With a full slate of candidates speaking at the annual Blaine and Hill counties Lincoln-Reagan Day fundraiser in Havre Sunday, one message came through strong: Local Republicans need to work and donate if they want to continue their success and take offices in the state and nation.
“This is not going to be done alone, ” Hill County Republican Central Committee Chair Andrew Brekke said at the end of the packed-house meeting at the Student Union Building Ballroom at Montana State University-Northern. “We need all of you to write your checks and contribute your time and your energy, and, as (former state Sen. Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre,) used to say, use your octane, your God-given octane, for the movement. We need it.
“We have done very, very well the last few years, but we can’t stand back on our laurels, we have to fight, as (state Rep. Derek Skees, R-Whitefish, and candidate for state auditor) says, and move forward. ”
The room was filled with candidates making their last stop in a three-day tour, including local legislative candidates Reps. Wendy Warburton and Kris Hansen and Sen. Craig Tilleman of Havre, and Don Richman of Harlem, who is challenging Tilleman in the Republican primary in Senate District 17 in northern Hill and Blaine counties.
Both Hansen and Warburton referenced bills that they passed in the House last session they said would have helped Montana economically and socially, that were shot down in the Senate or vetoed by “Governor B. S., ” as Warburton referred to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Steve Daines, a Bozeman businessman who is running for the seat in the U. S. House now held by Rep. Denny Rehberg, was the keynote speaker. He called on people to elect Rehberg, who is challenging first-term U. S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in the 2012 election, as well as to vote Republican for the U. S. House, the state elections and for the presidency.
Daines quoted a comment that “Congress has an insatiable appetite for unsustainability, ” citing the massive national debt the country has run up in the last few years of recession.
“The good news is this can be turned around …, ” Daines added. “With the most important senate race, probably, in the country right here in our back yard, a very important House race, important governor’s races, all up and down the ticket where the stakes are so high. So join with us in having the tremendous victories to support our communities, not just for Montana, but for our country and for the world. ”
Rehberg could not attend the dinner, but a campaign staff member read a letter to the crowd from the representative.
Neither Dennis Teske of Terry, who is challenging Rehberg in the primary, or Daines’ primary challenger, Eric Brosten of Helena, attended the meeting.
Five gubernatorial candidates addressed the crowd, with former U. S. Rep. Rick Hill, Chouteau County Commissioner Jim O’Hara, security specialist Neil Livingstone, former state Sens. Ken Miller and Corey Stapleton telling the Hi-Line Republicans why they believe they are the best choice for the state’s top politician.
State Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, made his case why he should be the next state attorney general. His primary opponent, Tim Fox of Helena, did not attend the dinner but sent a letter that was read to the audience.
Secretary of state candidates Scott Aspenlieder, a Helena engineer, and Brad Johnson, who lost his bid for re-election to the office in 2008, also talked to the crowd, as did state superintendent of public instruction candidate Sandy Welch and Skees, the candidate for state auditor.
Skees said he is running because he loves to fight, and referenced the same acrimonious issues in the last session that Warburton and Hansen talked about.
“I bear the scars of those battles too, ” he said, and added that he wants people to fight to make certain Republicans win the elections this fall.
“If we do that we can win this state back, ” Skees said.