A lot of great things happened in the November elections here in Montana, but for all of the success Democrats saw, the race for our sole House seat was a tremendous disappointment. We had two strong potential candidates fade away—one for health reasons and the other because of an inexplicable primary result—leading to a massive win for our embarrassing current Representative. It’s time for Democrats to put up a strong challenge against Rehberg, because we can take him out, with a candidate committed to a sustained race that puts Rehberg’s record (or lack of one) in the spotlight.
So, who are some potential names that might challenge Rehberg?
Jim Hunt has to be considered a candidate again, despite his loss to John Driscoll. There was even talk of Hunt taking three years and two cracks at Rehberg before the primary, so it wouldn’t be that hard to imagine him running again. The negatives might be too large to overcome, though. Hunt’s decision not to aggressively campaign or spend money before the primary was a huge strategic blunder that might make contributors anxious a second time around, and Hunt’s central issue, the Iraq War, seems like a much less significant issue today than it did in 2007 and early 2008.
There are a lot of rumors floating around about Dennis McDonald, the current chair of the Montana Democratic Party. McDonald brings some definite advantages: he’s connected to the party insiders and can probably raise a lot of cash, something that will desperately be needed by a candidate who faces off against Rehberg. McDonald has done an excellent job as Democratic chair, but I wonder if his skill as an organizer and party insider will translate well to a campaign.
Another name definitely worth considering is a familiar one: Williams. While I don’t think that Pat Williams is likely to make another run, no matter fondly I remember his victory over Ron Marlenee, he’s certainly not the only member of his family with a deep commitment to progressive values. Pat and Carol’s daughter Whitney Williams may not be entirely familiar to Montana voters, but her connection to her parents is only the beginning of what she might bring to a race against Rehberg. Her work on behalf of people in the developing world demonstrates not only her value system, but that she has right kind of intellect to be a member of Congress. We could certainly use another Montanan with that kind of vision again. She certainly wouldn’t start in the same position as someone like Dennis McDonald, but could very well be the kind of outsider candidate that could gain support from working Montanans and the netroots, making her a very viable candidate.
These three represent my early thoughts about who might make a run in 2010. The essential thing is that we get started soon, and that we (progressives) have a voice in the selection from the outset. I’d definitely be interested to hear about any other names you might be hearing or you think can effectively challenge Rehberg.