by Dr. Edwin Berry
Congratulations to our new Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke. Ryan Zinke is the first Secretary of Interior from a mountain state and the first Montanan to be in a president’s cabinet.
Governor Bullock has set May 25 to elect the candidate who will take Ryan Zinke’s seat in Congress.
At stake is a seat in Congress that Republicans have held for 22 years. Will this election be a slam dunk for the Republican candidate? Don’t count on it.
To be clear, I will support the Republican candidate for Congress. However, there are political forces that are far stronger than any recommendation I can make. The 200 or so Republicans who will nominate their candidate should be aware of these political forces before they make their choice.
The last election made it very clear that Montanans do not follow party lines in final elections. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 61 to 39 percent. Yet, Democrat Governor Steve Bullock beat Republican candidate Greg Gianforte by 52 to 48 percent.
Gianforte was the only Republican candidate who did not win a Montana statewide election in 2016. Why?
Because a critical 4 percent or more of Montana Republican voters simply did not want Gianforte to be Montana governor. Are they going to change their minds when they vote for Montana’s candidate for Congress?
The key to understanding Montana politics is to understand the four faces of the Republican Party. I describe these four faces in my book “Montana’s Last Indian Water Compact: The Truth about the Compact and the Republican Party.”
The VCE face of the Republican Party presently controls the MTGOP and its Central Committees. VCEs like to choose one of their own. Greg Gianforte is one of their own. The other three faces of the Republican Party do not like VCE candidates.
Here’s the problem for the MTGOP. Their VCE face represents only 20 percent of Montana Republican voters, or ten percent of all Montana voters. That is not a very good starting point for a Republican candidate.
Here’s the next problem for the MTGOP. The Democrats will very likely make the Water Compact an issue in the coming election.
Senator Buttrey is the only Republican candidate for Congress who voted to ratify the CSKT Water Compact.
Carl Glimm voted against the Compact. Ken Miller actively campaigned against the Compact. Greg Gianforte contributed mostly to Republicans who voted against the Compact. The MTGOP will not seriously consider Rehbein, Turiano, or Walker whose positions on the Compact are unknown.
More than 80 percent of Montanans supported the Compact. Yet VCE legislators and a few other unaware Republican legislators, came within one vote of killing the Compact and thereby doing very serious damage to Montana … forever.
Worse, as my book shows, the Compact opponents used arguments against the Compact that can only be described as pathetic. Compact opponents, who were mostly VCEs, proved they cannot think clearly. They showed they are unwilling or unable to work with the Democrats on a bipartisan issue that clearly was best for Montana.
Is a Compact opponent the kind of person Montanans want to represent them in Congress? That is an issue wide open for the Democrats to win the election. It will work against all Republican candidates but Ed Buttrey because Buttrey voted for the Compact.
Senator Buttrey begins by representing 80 percent of Republican voters. If MTGOP nominates him, they will encourage other Republican VCEs to vote for him … and he will win the election.
I do not expect the MTGOP to seriously consider my advice because they are not too happy with the truth I told about them in my book on the Compact. They tend to not understand that truth is necessary to win.
Nevertheless, for the sake of the Montana Republican Party, I recommend they nominate Senator Ed Buttrey for Congress for one simple reason: Senator Buttrey is the only candidate who has a good chance to beat the Democrat candidate.