Schweitzer Remains Popular With Democrats, Improves With GOP

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A survey of state legislators shows Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s job performance remains popular with Democrats, while his score with Republicans is improving.

The Associated Press survey of lawmakers asked them to rate the governor’s first-term job performance on a scale of one to five, with five being excellent.

Democrats gave Schweitzer an average mark of 4, holding steady from two years ago, with slightly better scores coming from House Democrats.

While Republicans still gave Schweitzer lower marks, 2.4 on average, their approval rating improved since the survey asked the same question two years ago. Back then, Republicans only gave the governor a 1.9 mark on average.

Senate Republicans gave Schweitzer slightly better marks then their GOP colleagues in the House.

Schweitzer was overwhelmingly re-elected in November, beating current state Sen. Roy Brown of Billings. The governor will be sworn in for a second term on Monday, the same day lawmakers convene in Helena for the 2009 Legislature.

Schweitzer was even given a higher job performance rating than the lawmakers gave themselves.

The survey asked lawmakers to rate the performance of the 2007 Legislature, which ended in a historic stalemate amid bitter partisan acrimony before Schweitzer called a special session to get a budget adopted.

The work of that session was given a 2.5 by the lawmakers. Including both Democrats and Republicans, Schweitzer received a 3.1 score.

A House Democrat who gave the 2007 Legislature a score of just “2” said some good work, like all day kindergarten and expanded health care were good.

“The budget fiasco was disheartening,” the lawmaker wrote.

Some of the lawmakers didn’t even want to look back at that 2007 session, which resulted in the firing of then House Majority Leader Michael Lange by his colleagues.

“Let’s look forward please!” said Republican Rep. Dee Brown of Hungry Horse, who volunteered her name in the anonymous survey.

About half of the Legislature’s 150 members returned the survey.