Opinion

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Uncommon Ground

Win the Cities

Whether people want change, stability, or to make a difference in daily lives, a good place to begin is with this fall’s city elections

Now that Greg Gianforte won the election, he’ll take the oath of office denoting his duty to defend the rights of the rest of us. That’s mocking a process given our congressman was cited with physically assaulting a reporter who questioned him about a healthcare bill he now may oppose.

Gianforte will likely place his hand on a Bible and take the oath of the U.S. House. He’ll solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that he’ll bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that he takes this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that he’ll well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which he is about to enter. So help him God.

Ironically for our apologetic congressman, the First Amendment of our Constitution mandates respect for the press and free speech.

Our Constitution says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It doesn’t say that a congressman can’t body slam or assault reporters. Those laws are for the courts to judge.

Gianforte won last month’s Special Election by fewer than 23,000 votes statewide. That’s of little surprise. The last 20 consecutive Special Elections across the nation have been won by the party of the retiring incumbent.

It’s unsurprising given Republicans and their political surrogates outspent Democrats with four to five times the campaigning cash. That extravagant amount of cash performed opposition research then was fed to state media. It polled, turned out voters, and relentlessly pounded the airwaves to frame the election. Much of it before Democrats put up a dollar.

A meager 54 percent of the registered voters across the state cast a ballot. About 137,000 fewer voters cast a ballot last month than just six months prior.

In the Flathead 12,000 fewer voters cast a ballot than last November, when Gianforte lost an election to Gov. Steve Bullock.

Seventy-seven percent of Flathead Republicans who turned out last fall for Gianforte again voted for him last month, while only 71 percent of local Democrats whom previously voted for Bullock turned out to cast a recent ballot.

Gianforte won the Flathead by nearly the same 7,000-vote margin of last year.

In places like Whitefish and Kalispell, Democrat Rob Quist outperformed even Bullock by wide margins.

In the rural voting precincts of Whitefish, Quist beat Gianforte by sizable margins of 15 and 8 points. In Whitefish’s urban precincts, Quist beat Gianforte with huge 50- and 42-point spreads.     

Those are significantly higher margins than Bullock was able to garner in Whitefish.

In Kalispell, Quist won the eastern-neighborhood precincts by 7 and 4 points, the downtown and western precincts each by 4 points. Quist outperformed Bullock in the town that also elected a Republican state lawmaker.

Even in downtown Columbia Falls, Quist won by 9 points, besting Bullock’s margin.

The tri-cities of the Flathead are places where broadminded politics can win this fall. Younger, more progressive and active candidates could secure many city councilor and mayoral seats.

Whether people want change, stability, or to make a difference in the daily lives of all those lucky enough to live here, a good place to begin is with this fall’s city elections. Campaign money and foot leather would secure many wins.

Municipal elections are not about party nor must one have to act like a hoodlum, hooligan, or knucklehead. Flathead’s cities are the business centers of our valley; it’s where community congregates, and places where citizens look for leadership that matters.

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