanly"; supports the Employee Free Choice Act; supports cap-and-trade as a means to reduce carbon pollution and reduce the threat of climate change; does "not support a repeal of Roe v Wade," but does support "efforts to restrict abortion by shrinking available public funds and encouraging alternatives"; and wants to "phase out affirmative action."
Democrats running for the House: "If I'm fortunate to win in November it would in large part be because of my stand against excessive money and the polarization of politicians it causes. I would say to the Montana political leaders of both parties: political compromise, the true strength of our country, is what the voters want and if you don't begin to work together, you'll not be re-elected. And if you want to govern for the people of Montana, you need to compromise."
"That's one of the reasons Rankin, 65, doesn't plan to raise much of it.
"'Most Montanans and most people throughout the country think excessive money has corrupted the process, and the common man's voice has been drowned out,' Rankin said. 'I believe special interests rule back in Washington, D.C., and I don't like the way they rule.'"
"For example, Rankin is calling for major revisions of federal 'entitlements' such as Social Security and Medicare.
"'I'm semi-touching the third rail (of politics),' he said. 'No one else wants to go near Social Security and Medicare.'
"Rankin has called for keeping Social Security benefits the same for the elderly, but letting people ages 56 and younger know that their benefits will be reduced to ensure its stability. Over 10 years, he would raise the age at which people may begin drawing Social Security benefits to 70 from the current 62. In addition, Social Security benefits for wealthy people should be reduced, although not drastically, over time, he said.
"As for Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly, Rankin said those ages 55 and younger should prepare for receiving reduced health care benefits when they get older by making healthy lifestyle choices."
"'It started off to help people having trouble selling their houses when they didn't have enough equity,' he said. 'People have to have their own open house, show the property and buy ads.'
"He believes his background selling real estate will serve the state well because he knows how to facilitate and negotiate successful deals, assuming both parties are sincere.
"'Democrats who wonder who I am and about my credentials need only look at my commitment to try and help others,' he said. Rankin pointed to his service as a Peace Corps volunteer in India, although he returned home early because of an illness, as an Army medic in Vietnam and as a teacher."
Bio: (garnered from his website): Gernant's "great grandfather homesteaded near Whitetail," and both his grandfathers were working stiffs (one drove a truck in Great Falls, the other worked in the Anaconda smelter). Gernant's parents moved to Idaho Falls in the 1980s. A graduate of Georgetown, Gernant later worked for Senator Max Baucus and Representative Dan Baird, and worked on John Edwards' 2004 [not '08 -- JS] presidential campaign. After the campaign, Gernant "returned to Idaho Falls and spent time substitute teaching" before attending law school in Missoula, where he co-found the Rural Advocacy League.
Issues: Gernant's main plank revolves around a Green economy. He advocates "incentives for businesses and entrepreneurs who are ready to invest in Montana's clean, renewable, and sustainable energy resources," promotes investing in a "smarter, more efficient power grid," and invest in primary and secondary education to create "clean and sustainable energy jobs that will last beyond our limited natural resources."
Gernant also advocates an Afghan mission that's "limited in time"; financial reform that builds consumer protection and "eliminate[s] predatory lending"; simplifying the tax code and closing loopholes; reinstating the Congressional "pay-go" system to prevent further national debt spending; a Constitutional amendment that protects Americans' privacy; and implementing a Rural Investment Tax Credit that would spur investment in rural areas.
From "Tyler Gernant for Congress," by jhwygirl: "I've had the opportunity to meet and speak with Tyler on more than a few occasions. Gernant is one hard working candidate (I'm betting he's crisscrossed this entire state nearly twice already). He'll meet with anyone, and I'm thoroughly impressed with his dedication.
"Tyler's smart, he's knowledgeable about tax law and tax code and I believe he will go to Washington seeking forward-moving change."
From "Tyler Gernant Answers Policy Questions," on Intelligent Discontent: (Gernant answering a question about Rehberg's self-imposed moratorium on appropriating earmarks for Montana) "Rehberg's pledge is an empty political gesture that's more about party politics than what is right for Montana. In fact, shortly before making this pledge, Congressman Rehberg discussed the federal budget deficit and earmarks, stating 'earmarks are not the problem.' This is just another example of Rehberg marching lock-step with his party at the expense of helping people in Montana."
Democrats campaign for U.S. House seat: "Gernant said he is running for office because he sees firsthand how the problems plaguing the nation are impacting his clients, friends and neighbors, and he wants to do something about it.
"'I had seen a bunch of my friends lose their jobs and leave Montana, and a few of the businesses that I represented lost their lines of credit due to the credit crunch, and ended up having to close down,' Gernant said. 'I really felt like there is a lot we ought to be doing to help those people succeed. That's what drove me into the race.'"
Candidate Statements - U.S. House seat - Tyler Gernant: "First of all, we need to stop writing IOUs to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. The government doesn't let us raid our retirement accounts for frivolous spending; why let our government get away with it?
"We also need to end the use-it-or-lose-it budget system in Washington. Federal agencies are encouraged to spend every penny they have because, if they don't, they'll get less money next year. We need to change this system so agencies are encouraged to spend wisely and save for the future, just like we do in our own households.
"And, finally, we need to focus on getting Montana's economy moving again. The best way to do that is by investing in the new energy economy. I recently went on a New Energy Tour throughout Montana, visiting with business people who are already putting solar, wind and bio-fuel technology to efficient, profitable use. As a congressman I'll work to promote the growth of this industry, which can bring hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of sustainable jobs to Montana and Butte in particular."
"However, McDonald's $18,000 loan the past seven weeks boosted his total campaign receipts for the period to about $28,450. For the entire campaign, McDonald has loaned his campaign more than $27,800, compared with Gernant's previous loan of more than $1,800."
Following up on my post about the seemingly defunct Republican party in Montana, there is an important point that I left out.
Republicans have largely relinquished the party duties to a person named Chuck Denowh. Denowh is a long-time right-wing Montana operative who has, over time, opened a series of rent-a-front organizations: PACs, astroturf issue groups, incidental ballot committees, and other shell entities designed to appear like legitimate grassroots issue groups.
Denowh, an urbane-looking fellow who runs around the Capitol in a suit and tie fighting his good fight, was among the crew of young geniuses that took the Republican Party from ruling status 6 years ago to the bottom of the toilet today. He forms these "issue" groups working in concert with other RAWNJs like former Representative Jon Sinrud (R-Belgrade), the Chamber, the Realtors, etc., He then sends mailings out in targeted races, decrying democrats as dangerous liberals, radicals, anti-business, radical environmentalists, and the usual minimalist attacks that rile up the ignorant, case-of-Coors-a-day, semi-literate mouth breathers that constitute the Montana far-right wing. He cooks the spin right into the groups' names with lables like "Better Government PAC" or "Growth PAC" and other such innocuous names. Then he raises cash from hard-core conservative donors, and moves the money to this PAC or the other (legally it appears).
The front-group mailer is a tactic that Republicans have long used. Dems seem to have had less success with it. Here's how it works: A mailing shows up saying that "Democrat Candidate X supports the Radical Terrorist Agenda", or "Candidate X Voted For the Biggest Tax Increase In History" or "If You Can't Find A Job, Thank Candidate X for Shutting Down the Mill With Radical Environmental Regulation." And there is a dubious citation in small print at the bottom with reference to some legislation that had nothing to do with anything, and a disclaimer that says "Paid for By Montanans for a Stronger Society" or "Montanans for More Jobs." In the Flathead, a bunch of wing-nuts bounced Frank Sweeney from the City Council using these tactics. In fact about nearly $40k was spent on the effort, a good third of it coming from Denowh's operation.
The state Republican Party used to do this, until the Republican brand went down the toilet with names like Martz, Bush, Brad Johnson, Greg Barkus, Jeff Krauss and many other debilitating figures who showed complete ineptitude. Now a mailer that says "paid for by Republicans" loses its luster. This season, the right-wing hotheads are at an all time high blood-pressure now that we have a black president, and you will no doubt see many Denowh mailers to get the wingnuts to the polls. We will see if they do the job.
Over the next day or two, I'll post a kind of "Links..." page for each of the Democratic House candidates, with quick summaries of their issues and links to profiles or relevant blog and news articles...
Bio: Melinda is a paralegal and writer living in Missoula. She "..worked in the non-profit sector as a volunteer for 25 years and has traveled the state in the capacity of a civil rights advocate and coordinator of fair housing work." She also was involved in educating the public on "address[ing] cyanide mining in Montana," worked on "tourism initiatives," and helped create the visitor's center at First People's State Park.
Issues: (from her website) Gopher vows to help create a "high technology corridor" based on green energy. She also vows to promote wind energy, "reorganize and prioritize CDBG block grants" to promote job creation in urban and reservation areas of Montana, support the distribution and use of medical technology to reduce health care costs, and "restore long sought Chippewa sovereignty recognition in Montana." Gopher also wants to reform our tax code, closing corporate tax loopholes and closing tax havens, and extending tax relief to working- and middle-class families.
Melinda Gopher Not Afraid to Speak her Mind: "Having only a fraction of the campaign funds raised by two of her Democratic rivals, Dennis McDonald and Tyler Gernant, Gopher is counting on a wave of fellow Native Americans, women and youth to rally behind her and 'reach every corner in the state' in the coming weeks.
"Blunt, outspoken and unafraid to criticize her opponents and top Democratic elected officials, Gopher is campaigning her own way.
"'I won't go with the party line,' she says. 'I will do what's best for Montana. I will do my own evaluating of an issue, and I'm not beholden to anybody.'"
Melinda Gopher, Blackfeet/Ojibwe, eyes US House Seat: "She tells how her father, Robert Gopher, borrowed money for gas from a relative so he could drive from Hill 57, outside of Great Falls, to Helena to testify at the 1972 Constitutional Convention. He successfully advocated for inclusion of this clause, which made it into the Montana Constitution: 'The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity.'
"'That's how that became a state law because someone chose to make a difference,' Gopher said. 'When I start to feel a little discouraged, I think of that example. My dad wasn't from any organization. He wasn't part of an organized effort. He was a citizen. That's the whole concept of one person making a difference.'"
McDonald's figure doesn't include the $18,000 he loaned himself in just this last reporting period - this brings his total loans to his campaign to $28,835.00.
Gernant did not loan his campaign any money this last reporting period - but he has loaned himself a total of $1,800 since the beginning of his FEC reporting.
McDonald has taken a total of $2,200 in PAC contributions to Gernant's $100. But neither compares to Dennis Rehberg's total of $252,701.00, which includes $15,500.00 this reporting period (an extra $1,000 coming in May 27th from the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Assn PAC of Fredrick, MD).
Momentum means a lot - and sadly, it does and will take money to take unseat Dennis Rehberg. With Gernant outraising his opponents the last two reporting periods, and with more cash on hand, Gernant is showing the organization and the steam needed to win Montana's lone congressional seat for the Democrats.
"Depth," indeed. The party expends 478 words reassuring the party faithful that it's working to ensure that the group does not "implicate" the Montana GOP, and tracing the ads and a related PAC to Republican state senator, Jon Brueggeman.
You may ask, what's so loathsome about the group that Montana Republicans are working so hard to distance themselves from its message?
Well, according to retired House member, Amory Houghton, Mainstreet Advocacy stands for "honest public service." Congressman Tom Davis says Mainstreet Advocacy is "committed to a centrist and pragmatic agenda for the 21st century....Instead of focusing on divisive social issues, Mainstreet advocacy focuses on finding real-world solutions to the complex challenges facing our nation today." On the group's "About" page, its values are "fiscal responsibility, limited government, individual liberties and a belief in the power of free markets and free people," and its mission is "to reach out to independents, disaffected Democrats, centrists, suburbanites and young voters. To do so we must offer pragmatic, common sense solutions to the complex challenges facing our country today."
You know, brrrrrrr! Terrifying!
All this, of course, reminds me of AJ Otjen's candidacy for US House. From the Great Falls Tribunesummary of the Republican candidates:
She said she believes there are many moderate Republicans who are fed up with the divisive rhetoric that has permeated the party in recent years. She said she is running in hope of returning the party to its practical, fiscally responsible roots, as opposed to focusing on divisive social issues.
"I think I'm a real Republican because I'm practical," Otjen said. "I would like to think Republicans are practical, and I'm trying to have a look toward the future and how to come up with solutions to get us to where we all want to be. We've got to have two reasonable parties working together for good government."
Compare that to, say, Mark French - obviously a big fan of Glenn Beck - who sees "socialism coming at us like a freight train," and who wants us "to look in the eyes of our dead veterans" to tell them "you're not going to do anything about what's coming at us..." Yeah! Like the GI Bill or VA hospitals...er...wait a minute...
Or the state's incumbent gentleman goat farmer, Dennis Rehberg, who's biggest accomplishment so far in the House was the exuberance with which he put his Rubber Stamp to work for the Bush administration's worst excesses - runaway spending, economy-busting deregulation, war, torture. (No wonder he's raised the most money of any House candidate in the state. Rubber Stamps don't come cheap.)
While there's plenty of sniping on the Democratic side of the ticket this year, as the four candidates jostle and jockey for your vote, what's at stake, really, in that race? That race is about who you think would stand the best chance in November, and who you think would make the best representative. It isn't a clash of ideas, really. And certainly not a battle for the future of the party.
But that's exactly what we're seeing in the Republican primary. It's a three-way tug-of-war for the soul of Montana's conservative movement, between Mark French's Bible and Glenn Beck, a do-nothing corporate partisan, and AJ Otjen's promise of pragmatic fiscal conservatism and social libertarianism.
Yes, I hope for the latter. And, yes, it's because I like a lot of what Otjen has to say. Yes, I want someone to work with in Washington DC. Yes, we share some values. But most importantly is that she - unlike her opponents - acknowledges the problems that afflict our country. I don't care how we address climate change, say, as long as we do it. That's why I support cap-and-trade, and I'd support it still, even if paranoid progressives' fears of Wall Street creating a new derivatives market out of pollution permits were true. I don't care if some people make a bajillion dollars from saving the Earth, as long as the Earth is saved.
And that's unlike French, who's obviously living in a fantasy world. He'd use his Congressional seat to proselytize his particular form of Christianity and advance delusional conspiracy theories. Or Rehberg - who's an intelligent man and a decent political player, and who should obviously know climate change is real and that we have a healthcare and jobs crisis in the country, but who still obstructs any meaningful work on those issues purely for political gain.
It's sad, isnt' it? But only in 2010 would Otjen be considered an outsider candidate.
We'll see soon what Montana's Republicans are thinking.
...I will advance Montana as a high technology corridor of the north-built on the state's potential as a wind energy resource. The combination of wind, solar, biomass,and geothermal present great opportunities to build a sustainable, high tech economy. The problem is Montana lags greatly in high tech investment-coming in last in the western U.S. I will create a federally sponsored effort to attract more high tech investment to our state.
I will work to secure federal seed grants to high tech and clean energy start-up and existing companies for this specific purpose and aim it at building Montana's capacity. I want to see a new effort at entrepreneurship in our state based on this approach. I will approach this by linking private, public, business, government and tribal efforts in a comprehensive effort to ensure our state leads the region and nation in a collaborative outcome to achieve a high tech economy build on green, renewable energy.
Last month, I sent out a questionnaire about domestic issues to each of the Democratic candidates running to unseat Representative Rehberg. While I did receive a full set of responses from the Gernant campaign, I did not get a response from Melinda Gopher or Dennis McDonald. Sam Rankin did call, and told me that he had made a pledge not to speak until after the primary.
Among the answers Gernant supplied to Pogie was this, on climate change:
I believe scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that our actions contribute to global warming. It's our responsibility to find solutions to this problem. A key part of solving the problem is to promote new, sustainable ways of producing energy. There is great potential in the new energy economy, both in helping our environment and in boosting our state's economy and creating jobs. I've been on a New Energy Tour of Montana and have met with businesspeople throughout the state who are already making innovative and productive use of sustainable energy. We need to provide incentives for this type of innovation and make sustainable energy a key part of our nation's energy policy.
Well answered. Especially in light of the Obama administration and Congress' inaction in the midst of environmental catastrophe. And kudos to Gernant for answering Pogie's questions. They were more than fair, and the public should see his answers.
Now the question to the other candidates, why the dodge?
Most of Dennis Rehberg's answers to the Clark Fork Chronicle questionnaire to all Republican congressional candidates could be called at best "creative" if he hadn't used them so often.
For example, his third most ridiculous claim in the questionnaire was:
I am a fifth-Generation Montana rancher from Billings.
When in reality, we know that Rehberg is a wealthy trust-funder who inherited millions then turned the family ranch into a subdivision. In fact, Rehberg is so used to the finer things in life that he tried several times to stick us with the $54 million dollar bill for elite luxury gulf-stream jets to fly lawmakers around. The ultimate luxury perk, these jets are powered Rolls-Royce engines and feature divans that transform into double beds, telephones, pop-up 26 inch LCD monitors, fax machines, DVD players, multiple oversized restrooms and a full service galley.
His second most ridiculous claim was this:
Yet, in just one year of controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, national Democrats have quadrupled the national deficit as a share of the economy.
During rehberg's first term in office, the deficit as a share of the economy quadrupled, during his second term it more than doubled again. In fact, under Dennis Rehberg's watch (not even including the last year he mentions above) the national deficit has increased by 1000% (ten times) as a share of the economy. You can see it for yourself here.
Tuesday's election results showed what is now conventional wisdom. There is an "anti-incumbent mood" among voters. Why are people are so angry with the current crop of politicians in Washington?
In Montana, we need look no further for an answer than to the members of Rehberg's own party. It looks like Republicans are finally catching on to Reherg's duplicity, and they are mad.
Speaking on a Tea Party community television interview, Rehberg opponent Mark French says:
"The incumbent has embraced socialized medicine programs and these types of unconstitutional bills and its killin' us. If you are going to swear an oath of office you can't be voting for these types of things or you make yourself an enemy of the state."
The comment came after the Tea Party interviewer asked French if we could "role back the budgets to pre-Bush."
It appears that this leading tea-bagger has realized that Rehberg may have voted against the Obama spending, but he voted for every single budget that George Bush put forward. These budgets spent more money than in any eight year period in the history of Congress--creating trillions of dollars of debt. George W. Bush may have been many things, but he was not a fiscal conservative and he and Denny Rehberg spent money like drunken sailors. Rehberg is no conservative. He ran up five trillion dollars worth of deficit.
French also criticizes the Patriot Act and Rehberg's vote in favor of it. What he doesn't mention in the show, but does appear in his campaign literature, is that Rehberg "the incumbent" voted for the greatest attempt at invasion of privacy the Federal Government has ever made, the Real ID Act, the law which allowed the Federal Government to track americans using a federal ID card that we'd all have to carry. The State Legislature, including every single Republican, had to step in and pass a law forbidding the state from complying with what their top officeholder, Denny Rehberg, had voted for. (HR 1268, became law 2005.)
Unfair free trade agreements have already had a devastating affect on Montana families. According to a new 2010 report by the Economic Policy Institute, Montana has already lost 3,600 jobs due to unfair trade agreements with China--all during Rehberg's time in office.
Rehberg can talk all he wants about "jobs" but the fact remains that he supports trade arrangements that will ship the jobs of hardworking Montana families overseas. We deserve a Representative who will work to create jobs right here at home and stand up for the middle class, not someone like Rehberg who wants to ship our jobs overseas.
Dennis Rehberg claims he bases his votes on what he hears in his so-called "listening sessions," he says:
"I think there's a direct correlation between how a representative votes and how much time they've spent listening to the people they represent. After hearing what Montanans had to say about these important issues, I can't imagine voting differently than I have."
Just where, exactly, is he hearing the support for expanding unfair free trade agreements that ship Montana jobs overseas?
If what Rehberg says above is true, Rehberg's spent more time listening to (and representing) the multi-national corporation lobbyists who line his pockets than ordinary Montanans.
"Free trade is a critical part of American business," [Rehberg Press release 11.8.07]