File this away for the people who always talk about what a deep bench Montana Republicans have for statewide races: today, Columbus State Representative Forrest Mandeville announced his bid to become Montana’s next Secretary of State. We’ll certainly discuss Representative Mandeville’s record in more detail over the next few months, but here are a few quick hits that may reveal a great deal about the candidate.
On the legislative side, Mandeville clearly disagrees with most Montanans who believe that corporations should not have the same rights as human beings. During the last legislative session, Representative Andrea Olson brought forth HR 2, in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and affirm that only human beings have the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
While the measure ultimately died in the Republican-controlled House, it did receive bipartisan support in its committee hearing. Mandeville, however, joined some of the most reactionary members of the Republican caucus in opposing it.
Given that the most important function of the Secretary of State’s office is to ensure that our elections run well and that the rights of voters are protected, it’s troubling that Mandeville is more interested in protecting the rights of corporations than Montana’s citizens.
It’s also deeply troubling that he donated to white supremacist legislative candidates Taylor Rose and Robert Saunders in 2016.
We’ve written extensively about Rose on the site, but for those of you who aren’t familiar, Rose had deep connections as early as college with white nationalist groups in both the United States and Europe.
Saunders was perhaps even more overtly racist than Rose, who cultivated that new, professional Nazi look. Former college classmates of Saunders told the Billings Gazette that Saunders was known on campus for making racist remarks and MT Cowgirl blog that he became known as “Little Hitler” and that “minority students distanced themselves from Robert Saunders, because his comments were offensive and conveyed a perspective of superiority that made them feel shocked and uncomfortable.”
And Mandeville doesn’t get to fall back on the weak defense (that he’d donated to every Republican candidate) Greg Gianforte offered when he was caught giving money to Rose. Mandeville did donate to a handful of legislative candidates in 2016, most near his home, but he certainly didn’t offer a blanket donation to candidates across the state (not that that would be an excuse).
Now that Mandeville is seeking higher office—one that oversees Montana’s election system—he needs to answer both for his voting and donation record. There’s no place in Montana politics for those who support white supremacy or those who support them, and there’s no place for someone who believes corporations have the same rights that you and I do sitting in the Secretary of State’s office.
Montana’s Republican Party has never really been held accountable for its connection with white supremacists, and an excellent place to start would be for Mandeville to explain why he supported these candidates.