Despite fatigue from last election, 2020 election is looming in Montana

By: 
Brad Molnar
Political Potpourri
Thursday, April 4, 2019

Montanans are weary of our never-ending campaign cycle. Four years ago the Bullock/ Gianforte battle left Gianforte battered and bruised after Montana’s most expensive governor’s race. But Congressman Zinke became Secretary Zinke, and Senator Daines engineered a 2017 comeback for his friend. Greg Gianforte vs. Rob Quist became light reading as both garnered fewer votes than the congressional candidates for the same office one year prior. The Libertarian candidate garnered more votes than the L candidate in 2016 as disenfranchised voters looked for a new home. Then 2017 became 2018 and Gianforte scored an impressive victory over credible but underfunded Kathleen Williams. Now the question is if Congressman Gianforte will again try to become Governor Gianforte.

Not so fast, Gregites. Attorney General Tim Fox has declared his intent to win the Republican nomination to take on the Democratic nominee to be Montana’s next governor. One of his first steps on the two-year trail was to swing into Billings and address attendees at the Big Tent/Center-Right Club. Attendance was higher than normal and populated with Billing’s most notable political junkies.

The topics Fox covered were perhaps obscure to many but red meat to those gathered. Fox discussed how, in concert with other Republican state Attorneys General, he brought down Obama’s “Waters of the West” and “Clean Power Plan.” Local flavor was added when Fox discussed his efforts to overturn Missoula’s background checks on gun buyer’s and restrictions on private gun sales. Fox opined that even though the Missoula City Council’s action was a direct violation of state law the case was not a “slam dunk” because the Montana Supreme Court is not populated with “original intention jurists” and “strict constructionisquestionerts” but rather only one Justice met that definition.

On everyone’s mind is the ongoing attacks on Montana’s energy infrastructure emanating from Washington state’s governor, and presidential candidate,

Jay Inslee. Tim Fox discussed at length his legal maneuvers to force Washington to open their shipping ports to Montana coal using the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Fox, and those gathered felt the clause was squarely on their side. Fox reminded them that the Commerce Clause had been amended and defined through court ac- tions many times so the plain wording was not to be trusted for eventual victory and the appeal process faces federal judges normally more aligned with environmental interests. Concluding on the topic Fox proclaimed, “Inslee is a fraud. If he were truly concerned about climate problems he would allow Montana’s higher quality coal into the Asian market to reduce atmospheric pollution.”

Fox invoked the name of Trump at every opportunity pledging his support of The Wall to curtail drug abuse, which he labeled as Montana’s #1 problem. On judicial appointments, judicial said, “Thank God for Trump and his appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. I will fill judi- cial vacancies with original intent judges.”

Q & A

The question and answer part of the meeting was characteristically pointed. The first questioner challenged Fox’s support of the CSKT Water Compact. This issue is one that continues to dog all that supported it and makes candidates unelectable in the eyes of many. The issue has

winners and losers; losers don’t like losing. Fox did not handle it well. In a long soliloquy (actually his longest answer on any question) he chastised the questioner and lambasted legislators that do not agree.

Another questioner asked about his support of I-185’s Medicaid Expansion. Fox responded that he only ruled that the text of I-185 was legally sufficient. He then claimed, he had effectively worked with other Republican Attorney Generals to make Obama Care’s Medicaid Expansion optional for state selection as opposed to a mandatory requirement for all states.

After the meeting coffee klatches seemed to agree Gianforte would be the best choice for Montana’s top administrator but when he faces the same issues as in 2016 he would lose again. With Fox having won 52 of 56 counties in his last race most agreed he that though not the most conservative in the race he was the best shot to return the Governor’s office to Republican hands. Several argued that Corey Stapelton was the one that could bridge the gap. Senator Al Olszewski has announced his intention to run for governor but was not discussed by those gathered. No Democrats have announced yet.

A staffer for Congressman Gianforte attended the meeting. And so it goes.

If you want to attend or speak at the next Center Right/Big Tent meeting contact judy@montana.net for information.

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