Let’s first look at Montana’s races for U.S. Senate and House. The New York Times did an analysis of all the 2018 congressional races. It has Sen. Jon Tester’s race leaning his way.
That’s not how the Montana GOP sees it: “Jon Tester is in Trouble,” read a recent email fundraising appeal. It continues with right-wing talking points oft repeated since the government shutdown: Tester prefers helping illegal immigrants rather than paying members of our armed forces. This bogus line is appearing in letters to the editor in many Montana papers.
(Those in the military would most likely still get paid but it’s up to congress to appropriate the funds, as it has done during past government shutdowns. The irony here is that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) proposed fast-tracking funding for the military but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) shot it down.)
The shutdown is over, at least for now, but you can bet we’ll see this immigrant v. military shibboleth in the months to follow. And, also ironic, is the fact that approximately 65,000 immigrants serve in the armed forces.
But Tester’s Republican opponents face a bruising primary, and the winner of that won’t come out unscathed. Smart money, about $9 million and growing, is on a Tester win.
As to the U.S. House race, the Times has Montana leaning red but the “race is competitive in the general election.”
At more than nine months out, the variables in these elections ebb and flow. Although Trump won Montana by 20 points, his approval ratings have hovered in the high 30s, nationally, over the past few months. Will Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte and the winner of the Senate Republican primary continue pandering to the Trump base? I imagine that’s a tough call for the GOP — follow Trump down the rabbit hole or appear wishy-washy to voters.
The Democratic primary for the house at this point a five-person race. From everything I’ve heard, the candidates are still playing nice — at least with each other.
(Promotional plug: there will be a forum in Missoula with the Democratic candidates for the U.S. House on Thursday, Feb. 8, 6 p.m., at the University Center Theater.)
As far as the Montana Legislature, two recent encounters have given me hope. They’re women (surprise, surprise) and they’re running for the Montana House of Representatives. Diane Magone is a first time candidate in HD-14. That’s in Mineral, Sanders and a small section of Missoula County. The district is hardly a Democratic stronghold but it used to be. Her opponent, Denley Loge, recently joined Cliven Bundy and state Sen. Jennifer Fielder for the anti-federal government rally in Paradise.
The other is Margaret Gorski in HD-88. It’s her second run in this Ravalli County district. It’s red, too, but used to be considered a swing district.
The fact that they’re challenging Republican incumbents (or in Gorski’s case, the incumbent’s wife) shows determination and audacity. They’re running tough campaigns, not giving the Rs a free ride and the GOP will have to expend resources in these races to keep these seats.
These women are not unique. They, and men, too, are stepping up to the plate because they’re appalled at the direction our state and country are going.
Please show Margaret and Diane some love (and money) at https://margaretforhd88.com/ and https://secure.actblue.com/entity/fundraisers/58401.
A few other indicators are buoying my enthusiasm. Organizations are springing up all over. One of my favorites: Western Women Who Get Shit Done. And they do. Or a recent meeting I attended for Mission Valley Rises, which drew activists from rural Lake and Sanders Counties.
I’m optimistic. What choice do I have? People are rising up like I haven’t seen since the late 60s and early 70s. They’re fed up with the regressive policies — against minorities, women, the poor, our planet — being advanced by the legislature, congress and the president.
Together, we can start taking back our state and country in 2018. Then it’s on to 2020.