Lawmaker Cuts Partisan Tension with Mule

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – With lawmakers locked in a stalemate over the state budget, Republican Rep. Joel Boniek tried to show a little bipartisanship Thursday by bringing an old Democratic friend to the Capitol.

Boniek, of Emigrant, tethered his mule Jesse to a pine tree outside. He said Jesse, half horse and half donkey, is his favorite “half-Democrat” friend.

“It’s getting to the end of the session and there’s a little tension in the Capitol with the budget business and that kind of thing,” Boniek said. “This just gives us a chance to talk about something else.”

The lawmaker, who guided with Jesse in Alaska, brought the mule to town in a fit of nostalgia — saying it’s a good Montana tradition to ride a horse to work and this was his one opportunity.

“I rode by (U.S. Rep.) Denny Rehberg’s office this morning and one of the staffers came out and I said, ‘I’m bringing my Democrat to the Capitol today,'” Boniek said. “She said, ‘Are you a Democrat?’ I said, ‘No, I’m a Republican, but I’m bipartisan.'”

The state budget must be formalized on the House and Senate floors by the end of Tuesday. If lawmakers fail, it will be the second session in a row where they were unable to adopt a budget. Gov. Brian Schweitzer called them all back in for a special session in 2007.

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