Montana Politics

The GOP Primary Battle for Governor Gets Ugly Early


If there is one certain thing about Montana politics in the next couple of years, it’s that the GOP primary race for governor in 2012 is going to be one messy, sordid affair–pun at least partially intended. While Rick Hill certainly has to be regarded as the front runner, with higher name recognition in the public and greater financial support from the Republican establishment, anyone who thinks that Corey Stapleton and Ken Miller won’t campaign viciously and negatively simply hasn’t followed either man’s career. This race is going to badly tarnish the reputation of whichever candidate wins, and Democrats would do well to let the Republican pack of candidates tear itself apart.

The fireworks have already started, and the first attack has landed on Rick Hill.

The Montanafesto blog has published an impressive collection of early 1990s articles about Rick Hill’s divorce and affair, neatly packaged by an a group calling itself “Montana’s Conservative Families,” an organization that, of course, doesn’t exist. Their e-mail attack on Hill was certainly understated, including this restrained passage:

We believe a Republican Primary is for nominating a candidate who  EMBODIES CONSERVATIVE SOCIAL VALUES, like family and faith. We cannot allow a person with “Bill Clinton values” to be a nominee for the Republican Party for Governor.Please also remember that the Democrats–and their liberal big-mouth Governor and their environmentalist Attorney General (who will be the Democrat nominee for Governor)–are all praying that Rick Hill is the Republican nominee.  With his womanizing past, they know he is easy prey.
The only real question is whether the Montana Conservative Families packet of article was opposition research done by the Stapleton or Miller campaigns, though I suppose one can’t rule out the super spy.
Carry on, gentlemen. Best of luck tearing each other apart.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


  • I am quite certain that was Ken Miller. He has been also sicking the Tea Party and John Birch Society (yes that group of wackos that was extinct for a lovely decade is back) ultra-rightists onto Rick as an “establishment” RINO candidate. Ken can’t campaign and can’t raise money, so he is trying to tear Rick down. Trust me, if there is a candidate that Bullock wants to face in the general election, it is Ken Miller. What a joke of a candidate.

    Interesting tidbit about Ken Miller: he professes to be a born again Christian, as does Rick. Wasn’t there something in that Bible thing about forgiveness for sins?

    The word on the street is that Corey Stapleton was considering dropping out and supporting Hill. Not sure if that is just the rumor or if there is truth to it. The Party did not immediately rally around him, and he is beginning to understand how much work is involved, and therefore becoming disillusioned. Why didn’t he run for Auditor? He could have probably beaten Monica Lindeen handily.

    • That Stapleton rumor was dropped by the Hill camp to politico’s David Catanese. JBS’s criticism of Hill has far more to do with his voting record than their involvement with Miller’s camp, however. I agree that Bullock would love to face Miller in the general, but we all know that isn’t going to happen.

      Not sure about your forgiveness of sins logic, there is a difference between forgiving and forgetting. While there are worse sins than adultery, it does say much about someone’s character, which is shady at best for Rick Hill.

      • Why the continuous references to Mormons in your columns? I don’t get it. Me, personally, I view ALL religions to be mainly horseshit. But you seem to despise Mormons. Care to explain why?

        But you see, your entire PARTY uses the wedges issues of religion. Family values my ass! How long do you think that Montanans will fall for that crap?

        • I actually have Mormon friends, it isn’t that I despise Mormons, I just despise the hypocritical ones who use the capitol as a pulpit as they force their warped morality on the rest of us. Safe Community, Safe Kids (the organization behind the medical cannabis repeal) was founded by numerous Mormons. The group portrays itself as being concerned only about the safety of our community and children when in reality they are pushing ONE ISSUE. Medical marijuana repeal. They were funded by a total of ONE donor who also happens to be an outspoken liar from the LDS church. In fact, his general manager, who runs his car dealerships; obtains medical cannabis on behalf of his wife who is suffering from excruciating and terminal bone cancer. The physician they use in their videos is also a Billings Mormon, a hand surgeon who does a ton of carpal tunnel surgeries, of course that would make him an expert.

          The founding ladies, Susan Smith (married to Rep Cary Smith) Cherrie Brady, and Laura Needham- yep, all Mormons. Group treasurer? Mormon. In fact, the only non-Mormon involved with the group I could find was James Knox, religion- TOOL.

          And then we have Senator Ed Walker- Mormon- who found it appropriate in the senate floor session to read the group some scripture with his testimony. He said that “sometimes voters get it wrong, and they did in 2004” among other things. I’m a republican- disgruntled and likely voted off the island any minute- but I think the mistake wasn’t made in 2004 with the ballot initiative, it was made in 2010 when we elected a host of crazed nanny government control freak religious zealots to our legislature. In part, I’m to blame for that too. Believe me, I learned a tough lesson. At this point, our only hope for responsible legislation is via the governor, who is looking better and better by the minute.

          I hear you, I know what you are saying about the party using religion as a wedge. Although I am a believer, faith is personal. I try to live a righteous life and set a good example for others. I do NOT push a religious agenda on anyone. I can’t imagine the uproar if we someday elect a Muslim legislator- I’d love to see the reactions of Knox and company when someone starts reading from the Qur’an. If its OK for one faith, it should be for another, right?

          I don’t like hypocrisy from either party, but I am especially angered when it comes from mine. I have a R friend working in the legislature who recently said “I’m very afraid. The only ones in Helena who are making any sense are democrats”. The GOP is blaming it all on the media but I think they need mirrors.

    • First, Republicans would do much better if they would get the hell out of the church and into the game. Leave religion out of it as it has NO business in politics. It is exactly that ultra religious bigotry and arrogence that is running old school conservatives away. Further, get off the pulpit. Rarely will you find an individual that hasn’t made a mistake or two. Hell, better than 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Stick to the issues (and character assasination is not an issue). You will be stronger for it. Instead of telling me who is mormon and who is born again, tell me where they stand on the issues. Who is bat shit crazy? Who supports this issue or opposes this issue? I am sick and tired of hearing / reading about who is dating who and who has had an affair with who. The Republicans need to stop preaching or they will find they have no one attending the church.

      • I agree with you, I really don’t care who Hill was banging- but when you are a proud member of the family values party, you better be prepared to be called out on your hypocrisy. I’m not a Hill fan- it isn’t because he’s a philanderer although I do think that a series of affairs tends to indicate a tendency toward deceit however. Like I said, I’ve had these articles for months…. and Montana elected him AFTER this information was publicized, so the “Montana Conservative Families” email may be entirely irrelevant regardless. On the other hand, we do have a new strain of crazy conservatives. I just cannot fathom that our legislature is truly representative of Montana’s run-of-the-mill Republicans…… I certainly hope not anyway.

  • Thanks for this fine blog Don, and I hope the folks in Shelby get ‘wise’ to the baggers….let the ‘baggers and birthers’ savage what’s left of any moderates in the GOP, and I can’t wait
    to see the ‘tea bag’ platform……..

  • I’ve been sitting on all of the articles for months, they were not difficult to find, so I doubt much oppositional research was actually required. I have no idea who is behind the email, which came from mtconservative, but I have my suspicions. Hill has a tendency to go dirty early though, so if the culprit is indeed an opponent’s campaign, he better have a clean house. I smell some tea party involvement here. I’d be interested in the distribution list.

  • Interesting to that the first place they go has nothing to do with policy. The promises of smaller government and more liberty always seem to be nothing more than cover for this rather demanding cultural conservatism.

    • They certainly seem to be going after what is important to them though- if this legislative session is any indication, the Montana GOP isn’t really interested in smaller government and more liberty- I’ve heard more fiscally conservative pro-liberty quotes from democrats than I have from anyone on the right this session. As soon as the session began, all campaign promises were GONE. From the GOP, I hear justifications for overturning initiatives “sometimes the voters get it wrong” and “this isn’t what Montanans voted for”. If we aren’t smart enough to vote on initiatives, what qualifies us to vote for the legislators who are now calling us stupid?

  • You guys are making the 2012 elections too complicated.

    2012 will be a referendum on Obama.

    If gas prices/food prices are stil high, and gas is $4.00 a gallon, and the job market is still sour the Dems will get pasted, especially Dems like Steve Bullock who defend Obamacare.

    That’s why I’m hoping Bullock is the Dem nominee.

  • As a conservative who is not really following the daily craziness of the GOP-controlled legislature because I have a life to live, it is interesting to read what you rapid liberals have to say from time to time. Hare are my responses, in no particular order:

    1. All the negative Rick Hill stuff is most likely from Ken Miller. He is Mr. Righteous, and is closely tied in with Jeff Laszloffy’s group, though I doubt Jeff is interested in saddling up with a sure loser this early in the race. Ken can’t win on the issues because Rick is conservative on the issues, so he is throwing mud early, hoping something will stick. The guys hasn’t raised more than about 10 bucks so far.

    2. You liberals sure have a lot of hatred and intolerance when it comes to religion. Wow, you must have joined Team Hate. Look, it’s not my fault God didn’t get you your favorite little toy for Christmas or whatever chapped your ass. It’s a free country. People want to believe in God, spread the good word and try to do what they think is the right thing, then let them do it. If you have a problem with that, go ahead and serve in the Legislature and vote against their bills. You want to call them out as crazy people? Go right ahead. Only don’t pretend to be tolerant and open-minded at the same time, because the rhetoric on this page is as bigoted, mean-spirited and judgmental as anything you will find on the right. Just admit it.

    3. The election will be about the people’s future. Whoever can make it about new opportunities, new jobs, new and better lives for the children will win. In 2012, the national election will have a very big impact on that. I agree with Eric.

  • It’s a pretty tough sell making the argument that I am intolerant about religion. If you can find a single thing I have written in six years that demeans religious faith or practice, I’d be quite surprised.

    What I (and others) object to is the hypocrisy of those who claim to be more moral than others engaging in behavior that is most certainly not Christian.

    • Not you, Pogie. Talking about the rest of the comments on this page. You have to admit the extreme amount of vitriolic prejudice against religion (Mormonism in particular) from some of the same people who want to tar and feather Peterson, Knox, et al for gay-bashing seems a little absurd and yes hypocritical. It’s not just Christian conservatives who are guilty of that.

  • Along with every little thing that seems to be building inside this particular subject material, your points of view are actually fairly radical. However, I am sorry, because I can not subscribe to your whole idea, all be it stimulating none the less. It would seem to everybody that your commentary are actually not entirely rationalized and in simple fact you are generally yourself not even thoroughly convinced of the argument. In any case I did enjoy examining it.

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