Montana Post Voting Guide For the Races You Might Not Have Followed Closely But Matter A Lot

We get it. You’re damn busy, and there just hasn’t been much media coverage of the lower profile races in Montana this election cycle. Outside of the massive ad buys for the two initiatives, it’s easy to see how voters might have heard very little about races other than the ones for the Senate and Congress.

But you should absolutely vote in those races. The future of higher education in Montana rests on one, and oversight over utilities rests on another. All of these votes–not matter how low their profile has been–will matter in the months and years after the election.

As we head into the final stretch before Election Day, we’ve made it clear at this site that we enthusiastically support Kathleen Williams and Jon Tester, but we wanted to make sure that we at least give you our pitch in the races that have received less attention.

So, here is our thirty-second, three-bullet point pitch for each, in the order they will be presented on your ballot.

PSC District # 5: Andy Shirtliff

  1. Andy has demonstrated he gets results: as the former Small Business Advocate for the Bullock Administration, Andy helped the state rank #1 in the nation for starting a small business and he has been a strong voice for net neutrality for Montana Internet consumers.
  2. He’s run a campaign that shows the kind of commissioner he’d be: one who listens to and engages with the public. Raised in Kalispell and living in Helena, Shirtliff has a knack for the kind of retail politics Montanans should expect from their elected officials, and has crisscrossed the district tirelessly since announcing his candidacy.
  3. Andy’s opponent, Brad Johnson, doesn’t seem to have much interest in the job. He’s run an anemic campaign, one that raised almost no money, recycled a campaign ad from the last cycle, and relied on late, desperate, fundraising appeals that bordered on parody. One has to wonder whether, at this point, Mr. Johnson, whose attendance at the PSC is spotty, isn’t just more interested in spending time on his wife’s ranch in Texas.

PSC District #1: Doug Kaercher

  1. Doug is Kaercher has the experience and temperament to protect consumers and regulate utilities appropriately. His endorsements–from the conservative Montana Chamber of Commerce and the Montana AFL-CIO show that he can effectively work across the aisle with labor and business, consumers and producers. In fact, Kaercher has more endorsements from both conservative-leaning business groups and liberal-leaning groups than almost any candidate I can remember. He’s the consensus choice of those in the know.
  2. His opponent, Randy Pinocci, simply cannot be trusted on the PSC. He has little understanding of the role of the PSC, is prone to accept conspiracy theories about the United Nations, and, during his one ignominious term in the Montana Legislature, was caught playing video games during the session and promoting self-dealing bills.
  3. In the words of fellow Republican Rob Cook, Pinocci is little more than a “buffoon… a bloviating buffoon who just spews nonsense and lies.”

Clerk of the Supreme Court: Rex Renk

  1. Rex Renk has served for 23 years in the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court, experience that positions him best to ensure the smooth functioning of the Court.
  2. Renk has received the endorsement of the current Clerk, Ed Smith, seven former justices of the Supreme Court, the Missoulian, the Billings Gazette, the Montana Standard, the MFPE, and the AFL-CIO. All speak to Renk’s experience and professionalism, with many noting Renk’s “truly independent” character.
  3. Renk’s opponent in the race, Bowen Greenwood, offers a vision of the Clerk’s office that is both partisan and betrays a lack of understanding about what the job entails. As the Missoulian notes, “Greenwood has no real experience with any of those other functions” of the Clerk aside from communications.

LR-128  6-Mill Levy: YES

  1. The people of Montana have never rejected the 6-Mill levy. For seventy years, Montanans of all political beliefs have come to together to support the measure. Prominent Republicans like Senator Steve Daines, Representative Steve Daines, former Secretary of State Bob Brown have joined the labor and education communities to advocate for its renewal.
  2. The levy is not a tax increase, despite some dishonest claims from opponents.
  3. Failure to pass the 6-mill levy will lead to an immediate, devastating 18% increase in tuition for Montana students who are already feeling the pinch of decreased state support for higher education.

LR-129 Ballot Collection Measure: NO

  1. The measure is the result of Republican fear mongering that somehow offering to help our neighbors deliver their ballots will lead to massive voter fraud, despite no evidence this has or will ever happen.
  2. The measure will add unnecessary burdens to voters who are already marginalized by factors like limited polling stations in their area, decreased mobility, hospitalization, or disability.
  3. County elections officers, who efficiently run Montana’s elections, worry that the provision will slow absentee ballot collection with little to gain from the measure. We should trust the professionals who run our elections about how we should conduct them.

I-185 Tobacco/Medicaid Expansion: YES

  1. By far, the primary opponent of I-185 is the tobacco industry, which has spent an almost unbelievable $17 million dollars to oppose the increase in state tobacco taxes. If there is one thing Montanans of all political affiliations should be able to agree on, it’s that we can’t trust tobacco companies to be concerned about our health or to tell the truth.
  2. The measure will reduce tobacco consumption, especially among children. Research demonstrates that increasing the cost of tobacco is directly linked to reduced rates of use, and we all need to continue the fight to prevent the  1,600 annual deaths from tobacco-related illnesses in Montana.
  3. The measure ensures funding for Medicaid coverage in Montana, which has not only improved public health but proven to be an economic boon to the state, bringing $500 million into the state and creating 5,000 new jobs.

I-186 Mining Reform: YES

  1. While Montana has passed stronger laws protecting our environment from the worst impact of mining, I-186 is still needed to protect our rivers and streams from hard-rock mining. Millions of dollars in public funds are spent every year cleaning up the waste mining companies left behind, waste that threatens our drinking water, fisheries, and recreational use of waterways.
  2. Despite the claims of opponents, I-186 will not stop any mines in Montana as long as they commit to paying for the pollution they leave behind. Both New Mexico and Michigan have passed similar initiatives without harming their mining development.
  3. The damage done by mines isn’t hypothetical. Montana has 200 abandoned mines that are discharging deadly pollutants into 2,500 miles of waterways. Can we afford to risk more?
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.

Subscribe to our posts

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.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Please enter an e-mail address

Latest PostCast

Support Our Work!

Subscribe Via E-mail


Which Democratic Candidate for Governor Do You Support Today?

Send this to a friend