Armed with the endorsement of nearly every Montana Republican luminary (living and dead) over the age of 67, Russ Fagg probably believed that he was going to sweep through the Republican primary for the Senate as the mainstream choice to challenge Senator Tester. It just hasn’t worked out that way for the judge, who saw his campaign undermined from the outset by his own ethical lapses and anemic crowds who just weren’t interested
Perhaps seeing his chances fading, Fagg has taken a hard right turn in the past few weeks, boasting at nearly every campaign event about being the only candidate who has deported criminals and leaping on board the President’s xenophobic, factually challenged calls for more aggressive action against migrants.
None of that prepared me for the ad the Fagg campaign released yesterday, though. In a couple of decades of closely watching Montana politics, I can’t remember a more overtly racist appeal in an ad by a major candidate. Fagg hits all the racist notes about immigration with the kind of subtlety one would expect to find in a Richard Spencer recruitment ad: scary images of Hispanic men, a deep voice intoning about “black and white,” grainy yellow-tone photos of gang members, and the specious claim that their activities “threaten America.”
I assume that this ad is the opening salvo of the last phases of the Fagg campaign: to depict the former Judge as someone who was tough on criminals while relying on coded racist imagery and language to appeal to the hooded base of the Montana GOP. It’s incredibly depressing that Russ Fagg thinks sinking to this desperate low will save a flailing campaign, but it’s even more depressing to imagine that someone this racist was a judge for two decades.
The only bright side in this story is a small one. Fagg was so consumed with his shadow campaign for the Senate that he left 1,100 cases unresolved when he left his position as a judge despite promising he would clear them. At the time, I was critical of his dereliction of duty, but now, knowing how he sees the world, we’re probably better off because he couldn’t be troubled to impose his troubling worldview on his courtroom any longer.