With ballots beginning to roll out this week and a peculiar endorsement coming from the Independent Record this past Sunday, it’s time to discuss the election for Helena City Commission. While I respect both of the new candidates willing to invest the energy necessary for running a city-wide campaign, an honest assessment of the candidates makes it clear that Helena should retain Matt Elsaesser and elect Katherine Haque-Hausrath.
(Given Elsaessaer’s status as an incumbent, I’m going to focus on the choice between Katherine Haque-Hausrath and Lora Behlmer in this post.)
Haque-Hausrath brings more experience to the table. Her experience as an attorney (one admired by her co-workers for her intelligence and hard work) will be invaluable to the commission as they tackle complex questions about Helena’s future.
She’s also got substantive policy proposals for the community. Her issues page on her web site demonstrates that she understands the needs of our evolving community when it comes to growth, the environment, and health.
I’m especially impressed that Haque-Hausrath is willing to push for an overdue anti-discrimination ordinance to ensure that all Helenans are treated equally under the law.
In contrast, Ms. Behlmer simply hasn’t offered any specifics in her campaign—not on her web site and not in the media. I take her at her word that she wants to listen to the people of Helena, but I don’t have any idea what agenda she would promote as a commissioner—and neither did the IR, which didn’t ask her to address a single policy issue in their endorsement.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Haque-Hausrath has earned our support because she has demonstrated a willingness to engage in the community. She’s campaigned tirelessly in the past few months, going door-to-door to meet with voters, place signs, and yes, raise money. That a first-time candidate has raised over $6,000 from almost 130 donors demonstrates her commitment and energy.
That’s real engagement—and from someone with a six-month old son.
In contrast, the IR offered this curious justification for its endorsement of Ms. Behlmer, along with their excitement about online polls:
It’s here that we drew another distinction between Haque-Hausrath and Behlmer; the latter struck us as more aggressive and ambitious in seeking input from all corners of the city, and not just those willing to attend the meetings.
All the evidence from this campaign proves the opposite. Ms. Behlmer has only raised just over $530 from fewer than ten donors, has done little door-to-door campaigning, and hasn’t articulated a plan to increase public involvement.
Ms. Behlmer may believe in increased civic engagement, but Haque-Hausrath has actually done it during this campaign.
None of what I’ve written above is intended to slight Lora Behlmer. I commend her willingness to enter public life and run for office. I absolutely respect that, but Haque-Hausrath is the better choice for Helena.
Unfortunately, what seems quite clear in all of this is that, once again, the Independent Record is using its platform to push a conservative social agenda rather than the interests of the community. Consider this line about Haque-Hausrath from the news story about the three candidates:
She says she’s seen support from environmentalists in Helena as well as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
I think that’s tremendous. Helena needs another leader to stand up for the rights of all members of our community, regardless of their sexual identity and beliefs about the environment.
A responsible piece of journalism, though, would have noted that Haque-Hausrath has received a wide range of support from all parts of our community, from the mayor, current and former commissioners, both Democratic candidates for Attorney General, and the owners of a small, local ice cream shop. While the Independent Record may oppose her because she is committed to social justice and a healthy environment, it’s simply irresponsible to depict Haque-Hausrath as anything but a candidate who has drawn support from the whole community.
The transparent agenda behind the IR’s endorsement for Ms. Behlmer (online polls and affirmative action for small business owners notwithstanding) makes it clear once again that the dominant media player in our community is putting politics ahead of the interests of Helena once again.
When you receive your ballot this week and return it by November 8, the choice is clear: vote for the new candidate with policies to improve our community and the energy to engage with all of the community’s citizens.
Vote for Katherine Haque-Hausrath.