First, the comedy. Rumors are heating up that Christi Jacobsen intends to file to replace her current boss, Corey Stapleton as Secretary of State. I could take the easy shot and mock the idea of someone who convinced Corey Stapleton he could be elected Governor or Congressman running our state’s election system, but that’s not all that makes her candidacy laughable.
As Chief of Staff, Jacobsen has overseen the toxic mean girl culture at the Secretary’s office that has driven experienced staffers from the building in droves, oversaw the decision to award hundreds of thousands of state dollars to Corey Stapleton’s friends, and managed to create such an air of chaos in the office that fundamental tasks like ensuring safe elections just haven’t been done.
If there is anyone who isn’t qualified to our next Secretary of State, it’s someone who not only has managed to convince herself that Corey Stapleton was good at the job, but who also covered for him in his repeated misuse of state funds and malfeasance. Even Republicans have to see that.
I’m also told that current Clerk of the Supreme Court Bowen Greenwood, who ran for Clerk on an explicitly partisan agenda and found he had little ability to sway the Court, and PSC Commissioner Brad Johnson, who has never seen a full-time government job he can’t make part-time, are also sending out hints they might run.
The bigger story is the news that former State Auditor and Senate candidate John Morrison is considering another run, this time for Attorney General. He’s been making the rounds at candidate forums and other events and I’m told that he has
begun to raise money to consider joining the race against Raph Graybill, Kim Dudik, and Jim Cossitt.
I think we’ve all been waiting for Morrison to re-enter Montana politics following the collapse of his Senate bid in 2006. I’d argue, though, the race for Attorney General is not where Morrison should make his comeback effort. While I firmly believe both that we all make mistakes and we all have the capacity for redemption, the nature of Morrison’s missteps will absolutely hobble him in a race against a Republican candidate for Attorney General.
Given the relatively low contribution limits for statewide races, the likely dearth of coverage of a Tier B race in a Presidential and Senate race year, not to mention the role of the Attorney General, Morrison would, if he found himself victorious in the Democratic primary, unable to define himself—and his commendable achievements since 2006—in a way that will overpower the narrative from 2006.
Democrats are poised to take back the Attorney General’s seat in 2006, and I believe Morrison as the Democratic candidate will make that much less likely.
That being said, there is a race I think Morrison should consider: Montana’s other Senate seat. Again, with no disrespect intended to the current field of candidates, Morrison would be more formidable in a Senate race than in the race for AG. He’s got the ability to raise and spend money there, and the 2006 narrative just doesn’t have the same sting it would have in a race for Attorney General. In the fray of a Senate race, it will be a footnote, not a defining characteristic of the contest.
Morrison’s experience with the health co-ops following the adoption of the Affordable Care Act—and his criticism of both the Obama Administration and Republicans position him well to become an important voice in our national healthcare debate moving forward.
And, though Republicans refuse to believe it, Steve Daines is vulnerable in 2020. Despite his slavish adherence to all things Trump, I’m told that he’s running well behind Trump in statewide polling, a status that will only become more problematic as Trump faces impeachment inquiries. Daines has been incredibly lucky in his two previous campaigns for office, the kind of candidate who is so bad at connecting with voters that he never faces them and got cowed out of a Senate race by Denny Rehberg in 2012.
While it will certainly be a challenge, Democrats can win this race against the empty suit in 2020.
I think Montana Democrats have the candidates to win the Attorney General’s office right now and a late entry by John Morrison serves neither the interests of the Democrats nor Morrison, who should channel his formidable political skill and connections into a race that won’t highlight his greatest weakness as a candidate. I don’t think John Morrison is—or should be—done in Montana politics. I just hope that he chooses the right race for his comeback.
Attorney General just isn’t that race.
Correction appended at 4:57 p.m.