Republican leaders say they are scratching their heads, trying to figure out what prompted state Democrats to circulate fliers critical of State Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, last week.
The leaflet, which highlighted an unflattering photo of the incumbent, said "Rep. Kris Hansen WILL protect foreign tax shelters for Big Corporations."
It listed several bills on social and education issues in which the Democrats said Hansen voted against the best interests of Havre residents.
were not in the interest of Havre residents.
"It was very unusual," said Hill County GOP Chair Andrew Brekke.
He said it was strange the state party would come to Hill County's 33rd District to distribute such material when no Democrat has yet announced plans to challenge Hansen.
Brekke questioned whether the money the party spent on the fliers will count when as a party contribution to the campaign coffers of the eventual candidate.
Had the party distributed similar leaflets against Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, in the neighboring 34th District, the money would have had to be assessed as a donation to Warburton's general election challenger, Democrat Karen Sloan. State law limits party contributions to candidates to $800.
He said similar distributions have taken place in two other districts in Great Falls and Bozeman.
Party lawyers are checking into the matter, he said, though he doubted any legal challenges would be filed.
Brekke said such campaign materials are usually distributed just prior to the elections, and they are often prepared by the legislative campaign committees, not the party's central committee.
"The timing was rather strange," he said.
He said he received several calls from people critical of the distribution.
"The first call I got was a from a Democrat who was concerned," he said.
Hill County Democratic Chair John Musgrove said state party leaders felt Hansen was out of touch with Havre voters, and they wanted to make her record known.
He said he has not seen the leaflets and couldn't comment on them.
He said he is talking to a couple of people interested in making the challenge to Hansen, and he predicted an announcement would be coming next week.
Brekke said it appeared that the state party was interested in targeting Hansen this fall.
On paper, he said, it might appear that Hansen is vulnerable because Havre is traditionally a Democratic stronghold.
But he noted that Hansen was elected overwhelmingly two years ago, and he said she has established a solid record.