Dave’s Voter Guide

By Beacon Staff

There’s been scads of Republicans speaking evil of fellow Republicans lately. Why?

Simply put, some Republicans like to play pattycake with Democrats. Other Republicans don’t play pattycake, they play hardball.

Matters came to a head in the 2013 Legislature, when senior moderates were denied leadership slots by the conservative/Tea Party wing. The resulting hurt feelings worked out well – for Montana Democrats.

Now it’s primary time, and it’s up to voters – both Republicans and crossover Democrats – to fire their shots.

Let’s start with Senate District 4, where Mark Blasdel and Tammi Fisher will duke it out. Now, I know and like both Mark and Tammi. Both are whip-smart and level headed. Tammi did great as mayor, helping Kalispell get back on sound fiscal ground. But Mark was picked by his peers as Speaker of the Montana House, tasked with keeping a much bigger herd of angry cats on deadline – without being clawed to bits.

House District 5 (Whitefish) has Doug Adams and John Michael Myers squaring off. A veteran of the Whitefish City Council wars, Adams is nobody’s wallflower, for example, calling the Jesus statue haters “idiots” – and that was the nicest wording he used.

Myers? Well, Myers told Flathead political guru James Conner he’s “not a Tea Partier” and his “model” is termed-out moderate senator John Cobb (R-Augusta). Keep in mind that in 2005, then-senator Cobb donated $2,000 to Jon Tester (D), then slipped $1,000 to Tester’s opponent, Conrad Burns, in 2006.

House District 7: Frank Garner and Ronalee Skees. Frank is well-liked across the spectrum as a fine police chief, with a continuing high civic profile. Politically, however, records show his only political contribution was to a 2004 Supreme Court race – but that candidate’s partisan contributions are, in turn, all Democratic. Ronalee Skees has been a full partner in the political efforts of her husband, former conservative Whitefish representative Derek Skees.

HD 11 (West Shore): Mike Hebert and Al Olszewski. Hebert strikes me as plenty conservative. As for Olszewski, he’s a Republican donor and doctor “activated” by Obamacare, and was runningmate to Jim Lynch in 2012. Lynch, of course, directed the Montana Department of Transportation for 6 1/2 years under Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D). He then resigned to run for governor as an R.

HD 13 (west of Kila to Thompson Falls) will see Bob (not from Whitefish) Brown versus Katy Walton of Thompson Falls. Unfortunately, ridiculous gerrymandering means this race will be decided in Thompson Falls.

Then there’s the crowded GOP primary for U.S. House. Conservative to moderate, I’ll rank Matt Rosendale (Glendive) as most conservative, Corey Stapleton and Elsie Arntzen (both Billings) as “conventional” Republicans, and Ryan Zinke (Whitefish) as the “establishment” pick.

Stapleton and Arntzen are underfunded against Rosendale’s self-funded campaign and Zinke’s access to the extensive political finance network of Fidelity Investments tycoon Bill Foley.

One contrast between Zinke and Rosendale I find striking: Zinke has promoted drone manufacturing as a possible new industry for the Flathead, while the most noise from Rosendale has been a campaign ad where he “shoots” a drone.

The Public Service Commissioner No. 5 seat is held by Bill Gallagher (R), but Gallagher is very ill and not running again. From “right to left,” Derek Skees, Brad Johnson and John Campbell are the candidates. Both Skees and Johnson have well-known histories, while Campbell is a trucker (trucking is subject to PSC oversight). When Campbell ran for PSC in 2006, the only outside donor to his campaign was none other than Augusta’s John Cobb.

Not so factional is our District One county commission race between Whitefish Council survivor/refugee Phil Mitchell and incumbent Cal Scott. I suspect Mitchell will be far more active on the lingering and cancerous Whitefish doughnut issue than Scott. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the cloud of “truthiness” floating around Scott.

As for the four-way race to replace Clerk and Recorder Paula Robinson (no Democrat bothered to file), Flathead County just needs a good administrator for an efficient office – so please, pay attention to what your friends say.

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