An Open Letter to Kathleen Williams

In this post, I will detail several of what I see as Kathleen Williams strengths as well as one crucial error she needs to correct to be successful in a future race. I hope she runs for something in 2020 and goodness I hope she wins.

Refreshing news late last night that Kathleen Williams is going to run for office in 2020. She hasn’t decided what that office is yet. From Lee papers:

Williams told Lee Montana newspapers Wednesday that the amount of support she received, $1.1 million of which came from donations of $200 or less, was humbling.

She plans to run for public office again, but hasn’t chosen a race.

The obvious choice for Williams is to go after the Congressional seat again, as she came very close in a very tough year and hopefully learned some things about campaigning and messaging.

Dear Kathleen,

Do not let handlers tell you how to use your voice. It is a powerful and important voice. I believe you won the primary election in 2018 because you were the most courageous candidate on the toughest issue.

Guns-You led the charge after the Parkland shootings and you were able to beat two well-financed candidates because of it. Do not let your voice be silenced. And while you are at it, please speak out on more issues that we all care about. We all want healthcare for every American. We all want a living wage for every American of at least $15 an hour, if not more. We all want a green new deal.

Whatever primary you enter progressives will ask you about these issues and they will expect answers.

Her campaign was always one of the most professionally run and easiest to interact with in the crowded primary and general elections. I found them to be responsive and helpful. That being said, I also found Kathleen’s overall campaign a little late to the game. It felt like her messaging was about 6 weeks behind in the general election from where it needed to be.

The day after the primary last June Kathleen’s campaign switched to fundraising mode and was quite successful as the Lee papers article points out:

Kathleen Williams raised a record amount of money in 2018 for a Montana Democrat running for U.S. House in a general election.

The Bozeman Democrat who filed her year-end campaign reports Jan. 11, raised $4.1 million in her challenge to Republican incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte.

It was a Democratic wave year though, that makes it easier on folks to raise money. Her lists are good and Democrats are fired up for 2020 so this won’t change as she will have the same smart people helping her who have successfully raised money for many campaigns.

Back to my point on the one critique that I have of her general election campaign. And I say this hoping she adapts and wins her next race. After the primary she started raising money and her messaging continued on as it had from the primary. This was a mistake.

While building a war chest for a general election is crucial she missed an opportunity to capitalize on her primary win and connect with Montana voters, introduce herself to voters and show them who she was and how she would deliver for them. She did not end up doing this until the fall and was already too far behind. Gianforte had framed her as one thing, which she wasn’t, and the race was over before it really started.

Instead it was crickets for weeks in the summer. While I saw her in parades I did not hear new messaging from her. I suspect this was carefully orchestrated by consultants and the establishment who wanted to rein her in and make sure she didn’t go off script from what was allowed to be said or to overshadow the most important race of 2018, our beloved farmer-senator, Jon Tester.


She tweeted this very late last night after the story broke, which means, in my understanding, that she still has people helping her run her social media accounts.

“I heard folks’ struggles and dreams across Montana. It’s hard to put them aside.”

Her website has this message:

Thank you so much for your support. Together we made great strides towards uniting and better serving the people of Montana, and we couldn’t have done it without each and every one of you.

Please check back again soon for further updates.



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Nathan Kosted

1 Comment

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  • While you may have your point about Kathleen’s not jumping in quickly enough, you must examine the facts too. She was new to the campaign trail, but covered it like a pro, speaking to about every town, berg, and city in this state. You also have to recognize that many of us “yellow dog Dems” were not willing to back that horse until she won the primary. Despite my having talked to her several times and being beyond impressed, I felt like a man would have a better chance in this sometimes backward misogynistic state. Toward the end, I joined her whole-heartedly, but DAMN! how many good female candidates has this state taken out? Nancy Keenan, Denise, Kathleen, (glad she’s going to run again though) etc. etc. I hate the misogyny in this mainly patriarchal state.

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