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A|2 SIDNEY HERALD, SUNDAYJUNE 23, 20I9 STATE NEWS Unity (against Dems) and freedom from socialism : The state Republican Oflieers’ Convention sets the stage for 2020 BY ED KEMMICK Montana Free Press Shortly before US. Sen. Steve Daines was scheduled to speak at the state Republican Officers’ Convention in Helena Friday night, a free round of cham- pagne was delivered to conven- tion-goers gathered in a hotel banquet room. State Rep. Forrest Mandeville of Columbus announced that the bubbly was courtesy of an anonymous donor, who had asked that a toast be read. Man- deville, raising his glass of cham- pagne, recited: "Here’s to Repub— lican friends working together to win for Montana in 2020.” Given the well~pub|icized dis- sension within state Republican ranks in recent years, the toast sounded like a combination of fond hope and desperate plea. Still, given the setting, and the convention’s focus on the big statewide races coming up in 2020, it wasn’t too difficult for Montana Republicans to sound, and to, actually seem, firmly united. On the podium and in small—group discussions all over the convention, the No. 1 topic was winning the governorship, which has been in Democratic hands since Brian Schweitzer in- augurated his first term in 2005. "If we don’t come together and win the governor’s race, well, we’ve seen what’s hap- pened over the past 16 years,” said Terry Nelson, who lost his weekend bid for the GOP party chairmanship to Don Kaltschmidt. Another big 2020 race Pres- ident Donald Trump vs. a bewil— deringly large field of Democrat- ic candidates - also contribut- ed to the weekend’s feeling of unity. Speakers at the officers' convention seemed bent on outdoing one another in heap- ing praise on the president and v applauding his efforts to cut tax- es, slash regulations, and secure Waiuntryis southern border. At the Friday night banquet, mashed potatoes and ribeye steaks were on the menu, but the real red meat was served up by Daines, who warned that the election of 2020 will present a stark choice between "freedom vs. socialism.” And the Senate, he said, is a "firewall of freedom,” the last barrier protecting the country from socialism. Outgoing party Chair Debra Lamm, speaking before Daines, said, "We're no longer on a slow march to socialism. lt’s slapping us in the face.” But even in confronting such threats, and despite all the talk of unity, there were lingering signs of party factionalism and fresh rounds of intra-party snip- ing. Rep. Greg Gianforte, elected only last year to his first full term in the U.S. House, has already come in for some harsh criticism from Republican colleagues about his decision to enter the governor’s race. And echoes of the bitter infighting between conservative and moderate wings of the GOP during the 2019 legislative session could be heard throughout the weekend. Rep. Llew Jones of Conrad, a leader of the self-styled Solu- tions Caucus of moderate Re— publicans and a frequent target of GOP ire, said he continues to view Montana as a purple state, where the mindset of voters is generally "steady as she goes." Some Republicans want to em- phasize the importance of ideo- logical purity and voting the party line, Jones continued, but "Montanans seem to support those who find solutions. Not just talk about solutions, but find them.” Jones was also outspoken about Gianforte’s shift from his House seat to the governor’s race, saying he told anyone who would listen over the weekend that he doesn't like what he calls “the Republican shuffle.” The shufer happens when incum- bents who are not prevented by term limits from seeking re—elec- tion turn their sights to a new of- fice. causing other candidates to change their plans in response. That shuffle played out over Will win $500 cash July 2,*2o19.* M BRIDGE, HELENA INDEPENDEN ECORD Congressman Greg Gianforte announces his bid for Montana governor on June 14, 201 9, at the Montana Republican Party convention in Helena. the weekend when the formal kickoff of Gianforte's candidacy for governor prompted Secre- tary of State Corey Stapleton to announce, at a Saturday morn- ing breakfast forum for guber- natorial candidates, that he had decided to run instead for Gian- forte’s now-open House seat. That leaves Gianforte in the primary race for governor against two announced GOP candidates: Attorney Gener- al Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski of Kalispell. Setting the stage for further shuffling, Olszewski has acknowledged that Gianforte told him he is on a list of potential running mates. Olszewski said he is open to all possibilities, but that for now he is in the governor's race to win. It’s useful to keep in mind that the officers’ convention is a gathering of the faithful: party leaders, eager up-and-comers, gray eminences who haven’t held office in years but still com— mand attention and respect, and deeply wonkish types who have been involved in politics since junior high student coun- cil. For some politics is a blood sport, for some an inherited pas- sion, and for some a hobby, like stamp collecting, but with much higher stakes and an elevated sense of purpose. These are peo— ple who gather in windowless rooms to immerse themselves in policy and strategy on a beauti- Enh‘a‘ncied CORVel'alg.e Innered A Notifications! Breaking News! Local Coverage! *One winner will be chosen at random from every email that downloads: app before June 30, 2019 at midnight. Must download APP and then all I 4c cesws ful 80-degree day, a week before the first official day of summer, the longest day of the year in a state where summer is madden- ingly short. For those already running in the 2020 election, it was a week- end of intense schmoozing, of buttonholing (and lapeling and collaring) convention—goers all day every day. For others, it was a chance to offer thanks, to make connections, to get their names in front of people who matter. Bowen Greenwood walked from table to table at the Friday banquet, thanking people who voted for him — "even though you might not have realized it,” as he told one table —— in his suc- cessful race for clerk of the Mon- tana Supreme Court last year, where he replaced a Democrat who, prior to retiring, had held the position for three decades. Hollis Poe, a member of the Ravalli County Republican Cen- tral Committee and a candidate for House District 85, was work- ing the committee's raffle table, where the big prize was a Smith & Wesson M&P10, a modified version of the AR-10 rifle. Poe spoke enthusiastically of the Ravalli County group, the only county committee with such a pres‘ence’at the convention, he said. Like so many other conven- tion-goers, Poe drove home the need for unity. In the aftermath of the recent legislative session, he said, party members have engaged in the usual rounds of "over self-criticizing,” but the feuding has pretty much played itself out. Now it’s time to “all come back to the family” and concentrate on beating the Democrats in 2020, he said. Rep. Derek Skees of Kalispell, a never—shy conservative and one of the harshest critics of the Solutions Caucus, said one strength of the Republican Party is that members can have pas- sionate disputes and still work together on important issues. “Look at grade school,” he said. “Half my friends were guys I got in fights with.” And while acknowledging that those disputes are far from resolved, Skees said, "The strug- gle is in the Legislature, not in the committee process." On weekends like this one, he said, "There’s no reason to pick scabs, so to speak. At the end of the day, what we have to have is the governorship.” In Skees’ view, the Republi- cans’ legislative split is not about conservatives vs. moderates, it's about power. Some members of the Solutions Caucus, having failed to gain positions of leader- ship in the party, exercised a dif— ferent kind of power by forging compromises with Democratic legislators and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, Skees said. That’s why winning the gov- ernor’s race is so critical, Skees said: With a Republican gov- ernor, there will be no need to push compromises with the left, and the conservatives will be back in the saddle. Skees also said he thinks me- dia coverage focused on dis— sension in the Republican Party is unfair, considering that the "huge schism” in the Democratic Party, in Montana and nation- wide, is relatively ignored. During a legislative update in a Saturday morning session, House Majority Leader Brad Tschida of Missoula echoed some of those same themes. He said it will be hard for the Mon- tana GOP to move forward with- out addressing what he called its "identity crisis.” "Who are we as Republicans?” heeasked. "What defines us as being different from Demo- crats?” He said party members should hold elected officials to a standard, and that stan- dard ought to be the 10-point platform adopted by Montana Republicans last summer. if an elected official can’t endorse each of those 10 plainly stated principles, he said, that person should probably leave the party. Don Kaltschmidt, a Whitefish Michele Herres, Agent 216 S Central Avenue Suite B Sidney. MT 59270 lOOIOlSJ Our trained specialists will replace or repair your car‘s windshield quickly. carefully, and affordably. ______ f mu arc-"ing taxman“? A New Lower Montana Rates!,.,a g, Please stop by and say, "Hi!" I'm looking forward to serving your needs for insurance and financial services. 8614054832400 lee a good neighbor, michele®herresinsurancecom State Farm is there.o CALL ME TODAY. &StateFarmm State Farm, Home Office, Bloommgten. 11. Need MNDSIIIELD‘! Call the Auto Glass Experts! Allevir ' Windshield made Chip 312133513 WWGEE Side, Back {21mm 406-482- I. 544 now. Hony - Sidney, MT All Malt? Cards Accepted MI al 167316 GOING THROUGH .- HAIL? STOP AND SEE THE DENT REPAIR SPECIALISTS AT 1ST CHOICE! ; car dealer known by the more accessible handle of Don K, who was elected the new GOP state chairman over the weekend, said he's been a "business Re- publican” all his life, and bring— ing the party together is the top item on his to-do list. "We definitely have some is- sues,” he said, referring to the split between party conserva- tives and moderates, "but I’m glad that we have passionate people." Kaltschmidt is, as a party chairman probably ought to be, optimistic, to put it mildly. He talked about how the whole country came together as one in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, then said, "I think the Republi— can Party [in Montana] is in the same position for 2020.” One Republican taking a lon- ger view, and liking what he sees, is Jeff Essmann, a longtime legislator and former state GOP chairman. When he held the chairmanship, Essmann said, it was all he could do to scrape up candidates to file in all the ma- jor races. This year, candidates are coming out of the wood- work. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, who is seeking re-election, will probably be the only statewide Republican candidate without a primary opponent, Essmann said. The biggest change in the po— litical landscape, Essmann said, is that Montana voters, faced with two unknowns, used to pull the lever for the Democrat. Increas- ingly, he said, the person with the "R" in front of their name is the "default candidate.” In 2016, for the first time ever, he said, a majority of Cascade County voters went Republican in the presidential race. Essmann said it is no longer inconceivable that such a thing might one day happen even in Butte-Silver Bow County. Just ask Anita Milanovich. She is a lawyer and native oflndiana who moved to Butte a year ago with her husband, a native of the Mining City, after several years in Bozeman. She is also a Re- publican who has been fighting against state limits on political spending, and she is the par— liamentarian for the GOP State Central Committee. Her political affiliation is a conversation start— er, not a stopper, in Butte these days. Milanovich said she sees a lot of similarities between Butte and Terre Haute, Indiana, where she’s from. Both are blue—collar towns that have gone through tough times but are full of resil- ient people, she said, and both are populated by people who hold fast to old-fashioned values centered on strong families and close communities. _. The Democratic= Party has been drifting away from those values for years, she said, and people in towns like Butte and Terre Haute have been drifting toward the Republican Party. Not that she’s too outspoken about being a Republican, Mila- novich said. There’s no easy way to win the trust of traditionally Democratic voters, she said, so . the GOP just has to stay focused, stay together, and build relation- ships, showing people that "we really do provide a real alterna— tive to the Democratic Party." “ (406) 433-2277" 16NW oSidne ,MT W 1st Choice Collision Center 615 Cambrian Lane H up for a chance to win. Full contest rules are available at our office. Sid ~- Herald 310 2nd Ave NE Sidney