When I was recruited to run for Mayor of Kalispell, I had no idea what authority the position held and I didn’t know the form of government the City of Kalispell adopted. So, I did a whole bunch of research reading Montana law, Kalispell’s charter and ordinances, and taking a course on Robert’s Rules of Order. For any leader, performing research before taking the helm of any office is key to garnering credibility, understanding the role and authority of the position, and frankly, preventing massive public embarrassment. Sadly, the local Flathead County Republican Central Committee is being run by “leaders” who either failed to do their research, or willfully embrace authoritarianism.
By a motion made by Don “K” Kaltschmidt, current chair of the Montana GOP, and with the full support of Al Olszewski, chair of the local central committee, a member of the public was “censured” for exercising his constitutional right to run for office. Jack Fallon, a lifelong public servant and conservative, ran for office against Pam Holmquist, central committee’s chosen candidate. He lost in the Republican primary by 40 votes. Because the margin was so thin, Jack ran a write-in campaign for the general election. For exercising this constitutional right, the “party of the Constitution” voted to censure Fallon. The problem? They had no authority to issue a censure. Jack, like most conservative Republicans in Flathead County, isn’t and has never been a member of the central committee. Under Robert’s Rules of Order, only members of a committee or club can be censured. State law does not authorize local central committees to censure anyone. Not even the local club’s bylaws allow for censure; indeed, those bylaws mandate inclusivity and growing the party versus alienating a member of the public and his conservative Republican voting bloc. Yet, like schoolyard bullies drunk on a perception of power they don’t have, Kaltschmidt and Olszewski proceeded with the stunt, going so far as issuing press releases in an attempt to legitimize their efforts.
Their efforts amount to a colossal swing and a miss exposing their ignorance of Montana’s election laws and their own club bylaws. Montana has an open primary system. Anyone can run for office and no one needs to kiss the ring of a wholly ineffective club that could hold its meetings in a phone booth. This elitist club now thinks it has the authority to “punish” any member of the public for doing exactly what Montana law authorizes, and what the National Republican Platform encourages. Rather than being an effective move, their stunt provides further proof that the local club is no longer a member of the Republican “Big Tent Party” and is now fully aligned with the Authoritarian “Big Top Party” run by circus clowns.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney, former mayor of Kalispell and host of the Montana Values Podcast.
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