MISSOULA – Few Republicans at their party’s state convention here Friday wanted to meet Bob Kelleher, Montana’s perennial political candidate who became the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate by pulling off a surprise victory in the primary election last month.
Bob Kelleher got a separate room in which to meet with any Republicans interested in hearing his message during the convention. More reporters than party faithful showed up.
Republican legislator Mike Lange got more convention traffic at a table where he touted his write-in candidacy for the Senate. Lange is challenging Kelleher and Democratic incumbent Max Baucus in the November election.
Nearly 27,000 voters in the Republican primary cast ballots for Kelleher, known for liberal thoughts on issues such as handgun control. Lange placed second in the six-way race.
One Republican at the convention came away unimpressed when he learned that Kelleher supports the United Nations. Dane Clark also did not like Kelleher’s ideas about switching to a parliamentary system of government.
“I actually like the system this country was based on,” Clark told Kelleher.
Kelleher did not seem disappointed by the apparent lack of interest among Republicans, nor did he appear upset that they did not give him speaking time in front of the convention.
Over the past four decades, Kelleher has run for state and federal offices at least 16 times. He has seen many disappointments, and remains unsure why he won a major party primary this time. But he doesn’t think voters made a mistake.
“Why did they suddenly decide they want major change this time? Why?” Kelleher said to reporters. “I don’t have an answer for that.”
Observers have said that Kelleher’s name identification, built up after appearing on the ballot so many times in losing efforts, may have been what propelled him to the front of a crowded Republican primary field.
Kelleher has unsuccessfully faced Baucus before in Democratic primaries, and in the general election under the Green Party banner.
Kelleher said he thinks he might win the big one this time.
“We will see in November,” he said.
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