Republicans mix it up at state convention

By: 
BRAD MOLNAR
An opinion
Debra Lamm, of Livingston, was elected chair of the Montana GOP.

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon sane Montanan’s were enjoying spring like weather while Republican activists met at the Billings Red Lion Convention Center to select new state-level party leadership.

 

The Lamm shall lay 

down with the lion

Until the week of the convention the only name held out as the successor to Chairman Jeff Essman was former Livingston legislator Debra Lamm. Late entries Aaron Flint and George Paul made it a contest. 

Lamm was nominated by Flathead legislator Derek Skees. Never known as a wallflower Skees was even higher energy as he pumped Lamm’s printed plan for the future in the air with his clenched fist, punctuated with multiple “this is the plan!”  His was the only speech to receive energetic applause. 

In contrast Lamm’s presentation did not use the allotted time, was delivered in a low voice and consisted of promising to nurture grassroots development, local candidates and fund raising. She earned her bones opposing the Common Core school curriculum which has angered/united Republican’s for years.   

Aaron Flint said he was contacted by a plethora of conservatives to abandon his vacation plans and run for Chairman. What else could he do? As a communications director for the Gianforte gubernatorial campaign, organizer for the Ryan Zinke re-election campaign, radio talk show host for the statewide “Voices of Montana,” and paid speaker, Flint did not disappoint and delivered quotable one liners rapid fire like, “We will take out Teheran Jon Tester,” and “we’ve been stuck in this purple mud too long; let’s make Montana a red state.”  

All politicians shoot themselves in the foot once in a while but Paul re-loaded and assaulted his other penny loafer. In a bumbling, often barely audible speech, Paul called Flint a fake Republican which drew laughter. After he left the podium he shouted out his displeasure with the cost and scheduling of the convention to Chairman Essman who responded with a sigh and “Thank you.”

Receiving more than 50 percent of the vote, Lamm won on the first ballot. Flint felt it was because Lamm’s longer campaign had received the pledges of the majority of delegates and the delegates had kept their word. Historically legislators do well in such contests because sitting legislators have a vote and are comfortable voting for people they have worked with. 

Essman was also a legislator that beat strong opponents. Asked what he felt was his greatest accomplishment as Chairman, and how he felt turning over the reins, he replied, “When I took over the chairmanship the party was hemorrhaging red ink so badly we could not perform our basic duties and were deep in debt. I retired that debt and left the party with a positive balance. I look forward to transitioning to my campaign for mayor.”  

When Ken Miller was the Republican Party Chairman he, like Lamm, wanted to fund Republican legislative candidates and push from the ground up instead of fund and instruct from the beltway down. Establishment Republicans pushed back and continue to do so when Miller stands for election. Good luck Lamm.

 

Sanders County range war

For years Sanders County Republican activists have been challenging the authenticity of those that would plan the Lincoln Day dinners and have a voice at conventions. They have formed dueling central committees and called on various party chairmen to determine the real central committee. During the rules episode of the convention both factions moved amendments to create more certainty for their faction. One finally passed by one vote as the convention got drug into the spat. But that won’t end it. Like Essman said, “Now there are three ways to look at things.”

 

It is settled because I said so

The unannounced speaker for lunch was Congressman Elect Greg Gianforte. Receiving light applause he reiterated he would push for congressional term limits (banned by the constitution), ban pay for congressmen that do not vote for a balanced budget (barred by the constitution) and “drain the swamp,” by not allowing former congressmen to lobby (accomplished by Trump’s executive order last January). He also promised to bring prosperity to Montana’s tribal reservations although no details were given. 

Afterwards I asked Shane Scanlon, Gianforte’s press agent, “Your press release on the assault did not jive with eyewitness accounts. Even Greg has discounted it. You were not in the room. Did you make up the sequence of events or did someone give you a false accounting? Who? Did Gianforte personally approve your release?” 

If a press agent is known to reconstitute inconvenient truths when do we again trust him? If a candidate orders that a lie be told on something like a little scuffle when can we trust him? Without blinking Scanlon replied, “Greg has accepted responsibility. So the matter is closed.” Wanna bet? 

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