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2017 Special Election Greg Gianforte Montana Politics

Why I’m supporting Amanda Curtis

This could be the most difficult post I’ve written in the dozen or so years I’ve been blogging. I’ve struggled with it for over a month.

Why all the consternation? Because there’s a great field of Democratic candidates vying for Ryan Zinke’s vacated U.S. House seat.

Seven men and one woman are seeking the Democratic Party nomination (to date, there are seven men and no women on the Republican side). Three Democratic candidates have the greatest chance of getting the nod: state representatives Amanda Curtis and Kelly McCarthy, and musician Rob Quist. Each would do an excellent job representing Montana in Congress and I would wholeheartedly campaign for any one of them.

In addition, there’s attorney John Meyer of Bozeman, Tom Weida of Helena, Link Neimark of Whitefish, and Missoulians Dan West and Gary Stein. I’ve chatted with most of them. I appreciate their willingness to throw their hats in the ring and their reasons for running. I don’t believe they have the name recognition, yet, to get elected.

Here’s why I’m endorsing Amanda Curtis:

1) She has the experience as a legislator and as a statewide candidate.

2) Amanda has a team ready to hit the ground running to turn out the votes.

3) She is a young, articulate, progressive woman and a fighter (and we could certainly use more of those in Washington). To me, she represents the future of the Montana Democratic Party.

4) She’s the genuine article — not a waffling politician — we know where she stands on the issues. As we learned from the November election, being genuine counts. (Sen. Bernie Sanders was genuine and he won the Democratic primary in Montana. Donald Trump was considered “genuine” because of his outrageous comments and actions, although over half the electorate did realize that he was as phony as a three dollar bill; damn that Electoral College.)

I have no quarrel with the two other candidates with nomination potential: McCarthy and Quist. I have met with both of them and they are honorable men. McCarthy is a seasoned legislator, has progressive credentials and is already running a strong campaign. I’ve known Quist for close to 40 years, as a musician, a Montana booster and friend. A look at the issues on his website indicate progressive leanings. He, too, is running an aggressive campaign.

So, the question on everyone’s mind is who can win. I’ve listened to my heart and I’ve listened to my head. I’ve struggled mightily in coming to the conclusion that Amanda is the best candidate.

I’ll try to dispel some of the myths surrounding her candidacy.

Folks look at the 2016 election and see that the great, progressive woman, Denise Juneau, got pretty soundly beaten by Ryan Zinke. This is not the 2016 election. The much-maligned Hillary Clinton is not at the top of the ticket, a fact that kept some potential Democratic voters away from the polls and influenced independents.

I believe that Juneau’s and Trump’s margin in Montana can be attributed more to Clinton negatives than Trump positives. There also appears to be buyer’s remorse now that Trump voters are seeing their choice in action. And his win has motivated those who sat on the sidelines to take an active role in electing a Trump foil.

The presumed Republican nominee, Greg Gianforte, is not Ryan Zinke. Zinke was the incumbent and had a decent reputation as Montana’s sole representative in Congress. And, perhaps you’ve heard, he was a Navy SEAL. His negatives were kept well under wraps.

Although Gianforte has not received the Republican nomination, he claims he has the votes and is poised to run the strongest campaign of the Republican hopefuls, in my opinion. He has name recognition from his gubernatorial race, although not all of it good (“New Jersey millionaire who wants to buy the election,” and then there was that public access issue). Those tags will stay with him.

And, it pains me to say this, but there is still an anti-woman, anti-Native American, anti-gay sentiment in the Montana electorate. These should be non-issues but, alas, they are not. There’s nothing Amanda can do about sexism but the other two labels won’t affect her.

Then there’s the rural/urban question: can a progressive woman from Butte resonate with rural voters? We know Amanda will do well in the liberal hotbeds of Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Missoula, which is close to one-fifth of the electorate, but how about the rest of the state?

My answer would be a question: what has the Republican Party done for average Montanans? Improved access to affordable health care? Helped the public schools and colleges where their kids go? Made the public lands where they recreate more accessible? Cleaned up the toxic sites that dot our beautiful state? Fixed our infrastructure? I could go on.

I’ll close on a positive note. I haven’t seen this level of interest and activism since I was a teenager during the Vietnam War era: ten thousand at the Women’s March in Helena; rallies almost everyday at cities and towns around Montana; unprecedented phone call and letter writing campaigns; and involvement in this special election that I’ve rarely witnessed in the most heated general elections.

This is a good thing. We can win this one.




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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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  • Thanks for putting yourself out there Pete. Loving the way you outlined your support for her without denigrating others. Here’s to victory in May. We’ll be calling May 25th V-M day for the rest of our lives, Victory in Montana, where we turned the tide back on the waves of hateful nationalism!

  • Well said Pete and very positive and even-handed for the blogosphere. I want to add that Amanda, alone among the candidates, is acutely aware of who to trust and how to run a true grassroots campaign. Mobilizing volunteers for direct voter contact is how she can win.

  • You’re whistling through the graveyard again Pete !

    I think the GOP would be delighted to see her nominated again, but we really can’t talk about a matchup until next Tuesday, can we?

  • “I haven’t been at keeping track, Eric, but I think I’m slightly ahead in our “gentleman’s bets.” I’ve had Obama and Tester on a number of occasions. How about Hillary and The Donald? Even with all the email stuff, smart money is on her. What’s your thinking?”

    Forgive me Pete – I couldn’t resist going through the archives. At the end of October you had Juneau & Hillary winning big, and Juneau lined up for a cabinet post. You have been on so many losing candidates that if I started supporting ‘Green’ candidates it would take you years to catch up ! 🙂

  • You are correct, Eric, no bets until Tuesday. I’m not sure which Republican candidate I’d rather see: Gianforte with his baggage, Buttrey with no name recognition … I’m leaning Ken Miller, though. I believe your math is wrong on previous wagers.

    BTW, here’s something I posted earlier at MT Cowgirl: I notice that Montana Republicans are holding their nominating convention for the special election this coming Monday. MONDAY! How many working class Montanans can take a Monday off to drive to Helena and cast a vote? Between this and the $1,740 fee the state GOP is requiring of candidates seeking the vacated House seat, party leadership is definitely giving the rank-and-file the middle finger.

  • Curtis as you have stressed is articulate, and how she uses her insights and language to educate the electorate, to frame the issues and to succinctly elaborate on her rationales is of immense value when we have had such a paucity of Democratic leadership for so long. Pat Williams was the last one who could eloquently and endearingly express himself. Something about Butte, maybe.

    • Time in Butte changed me for the good.
      With Amanda Curtis in Paul Ryan’s House, Montana will get best possible position plus respect from Congress members protecting constituents against Central Government over-reach. Over-reaching to take away ACA, worker rights, the right of women to determine their own health choices.
      Over-reaching to place Tax Credits in hands of Tax Payers wanting CHARTER SCHOOLS
      to be paid for by REDUCING TAX REVENUE.
      Amanda Curtis is very very uniquely qualified to work to improve Public Education in the USA.

  • Fifty years of voting and I have never been more excited than I am for this special election. Your statement of support for Amanda Curtis enhances that excitement. Pat Williams was the first Congressman I met. He campaigned in,of all places, the boiler room of the Webster Garfield School. The similarities of Pat Williams and Amanda Curtis are very evident. I may be old in years but so damn enthused. Sign me up for supporting Amanda Curtis!

  • I read your post with much elation and support for Amanda. However, I am going to be a realist and say that I 110% agree Amanda is the future face and where the Montana Democrat Party is going to go, I think it’s too early at this point. I know people Democrats are ready right now for a war, but this war must be tempered and measured.

    I honestly feel that Rob Quist is the best point at this point to pull in the Independents and RR’s. If Greg Giantfart gets the nod, Rob will have a broader appeal.

    Just my opinion. I will however support Amanda if she is the nominee.

  • I haven’t been on the Central Committee here for years, but if I was I would have to support my friend Ken Miller. I’m actually believing though that Gianforte does have the votes in his pocket for the nomination. We’ll see,

  • Just a thought on the “what have Republicans done for rural areas?” line of reasoning.. . Perhaps less than Democrats, but the rural areas don’t give a damn and will vote for the R anyways. That is not a tenable argument for why we should choose someone from a more urban area.

  • It will come down to who can put together the best campaign in the approximately 75 day window — who can do the person-to-person contact — hit the doors, the phones, the GOTV lists. I believe Amanda has the network in place to win this ground game; a lot of folks from the grass roots organizations that have sprung up since the fall election and also young activists from the Bernie Sanders’ campaign, progressive and moderate Democrats, labor … Amanda has the ability to build coalitions.

  • While there’s a real hunger for a candidate right out of central

    casting, I maintain that we need one who’s experienced the

    rigors of a statewide campaign or any campaign for that matter.  I

    believe one needs to take a few swings at the ball in “the farm

    league” before going to the “big league”.  

    Some point to Brian Schweitzer as one who successfully made

    the leap, but forget that Brian lost his first race before winning the

    Governor’s office.   Experience matters.

    Amanda Curtis has legislative and statewide campaign exper-

    ience. She has demonstrated an ability to think on her feet,

    articulate the issues and vigorously advocate for Montana.

    Some say “Amanda is great, but she should wait”.    

    It has been a hundred years since Montana was represented by

    a woman in Congress.  Jeannette Rankin did not wait for the right

    time, She made the time, “right”.

    The energy of Montana Woman’s March tells me that surely we

    are as “Woman Ready” now as Montana was 100 years ago.

    Experience matters. Join me in supporting Amanda Curtis.

  • As you said….sexism does exist in Montana. However she is easily the best experienced and qualified candidate. Will it make the difference? I’m planning on voting for her.

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