I’m not sure that I have been happier about a candidate announcing a run for office than today’s announcement from Corey Stapleton that he will, once again, run for and lose a bid for governor. It’s a huge win for Democrats, guaranteeing an ugly Republican primary in the governor’s race, and opening up the Secretary of State’s office for some excellent Democratic candidates who won’t have to run against an incumbent, an advantage even when the incumbent is as incompetent as Stapleton has been.
The announcement was classic Stapleton: in violation of state law, he sent out his announcement on state letterhead and using a state account. That’s hardly a surprise, as Stapleton has followed the Rosendale model of public service, using his state office and its resources to further his political ambitions from the outset of his term. Whether it was raising false claims about election fraud to increase his conservative credibility, using the state seal to further his brand, spending thousands of state dollars to produce videos of himself, sending out partisan and self-promoting e-mails by the tens of thousands to Montana business owners, or turning his official Secretary of State web page into a monument of ego and self-indulgence, Stapleton has made his ambitions clear from the outset.
All of that deserves investigation. Stapleton has soiled the office of the Secretary of State with his partisan pandering, wild accusations, and self-promotion. While it’s a tremendous relief that he won’t be in charge of overseeing any elections after his inevitable primary loss, it’s astonishing that Stapleton thinks the best answer to being excoriated by the press and mocked by the public for his failure to do his current job is to seek higher office, and it may be the only path forward for a Secretary of State who has so failed the public trust.
Ultimately, it’s that failure that most disqualifies Stapleton from the office of Governor.
In his short tenure at the Secretary’s office, Stapleton has:
- Given over $300,000 of state funds to personal friends and political allies to pay for his incompetence when his office failed to send out the correct Voter Information guide or certify Green Party signatures.
- Repeatedly ignored public records requests associated with his office’s effort to silence critics.
- Mismanaged primary election results so badly that media outlets on the East Coast were faster than his office.
- Insulted the integrity and professionalism of county elections officials across the state.
- Been admonished by a judge for his childish antics in a court of law.
- Spent thousands of dollars to produce an ad urging Montanans to sign, and thus, invalidate, their ballots.
- Used his state office’s resources to send misleading, partisan, and self-promoting e-mails to benefit his candidacy.
- Spent your money on new tires for his truck, office junkets to New Zealand, Amazon video purchases, and car washes for his personal vehicle.
- Manufactured claims of voter fraud and then argued for actual voter suppression and more expensive elections before the Legislature.
- Failed to even keep the voter rolls updated, ignoring the problem for months.
Perhaps, in this Trumpian era of bankrupting your way to being a billionaire and almost total disregard for the truth, Stapleton is a perfect Republican candidate for governor. He’s demonstrated that he’s incompetent, believes that government service is a means for personal gain, and can’t seem to tell the truth about almost anything.
And I couldn’t be happier that he’s decided to run.