It appeared in a Facebook post: a Change.org petition asking Rep. Greg Gianforte to quit his bid for governor and run for re-election to the U.S. House.
The petition is being advanced by former Rep. Jesse O’Hara, a Montana House Republican out of Great Falls (currently living in Florida), who served from 2006-2014. To date, it has about 200 signatures. Here’s the petition’s plea:
Join me (O’Hara) in asking Congressman Greg Gianforte to run for reelection to Montana’s only Congressional seat. With Greg out of the race, an Oct 2019 Montana polls show Kathleen Williams (D) in the lead over Matt Rosendale (R). Without Greg using the power of incumbency, Republicans may lose the seat at this very difficult time in U.S. history. With all the challenges that face our nation, Greg needs to stay in DC and use the power of his incumbency to help President Trump and this nation. This is not the time for Republicans to shuffle seats. Montana has good R candidates for Governor, but only Greg Gianforte is able to leverage incumbency in Congress.
The possibility of Gianforte actually doing this is close to nil but it does raise some interesting questions. Are there enough Republicans out there who believe none of the GOP candidates for the U.S. House can beat Democratic frontrunner Kathleen Williams?
Then there’s the “Montana has good R candidates for Governor” line. In a veiled attempt, is O’Hara (and maybe others) pushing Montana Atty. Gen. Tim Fox for governor over Gianforte?
O’Hara has some history of butting heads with Montana GOP leadership. He has called out ranking Republicans, including such notables as Art Wittich, Jason Priest, Matt Rosendale, Roger Koopman and Jeff Essman, of trying to purge the party of moderates. From a 2014 letter to the Western News:
I have been active in Republican politics for five decades. In the most recent decade, the extremists have begun to pursue a hyper-partisan policy of divisiveness while formally rejecting the benefits of statesmanship and compromise. We now risk becoming a fringe party, misaligned with the needs of the electorate and incapable of sustaining a governing majority.
O’Hara plays it safe by not overtly criticizing Gianforte and his motive for launching the petition remains suspect. Maybe he’s a Dr. Al Olszewski fan (the third Republican candidate in the race and a state senator from Kalispell). Whatever the reason, as this campaign gets more contentious by the day, it will be entertaining to see what follows.