Rosendale Campaign Melts Down Over Ranchgate

If the meltdown from Rosendale staffers last night over their candidate simply being asked how many cattle he runs on his ranch is any indication, it’s a sore subject for the campaign and their candidate–and an issue they know will follow them until Election Day.

Last night around 7:00 p.m., Simone Pathe, a reporter for Roll Call, tweeted that upon meeting Rosendale, she asked if he had any cattle, prompting the real estate developer to somewhat bizarrely challenge Senator Jon Tester to a fence-building contest to “see who’s a rancher.”

It was a bizarre response, one that not only shows Rosendale doesn’t know the difference between a farmer and a rancher, but a response that’s apparently part of his canned repertoire. Former mayor of Kalispell Tammi Fisher later noted that Rosendale had previously told her “I might not be from Montana but I’d challenge anyone to a fence fixing contest” as if the Montana purity test is fixing fence.”

In fact, Rosendale seems obsessed with burnishing his ranching credentials by talking about fences to anyone unfortunate enough to listen.

Seriously, someone hire an actual Montanan for this guy to explain that ranching means having livestock, not fences.

Peculiar fence fetish aside, for most candidates and their staff, this exchange with a reporter would be a non-story, an amusing anecdote in the middle of a campaign season that we can all probably agree has already lasted too long. Not for Team Rosendale, though. Its latest hire, strategist Brandon Moody, had a full meltdown on Twitter, insulting Pathe, Butte native and reporter Kathleen McLaughlin, and Tester Comms Director Marneé Banks, repeatedly hurling the word “flak” in the least self-aware moment since Donald Trump called someone “mentally unstable.”

It’s understandable that Mr. Moody is having a rough week. In his last race, his candidate questioned the “cognitive thought process” of veterans who vote for Democrats, leading Moody to defend the insult and his candidate, who lost his primary bid less than a week ago. It’s also understandable that he’s probably a bit on edge, having just lost a race running a candidate with excellent military credentials before showing up here in Montana to assist a candidate who has repeatedly voted against veterans.

So, while I understand why he’s troubled, I don’t understand why he’d let on just how much it bothers Team Rosendale that Montanans are mocking his hobby ranch. Since The Montana Post first exposed Rosendale’s ranching claims as a scam back in April, the story has just continued to spread around the state, online, on Facebook, and in letters to the editor. And it seems Mr. Rosendale hates that almost as much as he loves mendin’ fences.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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