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Gotta pay to play

Montana Republicans will be holding their nominating convention for the special election at Trump Tower. Well, possibly. The party is charging potential nominees $1740 that “will be used to defray the registration costs of delegates attending the party nomination convention,” according to Jeff Essmann, Republican Party Chairman and also a state senator out of Billings.

(That’s in addition to the $1740 candidates have to give the Montana Secretary of State for filing fees. At least that’s what I assume. The person I talked to at S.O.S. said they weren’t sure how it worked for a special election and were running it by legal. There are a number of special election questions the office is dealing with and the fact that it’s in transition isn’t making things easier.)

Eight names are already being bandied about bringing the potential haul to the party, to date, to $13,920. Democrats won’t be charging nominees a fee, according to party E.D. Nancy Keenan. MTN’s Mike Dennison has the rest of the story.

Who are the Democrats running?

There are just two three names right now: state Rep. Casey Schreiner out of Great Falls and Butte’s Rep. Amanda Curtis.

I know very little about Schreiner except that he’s starting his third term in the Montana House. He won a squeaker in November by 42 votes. Here’s a link to his legislative web page that lists committee assignments and bills he sponsored in the 2015 session.

UPDATE: Kelly McCarthy, a state house representative out of Billings and chairman of the Democratic central committee there, has also announced. I don’t know a whole lot about him, either, although he’s been a fixture in Montana Democratic politics for years. The Billings Gazette‘s Clair Johnson offers some insight.

I know a great deal more about Curtis. With just a two-month window, she took on Congressman Steve Daines in 2014 for a U.S. Senate seat and garnered 40 percent of the vote. I have great respect for this woman. Here’s a recent interview she did with the Montana Standard. Much more on her in future posts.

Maybe repealing the ACA isn’t such a great idea

What to do with the 60,000-plus Montanans who could be thrown off Medicaid? Even some Republicans are wringing their hands over the fate of those who can’t afford insurance (meaning, if you’re an individual making slightly over $17,000 a year, you could be out of luck).

Montana House Speaker Austin Knudsen has some concerns:

The Culbertson Republican recently told The Gazette that state lawmakers would have to figure out a way to dial back the state’s Medicaid program humanely. More than 60,000 people have signed up for Medicaid since the 2015 Legislature voted to offer Medicaid to more than 70,000 working Montanans who at the time couldn’t afford insurance but were too far above the poverty level to qualify for Medicaid.

Well, Austin, it’s your party that wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. You can explain the dilemma to your constituency. Here’s the story that originally appeared in the Billings Gazette.

Huckster in chief

I usually leave presidential politics to loftier pundits than myself. This well-written Washington Post article by the reporter who broke Trump’s “charity” contributions and the genital grabbing video is a must read. But enough people voted for this con man so now he’s President-elect. Go figure.

Dark days ahead, my friends.

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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  • That fee for nominees would be a nifty way for a political party to ensure that its favorite self-funding moneybags was the only candidate recognized by the party. Instead of charging $1,740, which most GOP candidates probably can afford, the party could charge $974,000, or more, to ensure that only Mr. Moneybags could afford to throw his hat in the ring. If this pay to play fee isn’t illegal, it should be. It amounts to a private organization’s putting an elective office up for sale.

  • Pete,
    If anything surprises me about the upcoming nomination and election process to replace Montana’s lone Congressional seat, it is the apparent small number of Democrats actively seeking their Party’s nomination at this stage. While I am certain some serious qualified people are working behind the scenes to secure support before announcing their interest, the small handful of Dems who have stepped forward might be an indication that many others are being realistic about the difficulties they face following an election that witnessed key Democrat election losses.

  • Larry Jent offered some words of wisdom recently:

    “Bozeman Democrat Larry Jent, a former state legislator who unsuccessfully ran for attorney general this year, said the race would be difficult.

    A Democratic candidate would likely have to run against the message that worked for electing President-elect Donald Trump, who will likely still be in a honeymoon phase with American voters if Montana’s special election happens in the spring.

    Jent said he has been asked if he might be interested in running for Congress, as he did in 1996. He is not interested at this time.

    Jent said the reward for winning as a Democrat would be dubious honor.
    “There’s no doubt about your seniority if you get this,” Jent said. “You’re number 435 out of 435 representatives.”…….

    • If you want to be a Republican nominee, you have to pony up $1740 to the party, in addition to a $1740 filing fee. Great way to winnow out the hoi polloi. The party of the people, right, Pogo? Looks like Gianforte is the designated hitter. He’ll fit right in with the Trump administration — an anti: public schools, health care, science, gays — keep those bigoted millionaire kleptocrats coming.

  • Pete,
    with all due respect, I believe you and James are trying too hard to spin this into a predetermined plot by the GOP to aid only Gianforte. I have not heard one serious GOP Central Committee person even hint at this. It is simply a way to weed out the serious from the not so serious contenders.

    As opposed to the Democrats who so far are seeing a small field of interested office seekers, Republicans are seeing this as their race to lose resulting in growing number of GOP office seekers (some highly qualified and some not so qualified) eager to run.

    I started receiving calls from potential Republican candidates soliciting support the day Zinke’s nomination became public. The State GOP received inquiries from over 20+ people interested in the State nomination to replace Zinke. I have heard rumors of even more including both former office holders and new comers. So far, Democrats have a very small hand full of candidates in their selection pool. Republicans have the opposite problem due to greater optimism fueled by recent election success – managing a large and rapidly growing pool of contenders.

  • It looks like the $1,740 fee is the GOP’s attempt to try to weed out the serious qualified candidates from the not so serious. If a potential candidate who will have to raise $1 Million to $2 Million plus campaign dollars in 85 to 100 days once nominated can’t raise a $1,740 filing fee from donors in the next 30 to 60 days before the GOP Central Committee members meet to nominate Zinke’s replacement, then she/he is not a very viable candidate. My understanding is that the person receiving the GOP Central Committee’s nomination will have their $1,740 applied to the Congressional filing fee. They don’t have to pay twice.

    Normally, I would rank GOP odds of winning the Congressional seat this year high due recent Republican election successes and this being an off year election which often favors the GOP. However, the wildcard this year is the final matchup of candidates. Poor candidate selection by either Party could easily heavily tip the winning odds. Let’s see who the final contenders are before breaking out the champagne.

    If I don’t get the chance to post again today, I would like to offer my sincere best wishes for a happy and safe New Years to all
    If I don’t get a chance to post again today, I

    • First, perhaps I was a bit strident in my above comment. A trump Presidency really has me worried and I’m reacting poorly to most political news these days.

      Anyway, the other thing I heard was that the state Republican Party is broke and it needs the money to be able to even hold a convention, so maybe you’re right that the fee is not just about elevating Gianforte.

      And Happy New Year back at you, Pogo.

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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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