Governors campaign is dirtiest in some time
By Ron VandenBoom
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark O'Keefe said Wednesday during a final campaign swing through Havre that absolutely this had been the dirtiest political campaign he can remember.
O'Keefe said that when the campaign first began they designed six campaign ads on positive issues.
But just as the ads started to run on TV, O'Keefe said, his campaign was confronted with special interests spending more than $1 million "falsely and negatively" attacking them.
"The problem with the ads was that they work," he said. "And if you do not respond to an attack that's false, then people assume it's true."
O'Keefe said the problem with negative campaigns started in the 1994 campaign with push polls and personal negative attack ads on TV that are capable of circumventing state law while still in compliance with federal law.
O'Keefe said he favors campaign finance reform and has supported it fully in the past.
"It's got to happen not just at the state level, but at the federal level," he said. "Montanans don't appreciate this style of campaigning and neither do I."
O'Keefe will spend the last few days of the campaign trying to touch as many independent voters as he can.
These are people that he said pay less attention to newspapers and TV ads and make their decisions based on who they think is best prepared for the job, who they think has the most experience, and who they trust to take the state in a different direction.
"We think the race is crystal clear," he said. "We think there's a crystal clear choice between how we want to get the state started economically with public/private partnerships and what I see as business as usual from Martz giving tax breaks to the big corporations."
O'Keefe said that strategy has been used for a decade and as a result Montana has gone from 37th in wages to 50th.
"The jobs aren't there," he said. "They've been promised and they aren't there."
O'Keefe said his mantra during the last few days of the campaign will be "just say no to the status quo."
"To me, the classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result," he said.
The issues O'Keefe said he is encountering at this late date in the campaign are the same issues he encountered early on funding for education, training for jobs, and property tax relief for homeowners. What the state needs are new ideas.
O'Keefe said he has a theory that the Legislature for too long has tried a one-size-fits-all solution to economic problems. He also said he sees the Legislature as having a mob mentality where if you have a good idea, you might be able to get it passed in two sessions.
"If you have a great idea, it's probably going to take you four or five," he said.
Montana, O'Keefe said, is actually five or six individual economic regions and plans that may work well in Butte will not work in Havre.
The governor's job is to work together with community leaders, bring people looking for somewhere to locate to the community for long term development.
O'Keefe's plans after the election will not allow for much rest if voters give him the thumbs up.
"You have 60 days to redo government," he said.
He will travel to a training session in Park City, Utah Nov. 12, for a meeting with the Governor's Association. He will also need to review by Dec. 5 nearly 300 bills that have come out of the current administration to determine whether they should be introduced to the Legislature. He will also have to convert what is now a Republican budget into his own budget.
Eighteen positions in the administration also have to be filled, he said.
O'Keefe does plan on two days of hunting on the Missouri Breaks right after the election.