By Ron VandenBoom
Dennis Rehberg, Republican candidate for he U.S. House of Representatives, and Elaine Sollie Herman, Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, emerged from the "Burns Barnstorming Bus Tour" Wednesday at the Havre Atrium Shopping Mall for a lightning fast campaign blitz.
The two candidates were part of a state-wide political bus tour organized by the Sen. Conrad Burns campaign to expose as many Republican candidates as possible to more than 100 Montana communities during the final three weeks of the 2000 campaign.
Phyllis Burns, the wife of Sen. Conrad Burns, and Sherry Ohs, the wife of Karl Ohs, candidate for lieutenant governor on the Judy Martz ticket, were also on the bus.
A crowd of about 40 supporters crowded the lower level of the Atrium to hear Rehberg tell them the Republican campaign had reached the most important part of the 2000 race.
"While we may be ahead or my be close," Rehberg said, while standing on the island in the center of the mall. "The last two weeks will make the determination where the undecided voters go."
Rehberg told the crowd the that he hoped by now he had been able to convince enough people that he is the candidate that better reflects their values, their principles, and their philosophy.
He said it was the Republican team the wants to build a more secure future by controlling spending, controlling taxes, and making the programs reflect the peoples' best interests.
He also chided Brian Schweitzer, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, and Nancy Keenan, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, for not using the name Al Gore in their campaign speeches or debates.
"They refuse to endorse Al Gore publicly," he said. "As a candidate, I find that interesting that they are not proud of the person that carries their banner."
Rehberg told the crowd that Montana Republicans believe George Bush and Dick Cheney understand Montana and Montana's way of life, Montana's economy, and Montana's educational needs.
He also said Bush and Cheney understand the problem with what he called "a hollowed out defense" and that we need a better relationship with our international trading partners.
"There will be this huge sigh of relief when Bill Clinton moves along," he said. "So we're proud of running under the Bush/Cheney team."
Elaine Sollie Herman spoke to the crowd about her concern over losing the quality that currently exists in Montana schools.
"In the last 12 years (the length of time Nancy Keenan has held the job of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Montana), the money has been pulled away from the local schools," she said. "You have more mandates placed on you about how to spend the money and less money to do it with."
Herman said Montana needs to get state money back into the local school systems, "because local schools are the secret to montana's success."
She told the crowd that it's important that we remember that parents are the customers of our schools and that's why educators exist.
"When we listen to the customers we get it right," she said.
Also speaking during the rally was Phyllis Burns, who thanked the crowd for standing behind her husband and for all the hard work they've done during the campaign. She also extolled on efforts she attributed to Sen. Burns to wire Montana for the next century.
Sherry Ohs, in a much shorter speech, thanked the crowd for their support and emphasized the importance that everyone getting out the vote in this election.
Brad Lotton, chairman of the Hill County Republican Party, said teams of campaign workers expected to hit about 2,000 Havre homes withcampaign literature during the blitz. Literature was also left on vehicles in the downtown area.