Iverson’s GOP Departure

By Beacon Staff

News broke over the holiday weekend that Erik Iverson, chairman of the state Republican Party, is leaving his post since his new job with Tom Siebel, the force behind the Montana Meth Project, will require him to travel out of the state too frequently to effectively manage Montana’s GOP. In political conversations with Kellyn, I’ve often said that Iverson is the best person to lead Montana’s Republicans at this particular juncture, where some friction exists between the conservative and moderate wings of the party. Iverson has always been a strong voice for making the Montana Republican Party more inclusive, more forward-thinking in terms of technology, and has always been accessible and thoughtful with the press, at least in my experience. I hope state Republican Vice Chairwoman Liane Johnson, his successor, can keep up the good work.

But perhaps the single best testament to Iverson’s chairmanship of the state GOP comes from Matt Singer of the blog, Left in the West, who laments the departure of a capable foe and a highly effective political strategist. My guess is, Iverson will be back in Montana politics in some form or another at some point in the not too distant future. From Singer’s blog post:

There’s a lot that I disagree with Erik on, but it should be clear that this is the departure of a fierce, smart, capable, and thoughtful adversary.

Erik managed to largely turn around Burns’ campaign in 2006, nearly winning a race that some people were starting to take as a given Tester victory. It ended up being a squeaker.

In 2008, up against one of the biggest wave years for Democrats in decades and some extremely difficult underlying demographic changes in the state, the Montana GOP appears to have pulled the only possible rabbit out of a hat by securing what can only be called victories in both chambers.

To some extent, Erik has also functioned as a bit of a bulwark against some of the further right members of his own party. My understanding is that the Koopman crowd wasn’t fond of Erik (or of his former boss Dennis Rehberg). Iverson’s relative moderation (that either Iverson or Rehberg could ever be considered a moderate is, I believe, only a sign of how far right the GOP currently is) will need to resurface even more strongly in new leadership in the party.

The demographic changes that decimated Republicans at the land board are going to become only more pronounced. Republicans lost voters under the age of 30 by a nearly 2-to-1 margin this election cycle, according to both pre-election and exit polling. More of these voters will be joining the electorate in the coming years — both as some become eligible to vote upon turning 18 and others as they start voting for the first time in their lives (despite record turnout for youth, many of these folks won’t start voting until their late 20s or early-mid 30s).

One other thought — in large part because of Iverson’s own decisions, the new chair of the Republican Party is a Blackfoot woman, marking the first time a major political party in Montana has been chaired by a woman of color (to the best of my knowledge). That’s a cool piece of history.

Obvious disclaimer: There’s a lot of stuff I disagree with these folks on.