Montana Politics

Mansfield-Metcalf Takeaways

The target was easy: Republicans. They hate health care for the masses, and aren’t too keen on equality for women or LGBTs. They don’t like the poor, or pre-kindergarten through college public education, or campaign finance reform. Or yoga pants. To anyone paying attention to Congress or the Montana Legislature, this is not breaking news.

I should mention that the Mansfield-Metcalf Dinner is the big, yearly event for Montana Democrats. Held in Helena, it’s attended by the big hitters in Montana Democratic politics, and the rank-and-file, too. There were over a thousand folks there.

This is stream of consciousness post. I’m not a reporter and didn’t carry a notebook.

For me, the element lacking last night was a strong environmental statement. There was the oft-repeated “public lands in public hands” message, a good one to be sure, and mention of clean air and water, but strong environmental language was nonexistent. Climate change was only mentioned once and that was by the keynote speaker, Louisiana native James Carville.*

Organized labor got many kudos, and rightfully so, but to exclude an environmental message is to dismiss a large segment of the Democratic Party’s constituency. Are these the constituents who stayed away in droves at our last midterm election?

Some other takeaways:

• Keep an eye on Lieutenant Governor Angela McLean. I hadn’t seen her in action before but believe she could be headed for higher office. Of the Montanans speaking, she gave the most rousing speech — much hooting and hollering, and many standing ovations.

• Lots of early support for Melissa Romano, candidate for superintendent of public instruction. Current superintendent, Denise Juneau, is termed out at the end of 2016. Romano is a Helena school teacher and was working the crowd with a number of volunteers — passing out stickers, shaking hands (and had there been babies in attendance, kissing them, too, I believe). There’s something to be said about getting out early and strong. Juneau gave no hint as to where she might be headed.

• Speaking of early and strong, I guess it’s no secret that Hillary Clinton is running for President. There was a table set up at the entrance with Hillary stickers, signs and pins. One insider told me that the state party was already strongly backing Ms. Clinton. There was one young man going from table-to-table passing out Elizabeth Warren stickers. Good for him.

All-in-all, an inspiring evening, though, and a nice break for Democratic legislators who have a tough row to hoe this legislative session.

*Carville did a bang-up job. There were video cameras at the event so I’m hoping his speech ends up on YouTube or a similar site. I’ll let you know if that happens.

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Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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