Montana Politics

A Couple of Notes on the Tribune Story on the Senate Race

John Adams of the Tribune has a piece worth reading about the upcoming Senate race in Montana, featuring profiles and predictions about the three leading candidates: Steve Daines, John Walsh, and John Bohlinger.

A couple of notes on the piece, though. Once again, it repeats the statistic from MSU-Bozeman professor David Parker, which says that Senate appointments are not likely to win their subsequent election:

Parker said history has shown that senators who are appointed to their seat and subsequently seek election to that position have a mixed record of success.

“Looking at all appointed senators from 1913 on who choose to run for election, about 52 percent, or about half the time, they win,” Parker said. “It only helps Walsh if you presume that Walsh’s chances are worse than 50-50.”

That statistic, which keeps being repeated in the Montana media is true, but doesn’t tell the whole story, as I have noted before. Since 1990, almost 70% of those appointed to Senate seats have won their subsequent election—including the last seven appointments. I’d argue that data point is far more instructive than comparing elections from the 1950s.

In the same story, it seems that former Republican Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger has changed his mind again about the number of terms he would seek, if elected. From today’s Tribune piece:

Bohlinger, at 77, said he would only serve one term if elected to the Senate. Bohlinger said that one-term commitment would allow him to advocate his progressive platform, which in part calls for expanding Social Security, raising the minimum wage and lowering the interest rate on student loans to the same rates the federal government charges banks on overnight loans.

That position is consistent with what Bohlinger said in October, but not what he said in November, telling the AP’s Matt Volz:

Bohlinger previously said he would serve only one six-year term in the Senate if he were elected. On Wednesday, he backed off from that pledge, saying he is “blessed with good health” and it will be up to the people of Montana to decide what they want.

It’s a small point, to be sure, but one that Bohlinger should take a consistent stand on. Montana has some recent experience with Senators breaking term pledges, after all.

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.


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  • And I did mention there are other ways to slice said data. I do think using a smaller sample risks bias, but I did not get into that.

  • I read the piece. It refers to Lt. Gov. Walsh as having reached the military rank of adjutant general. The Army’s IG report, questioning Walsh’s ethics, refers to him as colonel. Perhaps being named, by Schweitzer, adjutant general of Montana’s National Guard did not change his US military rank of Colonel.

  • How long do we have to keep hearing about this? When is Baucus getting appointed? How long does it typically take a governor to make an appointment after that happens?

    I’m sorry, but no news gussied-up and paraded about is getting rather boring. I wish these people would get their act together and start moving so we can get past this holiday election news standstill.

    It’s already Jan. 12, most people have been working for a week and a half, what are they doing in Washington?

  • Bullock said in an interview last Friday that he would not even consider appointing anyone until after Baucus is confirmed.

  • I like the writeup they did on Adams. I freely admit I don’t know much about him and the article will be a good starting point for that investigation. I think he is somewhat optimistic about his chances – especially if Walsh goes to Washington, but stranger things have happened. If he is another Schweitzer (in terms of showmanship), he can appeal to a state in “Schweitzer withdrawl”. Let’s face it, as much as I like Bullock (and I do), he is about as exciting as watching paint dry after Schweitzer. That makes him a good Governor and a great lawyer, but Adams will appeal to the people who really liked Schweitzer.
    I am very concerned about Melinda Gopher entering the Senate race, though. When I wrote my post on my blog, she was still listed as running for the US House. This can easily end up being a monkey wrench in the works. She has chip on her shoulder the size of Texas and she is capable of slinging a lot of crap before the day is done. She has zero chance of winning the primary given her past crusades but she is also capable of tarnishing the campaigns of other Democrats  – in fact, she is known for it. She has no love for the Montana Democratic Party either. Expect her participation in this race to be interesting in the Chinese sense.
    Daines is definitely the candidate to beat. Walsh going to Washington would help him in that effort (I agree with Don on this one) but he will take advantage of every single slip Walsh makes and every scandal (manufactured or real) that Melinda Gopher offers up. To get a Walsh victory (or any other Democrat victory), the Democrats are going to have to come up with a supreme effort to support their candidate and to get out the vote – the same way the Democrats got behind Tester when Tester faced Burns. A divided Democratic party (think the Bucy/Laslovich race) will result in a guaranteed win for Daines.

  • I for one think this post highly repetitive. Here’s a stab at bad poetry, apologies to Lizard for offense to his ears.

    Such a rumble such a stir,Always this time of year,
    Who’s gonna lose, who’s gonna win,
    What’s behind that shit-eatin’ grin.
    In politics there’s but one thing sure,
    Ain’t none of them who come off pure.
    Some will lose and one will win,
    But we also know there’s gin.
    And that’s enough to dull the pain
    As we watch the pundits go through it again.
    And again, and again, and again … 
    There’s gin to dull the pain.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-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.

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