Come November, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will likely lose Montana’s three electoral votes according to results of a recent Washington Post online poll.
On the surface that appears like terrible news for state Democrats, yet history shows that Montanans are quite independent when it comes to casting ballots.
In 2004 elections Democrat Brian Schweitzer bested Republican Bob Brown by 20,000 votes to become Montana’s next governor, yet voters chose Republican George W. Bush by a margin of 93,000 votes.
In 2008 state voters gave Republican John McCain our electoral votes with an 11,000-vote margin over President Barack Obama. That year, Schweitzer won reelection by a whopping 160,000-vote margin over Republican Roy Brown.
In 2012 Republican Mitt Romney won Montana with a 66,000-vote margin while Democratic Governor Steve Bullock won election with an 8,000-vote margin over Republican Rick Hill.
In 2004 Democrats had gained control of both chambers of the Montana Legislature. By 2010 Republicans controlled both chambers of the Legislature and have maintained that power since.
Montana Republicans are in charge of statewide policy like budgetary surpluses and property taxes. It’s the state Legislature that writes laws and appropriates public funds for public services like education.
In a recent study called National Forces in State Legislative Elections, Steven Rogers points out that, while the presidential elections top ballots, voters also choose 5,000 state legislators across the nation come November.
Rogers maintains that most voters don’t know or often care about state lawmakers. Rogers surmises that these important choices are less about local and statewide politics, rather about the popularity of the sitting American president.
That appears as bad news for state Democrats seeking to regain control the Legislature. The Washington Post poll suggests that Obama’s popularity in Montana is 41 percent.
On the ranking of issues that matter most to voters, the poll suggest it’s jobs and economy, healthcare, terrorism and environment all with descending double-digit public support.
When included in a four-way race, the Washington Post poll says that Green Party candidate Jill Stein is at 5 percent and Libertarian Gary Johnson at 14 percent. Donald Trump’s Montana support falls to 44 percent while Clinton is suddenly at 31 percent.
On TV’s Face the State with political scientist David Parker and journalist Mike Dennison, Parker suggests that Democrats toward the top of the Montana ticket may be in jeopardy of losing races if Trump’s statewide support moves toward 60 percent.
That kind of statewide support would take a Schweitzer-like voter turnout machine. Neither Democrats nor Republicans currently have many big enthusiastic visions for where to move our country or our state.
Maybe the four-way presidential race in Montana among Clinton, Johnson, Stein and Trump will increase voter turnout somewhat. More likely it’s the citizen initiatives put onto our ballot that will prompt bigger turnouts.
Zac Perry of Hungry Horse is the only Democrat running for reelection in the Flathead. Perry was active in the last Legislature working with both Democrats and Republicans. Perry has been very helpful of Columbia Fall’s local redevelopment efforts.
Columbia Falls is a city in economic transition. With the shutdown of another local timber mill and past shutdown of the aluminum company, the city needs leaders like Perry to help provide a steady hand to the fresh demographic of younger entrepreneurs moving the area.
Flathead locals should hasten their support of Perry, who won elections last cycle by the smallest of margins. Perry represents that no-nonsense attitude needed to move all of us forward.
For the fourth year in a row, Montana ranked first in the nation for business startup activity. Montana’s top rank was based on measures like new business owners and new business startups. Columbia Falls is leading in that much-needed, entrepreneurial can-do attitude. That’s no-nonsense leadership.
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