A slew of Democratic candidates ranging from contenders for a county position to candidates shooting for Congress were at a fundraising dinner in Havre Tuesday, pushing for party members to help take back seats or hold back Republican attempts to take other offices and to continue the efforts of the current governor.
Hill County Democratic Chair John Musgrove, a former state representative, said the Democrats need to take back the Montana Legislature to provide productive lawmaking.
“We all know what happens in politics when the wrong people get in. We should know it very well by now because it happened last session, and that was the most god-awful thing I have ever seen, ” he said, adding that “our only salvation” was the constitutional balance guaranteeing that the governor can restrain the actions of the other branches.
“The veto branding of Governor (Brian) Schweitzer — a little bit smoky — but it got the message out there and got rid of some of those bills we would have been stuck with. … We need a governor and lieutenant governor that will follow that tradition to make sure that Montana has a reasonableness to it. Folks, we need to be reasonable. ”
Brig. Gen. John Walsh, ret., former adjutant general of the Montana National Guard and a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, said he and the top of his ticket, Attorney General Steve Bullock, will work to continue policies to maintain Montana values, continue improving conditions of the state and passing on a better environment to future generations.
“Steve Bullock has done a fantastic job as your attorney general, ” Walsh said. “For Steve it’s not about Steve Bullock, it’s not about … him moving to the next level or being the next governor. It’s about the citizens of Montana, serving the citizens of Montana. ”
He cited programs like a prescription drug registry to reduce drug abuse Bullock implemented, a 24-7 testing program to reduce repeat driving under the influence offenses, and his taking the case of Montana’s prohibition on corporate election spending to the U. S. Supreme Court.
“Steve Bullock is not afraid to take it on in Washington, D.C., ” Walsh said, adding that Bullock also has worked on many issues across party lines to pass his programs.
“It’s not about the Democrats, it’s not about the Republicans, it’s about Montanans, the citizens of Montana, and how we’re going to make this state better for us … but more important, what are we going to do, how are we going to make this state a better state for our youth, for the next generation. ”
Rob Stutz, who is campaigning in the Democratic primary to take the seat U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., is vacating to run against U. S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., pointed out that it has been 18 years since Montana sent a Democrat to the U. S. House.
“People born in 1994 are voting the first time in this election. We have lost a generation, ” Stutz said.
He said his goal, whoever wins the primary, is to make sure Bozeman businessman Steve Daines, the Republican candidate, loses in November.
“I’m going to draw a sharp distinction. I’m going to give the voters a choice between what it means to be a Democrat and what it means to be a Republican, ” he said.
Stutz said part of that is his not bowing to special interests, signing pledges.
“I think the process of legislating is important. I think it’s important we have someone who goes to Washington with the attitude that they do what is right for Montana, ” he said.
Dave Strohmaier, who is one of the other House candidates in the Democratic primary, said it is time to turn things around in Congress. He said the latest poll shows a 12 percent approval rating for the body.
His question, Strohmaier said, is “Who the heck is that 12 percent? ”
The lengthy event included numerous other speakers, including the Democratic candidates for Hill County Commissioner, Deborah Walker and Mark Peterson; Supreme Court candidates Ed Sheehy and Elizabeth Best; Karen Sloan, who is challenging Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, in her bid for re-election to House District 34; Greg Jergeson, former state senator and Public Service Commission chair, who is running for the Senate seat vacated when Sen. Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, resigned; and representatives of Tester and attorney general candidate Pam Bucy, who read letters from the candidates.