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The Gazette’s Peculiar Endorsement of Brad Johnson Ignores His Own Positions and Failed Leadership

Well, at least the Gazette got the Juneau endorsement right. Their endorsement of Brad Johnson today is not only peculiar,  but required ignoring Johnson’s own positions, some articulated in the very paper that endorsed him.

The editorial seems to suggest that Johnson actually supports same-day registration and voting:

Johnson supported 2005 legislation to allow voter registration up to and on Election Day, but ought to have done more to publicize and promote it before the 2006 elections.

Given that support for same-day registration is a reason the Gazette gives for supporting Johnson, wouldn’t it have been worth mentioning that, after his office badly managed the 2006 election, he came out against it?

The secretary of state’s office is supporting a measure to do away with same-day voter registration in Montana, arguing it could help prevent a repeat of problems that occurred during the state’s 2006 election.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Johnson is in favor of a bill that would require voters to register before Election Day, his chief of staff, Mark Simonich, said Thursday.

What does Johnson himself say about same day registration?

Our last election made clear that allowing registration on Election Day itself encourages procrastination, discourages informed voting, and creates chaos for election workers – chaos that endangers the integrity of our elections.
But the opponents of this bill have settled for spurious partisan attacks. This is serious business. It’s not a time for partisanship.
Millions of Americans have struggled and even given their lives to protect our right to vote; is it now so unimportant that we can’t ask people to think about it four days in advance?

Where did he say it? Oh, right, in the Billings Gazette. It’s not good sign when your endorsement relies on a claim that your own paper has disproven, is it?

The Gazette editorial claims that Johnson has improved the process of voting in Montana:

He has addressed numerous recommendations a legislative audit made to improve elections processes. None of issues cited by the auditor involved any indication of election fraud.

Another obfuscation. There certainly hasn’t been another audit to prove that Johnson has done anything of the sort, just press releases from Johnson’s office.  More importantly, what did the audit conclude about the 2006 elections, conducted under Johnson’s watch?

  • 42% of county election supervisors said the Secretary’s office did a poor or very poor job proving guidance in late registration
  • Excluded felons and the dead were not purged from the rolls
  • The Secretary of State’s office was responsible for delays on Election day in 2006
  • That Brad Johnson wasted money promoting himself, rather than improving his office.

Even if one were to concede that Johnson’s office has made significant improvements, an absolutely unverified claim, why in the world would the Gazette give him a free pass for failing the test in his first election?  We won’t know until this November if Johnson’s self-promoting, state-paid campaign trips to 56 counties did anything to improve the election process in Montana, but given his abject failure in 2006, we can’t afford to let Brad Johnson run any elections after this one.

There’s a reason that Johnson is regarded with such a low opinion, even by Republicans: he’s an incompetent, self-promoting non-entity with dreams of the Governor’s chair. For the the Gazette to endorse him, despite his failures, relying on claims their own newspaper has refuted, is a real shame.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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.


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  • considering the guy was recently lectured and pilloried by judge malloy for his role in the great GOP attempted montana voter hold-up it seems to be very illogical for the gazette to come out in favor. maybe the editors just don’t like judges from missoula?

    nice touch on the new look- loads up a lot quicker too for us poor bears still on dial-up.

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