Some recommendations for Montana Democratic candidates

1) Instead of just asking for money, tell me where you stand on the issues. I get dozens of emails a day asking for money but no reason why I should really give you any. Vague concepts like “I support public lands” or “good paying jobs” or “Montana values” won’t cut it.

Republicans say all those things but they also tell you where they stand on other issues. They’re anti-choice, anti-science, anti-immigrant and pro-gun. And enough people love this, the “telling it like it is,” that the messaging pays off and the candidates, too often, get elected.

Be courageous, Democrats. Even if I don’t agree with all your issues, if you have the guts to lay your policies out there, you’ll gain my respect.

2) Sign the “No Fossil Fuel Money” pledge. From the website:

Taking the pledge means that a politician and their campaign will adopt a policy to not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.

This site also lists the candidates who have signed the pledge, including a number of Montanans. Some of those candidates have pledged to take no money at all from fossil fuel interests. Please take a look.

If your campaign can’t survive without taking contributions from the fossil fuel industry, well, maybe you shouldn’t even be running.

3) In a similar vein, if you aren’t going to aggressively attack the climate crisis, take me off your list.

4) Pay some dues before running for a top tier office, like running for city council or county commissioner or the legislature. Get some experience and name recognition, build alliances and a grassroots network… 

There’s something to be said about being “an outsider,” but imagine how much more effective you’ll be if you understand the intricacies of government and the office you’re running for.

There are notable exceptions. Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer comes to mind. He too could have accomplished more — at least in his first term — had he been more familiar with the legislative process and governing in general.

This doesn’t seem to apply to the Republican Party as its base will vote for anyone who is rich and has an ‘R’ after their name. Examples of this would be Sen. Steve Daines, Rep. Greg Gianforte and, of course, Donald J. Trump. But look at the disasters they’ve turned out to be.

This is not how the Democratic Party is going to build its “Blue Bench.” Maybe some of the newbies will consider running for a lesser office after they’ve taken a beating at the polls. Until then, Democratic leadership has to encourage and mentor candidates who have served in local and regional office. The party needs to be grooming them for important statewide and national offices.

5) Do some serious outreach to the youth vote. Many of the younger, potential voters, are completely disenfranchised from both political parties. Give them a reason, Democrats, to vote for you: economic, environmental and social. Blow off one of your high end fundraising events and meet with the kids in the Sunrise Movement, Pride organizations, feminist and peace groups — even Green Party and Democratic Socialists.

Bring these young people into the fold and if you continue to support their interests, even as those interests evolve, you’ll have them for life.

I’ll reinforce the first point before signing off. Nobody wants a namby-pamby candidate. Be bold, be aggressive and oh yeah, 6) work your ass off. That is all.   




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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • Earlier today I sent the Montana Dems an email saying just what your article said – don’t just keep asking for money, tell us what is going on with your candidates.

  • some good points…not sure why the endless stream of email solicitations without any substance…seems to defy Fundraising 101 (there are exceptions among candidates)

    • Yes, Kim, there are definitely exceptions among the candidates. Bryce Bennett, Shane Morigeau, Casey Schreiner, Kim Dudick, Tom Winter and Kathleen Williams all have experience in the legislature, which should be noted, although it would be nice if there were candidates with even more name recognition especially in the Tier A races (Gov. Bullock comes to mind although K. Willims has done well). And Wilmot Collins is mayor of Helena and has received some good press. Some of them are also running aggressive, issue-based campaigns. So, the Democrats are slowly building a bench. I hope it’s not too little, too late. The party itself could have stronger messaging and more substance, in my humble opinion, to go along with it’s fundraising pleas.

  • Appalled that you would say people need to pay dues first, Pete. Candidates like Daniel Carlino in the PSC race don’t need to pay dues, they need to be elected right now even if they have no experience at all. No time to wait, we need radical change right now and he is the only way we can get that radicalism. No more establishment, experienced choices, WE NEED RADICAL ACTION.

    • I think Dan is great, and I’m certainly not opposed to fresh faces shaking things up (although it doesn’t seem like the new folks I’m referencing in the above post are on that track). But you might want to take a look at Tom Woods, PSC District 3 candidate. Not only does he plan to make radical changes in the way the commission does business but he has been a four term representative in the Montana House, authored numerous energy and environmental bills, was minority caucus chair… Not all “establishment, experienced choices” are bad. Tom has name recognition, allies and support, and over time has been able to build a grassroots organization that can get him elected. Those are some of the things I’m looking for in a candidate.

  • Great article. What seems to be hard, in my mind, is that the GOP has been united on the hard core conservative brand. If they oppose this ideology, they are opposed. Good or bad, Democrats tend to be independent and free thinkers. Here lies the problem.

  • Haven’t you done your time in the precinct books Pete?

    It’s all public record. You can go down to the elections office, and look at the precinct books for any recent election, to see who actually showed up and voted.

    I have done it, and if you take the time you will discover that the only group that reliably shows up to vote is married older people.

    Kids don’t turn out to vote. I’ve caught my own grown kids lying about it.

    So your advice to Dems would be better if you told them to worry about mainstream Montana issus, not the religion of global warming, special rights for gays, gun control, or affirmative action.

    They want to know that higher taxes aren’t going to stop their retirement.

    They want to hope that the meth epidemic is stopped.

    They want to know their kids or grandkids are safe at school.

    And your advice is to talk about campaign finance? Prepare for another GOP blowout if they actually take your advice.

    • Where to start, E. First, “Kids don’t turn out to vote.” You’re right that the older the voter, the higher the turnout. But give them something to vote for and they’ll turn out. There was a big increase in young voters in Obama’s first election. High turnout for Bernie in the primaries. I don’t blame them for not turning out in some elections as the choices can be pitiful.

      “The religion of global warming?” You have a candidate who’s willing to aggressively tackle climate change–that’s what intelligent people are calling it these days–and just watch the youth vote soar. “Special rights for gays?” It’s known as equal rights. “Gun control?” And then a few sentences later you suggest a winning policy would be keeping “kids or grandkids … safe at school.” Gun control would be a great start.

      Finally, no where did I mention campaign finance reform in the post but it’s actually an important, winning, bipartisan issue (except for the politicians who are raking in the dough).

      • Just look at the NDO language that has been proposed around the State, that the Democrats support. It says that anybody claiming victim status by being LGBT cannot be fired, and cannot be denied rentals, etc. Everybody in our State already has protections against discrimination. But they keep pushing it, which means special recognition and special rights are the same thing.

        Al Gore (a high priest) predicted that by now the sea levels would be flooding inland and that the ice caps would be melted . Those predictions are well documented, yet they never happened. There are volumes of examples. But since it’s in the Democrat playbook, the party still keeps beating the drum, and frankly, Montanans don’t care.

        And Pete is advising candidates to talk about it? It has to be a religion. Faith without proof. ?

  • No kidding, Kathleen Williams lost her election because she failed to get her message out. Instead, tough guy Gianforte (aka Giant Fart), whos biggest accomplishment was assaulting an out of state reporter beat her. I agree, my money is going towards candidates in other states like Mark Kelly in Arizona whos victory would turn Arizona blue with a Democrat majority for Arizona with 2 Democrat US Senators.

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