People at the Democratic Pasma-Peck annual fundraising dinner Friday heard from a nearly full slate of candidates, saying why they want to take or keep offices in the local, state and federal governments.
When introducing Linda McCulloch, running for her second term as Secretary of State, Hill County Democratic Chair John Musgrove said Democrats have to re-elect her — and the other candidates.
“Let me just say that most of the people our candidates are running against have a little bit of craziness, ” Musgrove said, adding later, when introducing state Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Steve Bullock’s running mate, Gen. John Walsh, that electing Democrats is crucial.
“It is the governor we had (who) saved the state, because he was the last reserve when it came to some of those crazy things I talked about earlier, ” Musgrove said, referring to Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s frequent use of his veto power in 2011.
McCulloch, who faces Republican Brad Johnson, whom she defeated for the office in 2008, and Walsh, who with Bullock faces former Rep. Rick Hill and his running mate, state Sen. Jon Sonju, R-Kalispell, were joined by a number of other candidates and representatives who read letters from two others.
McCulloch and Walsh were joined by State Auditor Monica Lindeen, who faces Rep. Derek Skees, R-Whitefish, in her race for re-election; Hill County commissioner candidate Mark Peterson, who faces Republican Debi Rhines; Greg Jergeson, who faces Republican Don Richman; Karen Sloan, who is challenging Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre; and Brenda Skornogoski, who is challenging Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre; and Clarena Brockie, D-Hays, who is running unopposed for the House.
Representatives of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, who faces Republican Sandy Welch, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., whom Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., is challenging, read letters from their candidates.
Peterson complimented Havre High School students who came to the dinner. He said they are the future of the country and seeing them get involved is important to him.
“I do not have an agenda, ” Peterson said. “I get asked if I have an agenda, and my answer is: the people will tell me what’s important to do and that is what I intend to do. ”
But Skornogoski had a different view. She said in her 26 years of teaching at Montana State University-Northern, she saw that people do make a difference.
“I do have an agenda in the Legislature, ” Skornogoski said. “I want to make a difference. ”
Sloan, who came to the dinner late — she had been visiting her newborn first grandchild out of town — said the issues for which she is running are now more important to her than ever.
“Now I have a little grandson to think about, ” Sloan said. “I want that grandson to grow up to have a good job, I want him to have clean air and water, I want him to be able to do the things that his gramma and mom and dad have always done. ”
She recalled that at a recent forum in Havre, Republicans denied allegations that they are waging a war on women.
“I’m not so sure it’s just on women, ” Sloan said. “I think perhaps it’s on our way of life … and on all the things we believe in and the things that mean that we take care of each other. ”
Jergeson — who was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and left that office and the PSC due to term limits — will have an interesting position, Musgrove said. He would be coming back to the Senate for the third time after leaving it — Jergeson lost a race in the 1980s — while being the most experienced senator there.
“He will be a third-time freshman senator while he is the dean of the Senate, ” Musgrove said.
Jergeson said he wanted to talk about the Republican presentation on “What War on Women? ”
“Not in their errors in how they think about women, but I want to talk about some women who are examples of why their attitudes toward women are a bit off, ” he said.
He listed McCulloch and Lindeen and former Rep. Antoinette “Toni” Hagener, D-Havre, who was at the dinner, as examples from the Legislature of why women are as good or better than their male counterparts.
He said when he served in a Senate district that included House members Rep. Francis Bardanouve, D-Harlem, Rep. Bob Bachini, D-Havre, and Rep. Ray Peck, D-Havre, he was the only senator with three representatives in his district. His goal is to repeat that, Jergeson said.
“I again will be the only senator with three House members and I want them all to be women, and I want them all to be Democrat women, ” Jergeson said.
McCulloch fired up the crowd in her speech, saying “I am proud to be a Democrat — say it with me, ” and urging them to say it louder and louder, five times.
McCulloch said she has fought to keep groups from making it harder to vote and has fought to make it easier.
“Voting is the very essence of democracy. It’s a right worth protecting, ” she said. “Over the past four years I have fought every effort that would make it harder for eligible Montana voters to cast a ballot. It is a fight that I pledge to continue. ”
McCulloch said in the primary election in June, 61 percent of the votes were cast in the mail, with absentee ballots. That number will be higher in the November election, she predicted.
Lindeen — who said she would try during the next Legislature to advance a constitutional referendum to change “auditor” to insurance and securities commissioner, to reflect what the position does — said it is important to pick the governor, the holders of statewide office and state legislators carefully, to reflect Montana’s values.
If not, “we’re all in trouble, ” she said.
An example, she said, was what happened to four bills her office proposed in the last Legislature to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The intent of the bills was to make sure Montana kept control of the regulations, rather than turning control over to Washington, she said.
“Which you would think would make sense, especially for those more conservatively minded who say they don’t like the federal government, ” Lindeen said. “Unfortunately, that did not happen. They were more concerned about playing politics, and so they refused every single one of the bills we brought to make sure that we maintained our state authority. ”