MT Democratic Convention Takeaways

I’ll try not to go off on too many tangents but there’s much to talk about.

First, we now know what kind of political coverage the five Lee Enterprises newspapers in Montana are going to offer: next to none.  The Great Falls Tribune covered the convention as did the Bozeman Chronicle.  The Chronicle is doing more political reporting these days, which is good to see, so I hope its coverage of the event wasn’t just because the convention was held in Bozeman.

Lee did a small piece or two on the Montana Republican Party Convention in June but that was in anticipation of bloodletting as the “moderates” and the tea party battled for supremacy.  Since they didn’t smell blood at the Montana Democratic Party Convention, editors decided to cover goat auctions at various Montana fairs.

But there were some undercurrents at the Democratic convention.  They seem to be ongoing and I point them out only because of my great affection for the party, and I hope they are addressed.

Urban v. Rural  So, just where do you put your resources?  You have limited money and man(and woman)power.  Do you focus on the cities with the most Democratic votes: Billings, Missoula, Great Falls (and to a lesser extent Bozeman, Helena and Butte)?  Or do you try to expand your base by doing work in rural areas?

Smart money says you go where the most votes are.  But how does that make a small town Democrat feel?  I know that delegates from Beaverhead, Lake and Rosebud counties, for example, would like a little bit more of the pie.  They’re out knocking doors, raising money and making phone calls, too.

It’s a tough call and I don’t have the answer but I think that Billings will probably win out over, say, Broadus when it comes to the allocation of resources.  I imagine the Republican Party has a similar problem.

Labor v. Everybody Else  Organized labor is an integral part of the Democratic Party but it tends to be the 300 pound gorilla.  The goals of labor are admirable and I’m a strong supporter, but not to the exclusion of other interest groups.  I sometimes wonder if the 49 percent turnout in Missoula County for the 2014 midterm elections was because other constituencies didn’t feel represented by the Democratic Party.

(Note to the environmental community, of which I consider myself a part of: get involved — work for candidates, raise money for the party, become a precinct committeeman or woman — and you might get a few more seats at the table.  Participation matters.)

Other Observations  Sen. Jon Tester’s biggest round of applause came from his comments on the Iran nuclear treaty, which he supports.  But he also gave a good deal of time to climate change, which I don’t believe gets enough attention from the party.  He talked about this being one of the earliest harvests he’s ever had on his farm, and mentioned other ranchers and farmers getting their hay in weeks ahead of schedule.  He’s seeing the effects of climate change first hand and getting passionate about it.  Thank you, Sen. Tester.

Copperheads  Nancy Keenan, the party’s executive director and Angela McClean, Montana’s lieutenant governor, hail from Anaconda.  Jesse Laslovich is a candidate for state auditor and was a student of McClean’s at Anaconda High School.  For a city of fewer than 10,000 people, that’s quite a pipeline.  (Copperheads is the name of the high school teams – it’s not a slight.)

PSC Candidate  Montana Public Service Commission’s District 3 has a candidate.  Challenging incumbent Roger Koopman is Caron Cooper.  It’s still early so who knows how the field will shake out but I heard Ms. Cooper speak at the convention and her credentials are impeccable.  She has a PhD in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley, for starters.  To say that she would be a better on the PSC than Koopman is an understatement.  Here’s the link to her website.




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About the author

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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  • Urban vs Rural is an interesting tension, especially in light of what is happening nationally. Clinton is the indisputed favorite of urban Democrats, but despite being painted as the more ‘moderate’ candidate, she’ll probably struggle the most with rural voters, giving Sanders a slight leg up in NH and Iowa, but little long term prospect for victory in the Democratic primary dominated by urban voters. The success of his campaign so far though gives me hope that a more rural Mountain Time Zone Democrat could do well nationally in four or eight years – a Schweitzer or a Richardson, if we can find one who’s squeaky clean.

  • Good write up, Pete, but I have to disagree with your takeaway on labor. Without labor, the Democratic Party would be the lil GOP. Furthermore, I think members’ and middle class families feeling abandoned by the Democratic Party is much more of a threat than “other constituencies didn’t feel represented by the Democratic Party.”

    Continuing to give labor the cold shoulder is incredibly dangerous. The Dirk Adams constituency was incredibly misguided.

    • I hear you, CJ, labor’s contribution to the party, and the country for that matter, is huge. As long as it allows other progressive constituencies a voice in candidate selection and policy decisions, I embrace its presence whole heartedly.

      • Apparently, during the convention, Dirk openly mocked other convention delegates. He is completely disrespectful to anyone who disagrees with him, He’s rude and obnoxious.

        • I gather you think he’s the kind of Democrat who should write checks to the party, vote for the party’s candidates, but keep his mouth shut until he’s lived in Montana another 20 years, graduated with honors from the MDP’s political finishing school and ideological rehabilitation camp, and earned a permission to participate slip from the Democratic leaders who keep producing the kind of victories we enjoyed in 2010 and 2014.

  • Good information.
    I’m interested in impressions and information on Caron Cooper.
    Koopman is a menace to ratepayers, but I haven’t seen or met Cooper and wonder how she comes across.

    • I think she could use a little polish but she seems quite sharp and is a forward thinker. She is definitely on the side of the consumer. I copied a link to her campaign site at the end of the post.

      • She looks great on paper. I’m curious to see how she comes across. Beyond the election, she’ll need the heart of a tiger to survive on the never-met-a-corporation-we-don’t-love PSC.

  • Interesting read on the Urban vs Rural. I live in rural eastern Montana and the party has pretty much written off the Hi-Line east of Havre. While this probably works in statewide races it really hurts when it comes to legislative races. The Democrats will never control the House or Senate again until they start competing in these rural districts. Some of the districts are solid Republican but there are others that could be competitive with good candidates and adequate funding.

    • And a common candidate to run with Bullock.
      A candidate in rural Montana.

      And some common causes. Here’s one.
      Clean water in the creeks and streams of Montana.
      Already too damn much mercury in the fish and fisheries
      held in Trust by . . .
      ?people of Montana.
      Already too much slimy moss too soon in the creeks and streams.

      Remember when pollution from Crystal Lake went underground
      all the way to underground Lewistown. And the cold, very, very
      bubbly water that came out of the ground turned tainted w stuff
      some people can not stomach.

  • Koopman has many weaknesses, but one of his biggest is the hatred he garners from his own party. There seems to be some talk of Silver Bow rep Pat Noonan entering the PSC race. I think he is just the type of person we need to beat Koopman. Both democrats and republicans in political circles speak very highly of Pat. And judging from all of his work with human services and passing Medicaid expansion I don’t think there will be many more candidates that have such a clear record of defending the poor and middle class. This is a little unconventional for an Anaconda gal, but both Butte and Anaconda have produced some great leaders.

    • Thanks for the link, HighPoint. I was not aware of OneMontana. Yes, we’re all in this together. It’s a lofty goal and I’ll try to keep it in mind.

  • It’s not just the rural areas that need help. I live in Missoula and recently called into the Dem line to offer my services to help out in any way I could. I was told by the lady who answered the line that “all the positions were filled”. Thank you very much but she didn’t see how I could be of any help to them even though we are sitting here with precinct chair slots empty and there is an election coming up and no doubt need for envelope stuffers and door knockers etc. But she didn’t think there was anything at all that I could do but thanks for calling anyway.

    So I went to the Bernie Show instead.

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