Fox News Report: Gianforte Also Punched Guardian Reporter

Holy sh*t.

What else can really be said about the stunning news of Republican Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte allegedly body-slamming a reporter, the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs, today in Bozeman? The audio, which you can listen to here, doesn’t sound good for Gianforte.

After an hour or so, Gianforte’s press secretary, Shane Scanlon, offered the following statement:

“Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions,” Scanlon said. “Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

According to a Fox News team, though, the Gianforte statement is hogwash, and the Republican nominee actually choke-slammed and then punched Jacobs:

At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, “I’m sick and tired of this!”

The report continues:

To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies. 

You can read the whole thing here.

Again, this first-hand report is not from Buzzfeed, the New York Times, or the HuffPo — it’s from Fox News.

While this likely happened too late to change the election’s outcome, it will be ironic if the outcome does change — after the state GOP blocked a mail-only ballot that would have all but ensured no impact for exactly this type of situation.


(The featured image is attributable to Rowebotz under the Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

Rob Quist Signs Popping Up On GFPS Owned Properties

Two weeks from today, Montana voters will choose a new Congressional representative.

From the looks of things here in River City, our local school district — that’s right, Great Falls Public Schools — is putting its fingers on the scale for Democrat Rob Quist.

In clear violations of the law, someone has placed Quist’s campaign signs on properties owned by GFPS. There is a flock of them at Paris Gibson Square, the partially taxpayer-funded non-profit which leases its space from the District. Quist is holding a campaign event there this evening:

There is also Quist paraphernalia on a property GFPS purchased last year to get into the rental business:

On this point, Montana law is unambiguous:


(1) Signs promoting political candidates or issues shall be placed on private property only [emphasis added] and cannot be placed without the permission of the property owner. Political signs must comply with sign standards found in 75-15-113, MCA, and ARM 18.6.231, unless otherwise specified in this rule.

(2) Political signs must not:

(a) be placed on or allow any portion to intrude in the public right-of-way or on public property [emphasis added]; and…”

Our tax dollars at work!

On Breitbart: Quist Urges Climate Change Deniers To Kill Themselves

Montana’s special election to replace Ryan Zinke has made national headlines, including this amusing piece from Breitbart yesterday.

Enjoy the juxtaposition; on one hand, the analytical, nuts-and-bolts Greg Gianforte, and on the other, well, Rob Quist:

The Republican nominee answered a question about climate change and the Clean Power Plan saying, “Everyone believes that the climate is changing.” However, he added, “Using EPA’s data calculated by the Cato Institute; they said if we shut down every coal-fired plant in North America our environment would be two-hundredths of a degree cooler a hundred years from now…for that we are willing to give up 7,000 jobs in Montana and $1.5 billion in annual revenue? That’s not a smart business decision.”

Quist responded to Gianforte. Rather than refuting the Republican nominee’s argument, he encouraged climate skeptics to consider ending their lives. He said, “To me this a cumulative thing, you cannot just say closing one plant or not is going to make a difference. This is something that the entire world needs to address and you know what, if any of you that feel like this is not a problem, I challenge you to go into your car in your garage, start your car and see what happens there.”

Say what you will about Gianforte (and we have), but the idea of Quist making laws for our nation does not exactly inspire confidence.

Mercifully, there is only twenty-three more days until Election Day.

Nativism Alive And Well On The Great Falls City Commission

Great Falls City Commissioner Tracy Houck, a partisan Democrat from Pennyslvania, wrote an amusing letter-to-the-editor, slamming Republican Greg Gianforte for allegedly not representing “Montanan” values.

Supporting Rob Quist, Houck writes in today’s Tribune:

We have seen him understand our values, our needs and our experiences and turn them into song.

While one’s ability to fashion values into song is undoubtedly an important qualification for any member of Congress, we — along with the nearly dozen readers who emailed us about this — couldn’t help but chuckle at Houck’s rampant nativism:

Support Montanan values, support a Montanan [emphasis added], support Rob Quist. 

Like Gianforte, Houck (a Pennsylvanian) is from the East Coast. Mayor Bob Kelly is also an out-of-stater. City Commissioner Bill Bronson is from Havre. All of the above, however, have lived in Montana (and in the case of the latter three, Great Falls) for decades. Why should one’s birthplace matter? Are politicians like Houck, Kelly, and Bronson any less qualified to serve the public because, despite moving and settling here, they weren’t born here?

We thought a recent letter in the Tribune from Robert Reynolds, seen below, demonstrated a measured, more thoughtful line of opposition to Gianforte.

Stop “othering” Gianforte 

Fellow Democrats,

Stop attacking Republican Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte for being from New Jersey. Our party advocates for a broad definition of “us” and a more welcoming, less insular Montana and America. “Othering” Mr. Gianforte is hypocritical.

Based on his policy positions, I believe electing Mr. Gianforte would be a substantial step backwards for our home. However, he is as much a Montanan as you and me.

—Robert Reynolds 

Miles City

Please stop “othering” Mr. Gianforte for not being from Montana, Commissioner Houck. It’s not just illiberal and intolerant; it’s hypocritical.

Buttrey Picking Up Momentum Ahead Of GOP Nomination

But will it be enough to win?

According to an AP report, former gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte claimed to hold a de facto lock on the Republican nomination for the U.S. House, a point quickly disputed by Sen. Ed Buttrey:

Buttrey, a moderate Republican state senator from Great Falls, said that may have been the case a month ago but not anymore. Since Buttrey and other candidates have been lobbying those delegates, some of Gianforte’s initial backers have been peeled off, he said.

‘It comes down to electability,’ Buttrey said. ‘The Ryan Zinke type that I am can carry the right, can carry the middle and a little of the left. That’s what Greg doesn’t get, that’s why he didn’t win the governor’s office.’

While Gianforte said he “[doesn’t] take anything for granted,” that hasn’t stopped him from already advertising for the special election, even without the nomination.

We wrote about Gianforte’s electability issues, and so did Dr. Ed Berry, himself a Republican. Berry’s analysis focuses on Gianforte’s alignment with VCE’s, or “Very Conservative Evangelical” Republicans, as he calls them. These VCE’s are disciples of Ted Cruz-style Constitutional conservatism, and do not possess the “yuge” tent appeal of Ryan Zinke, President Trump, or Buttrey. Berry warns:

There is only one non-VCE candidate who the MTGOP can choose. That candidate is Ed Buttrey. Buttrey voted for the CSKT Compact. Buttrey is the candidate most like Zinke.

If the MTGOP chooses Ed Buttrey, Buttrey will very likely win.

If the MTGOP chooses any other candidate, all of whom are VCEs who did not support the CSKT Compact, then the Democrat is very likely to win.

I estimate Buttrey’s chance to win is ten times the chance that any other Republican candidate can win.

Ryan Zinke used a proven formula to win a statewide race. VCEs reject both Zinke and his proven formula to win. That is a bad decision.

If last June’s primary shellacking of the far-right and Gianforte’s November loss weren’t enough, one of the Legislature’s most visible and conservative voices recently went on a tear against Gianforte. Speaking in Townsend just two weeks ago, Senate President Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, advised his party to choose someone who was “electable”:

Pitzer said Sales stood up when it was his turn to speak, announced he was pulling out of the race, said state Republicans needed a candidate who would appeal beyond the conservative base, and said that the Legislature is in trouble right now because Gianforte lost the gubernatorial race.

‘Without naming Gianforte, Sales said that the governor candidate didn’t listen to the people and that going forward they needed to nominate someone who was electable,’ Pitzer said.

That Sales, a very conservative legislator, would urge the GOP to look beyond its right-wing base is especially telling. There is a growing and palpable fear within Republican circles that if Gianforte receives the nomination, and in the face of escalating leftist activism (#TheResistance), Democrats will add one more vote in Congress to obstruct President Trump. If winning only conservative votes was not enough in November — with Trump to support and Hillary to reject at the top of the ticket — why would this strategy work for Republicans now, particularly against an emboldened, community-organizing left in a possible mail-only election?

Gianforte partisans tout his high name ID and his (self-)funding capabilities, but such arguments refute themselves. Over the course of his campaign for governor, Gianforte did reach Montana voters. He spent millions on TV ads, and he campaigned aggressively. According to his Twitter feed, he logged 64,000 miles on the road and was ubiquitous up through Election Day, visiting every pocket of the state, some places many times.

In other words, Gianforte placed himself in front of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of voters, and in a “change” election where Republicans otherwise swept, Montanans still rejected him. To many, there was something inexplicably off-putting about Gianforte. He just didn’t connect with voters. That’s not the type of name ID Republicans should want, and it’s not the kind of problem more money can solve.

So, what’s changed? Most notably, and now that it is politically convenient for him to do so, Gianforte has cozied up to President Trump, who won Montana by 20 points. One major criterion of the GOP Central Committee is selecting the candidate who can best support the Trump agenda while in Congress. Tom Lutey’s February 28 article in the Billings Gazette provides context of who that might be:

Like Miller, there’s little evidence Gianforte was on the Trump train last spring.

The high-tech entrepreneur-turned-candidate didn’t identify Trump or the Republican Party last May when acknowledging Trump’s campaign event in Billings, which Gianforte didn’t attend.

Fast forward to March 1 and witness Gianforte, in the fashion of a typical office-seeking politician, now cozying up to Zinke and opportunistically guzzling the Trump Kool-Aid:

In contrast, Buttrey not only showed the resolve to mention and endorse Trump by name, but he was the only U.S. House candidate to donate to the Trump campaign:

A look at federal election data shows only one would-be Republican U.S. House candidate donating to Trump, state Sen. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls. A moderate Republican, Buttrey is considered by many to have an outside shot at the nomination.
But Buttrey was an early Trump supporter. He donated $2,700 to Trump’s campaign. And along with Rep. Zinke, he was the first Republican office holder to endorse Trump publicly. When Trump rallied supporters in Billings, Buttrey attended as a VIP and got to visit with Trump the candidate.

And then there’s this. We stumbled across a photo essay of Trump’s inauguration by Salon’s Peter Cooper. It includes images and interviews from folks across the political spectrum, and of all the people in Washington, D.C, Cooper just happened to bump into into Ed Buttrey:

We didn’t see any self-promoting fanfare or carefully crafted, “Look at me” social media releases from Buttrey — just a Montana guy showing up to support the incoming President. (Buttrey, it warrants mentioning, attended as a guest of then-Rep. Zinke.) Who is more authentic, then? And who, really, is better suited to work with the Trump administration in Congress? The politician who was too chickensh*t to even say Trump’s name, or the experienced legislator who wrote a check to Trump, publicly endorsed him and showed up to last June’s campaign rally in Billings, and to the inauguration? (It is amazing, incidentally, even after committing total support to Trump, that some Gianforte backers still dishonestly label Buttrey as a “Democrat.”)

In two days, about 200 GOP state delegates will descend upon Helena to select a nominee to replace Ryan Zinke. Republicans will tap either the failed Gianforte, or the only available Zinke/Trump amalgam, Ed Buttrey. We hope the electors consider the words of Sen. Sales, and moreover, the mood of the public, as Buttrey explains to the Gazette:

‘I believe I fit the mold of what the electors stated loud and clear in the last election that they want for their representative. I am a Zinke/Trump-type candidate, one that is willing to listen to all sides, to hear all arguments, and consider all opinions,’ Buttrey said. ‘I am conservative in my decision making, but also am humble enough to know that I am not always right on all issues and that the best leader is willing to know when they need help, need advice and need to consider alternate opinions before making a decision.’

Hear, hear.

An Angry Reader Blasts Us For Supporting Ed Buttrey

Sen. Ed Buttrey

We received an email recently from “Carl” in Bozeman, who did not take kindly to our, in his words, “juvenile hit piece on Greg Gianforte.”

Carl writes:

You people are pathetic. I heard there was a new conservative blog in MT (desperately needed!!) only to see your juvenile hit piece on Greg Gianforte–who unlike Democrat Ed Buttrey-is actually a CONSERVATIVE!!!! You should team up with Montana Cowpie and then go ahead and support Buttrey for the DEMOCRATIC PARTY!!!!

While amusing, and not dissimilar to another commenter who labeled us “libtards,” Carl’s email is worth highlighting, because this “Buttrey is a Democrat” narrative is a real thing among those on the far-right. At the Cascade County Lincoln-Reagan Dinner on Saturday, GOP Congressional candidates were asked policy-specific questions along the lines of, “How will you support President Trump’s agenda while in Congress?” When it was Buttrey’s turn, he was essentially asked why he is running as a Republican when he is really a Democrat. Classy.

Here’s something we don’t understand about this argument: Buttrey first ran for the Legislature in 2010, in SD 13, then a blue district previously held by Democrat Joe Tropila. Part of this area, on the House side, was at the time represented by long-time Democrat, Bob Mehlhoff. If Buttrey were really a Democrat, then why would he file as a Republican in a district where voters traditionally punched blue tickets? To make it harder on himself?

Elevated Comment From The Trib Online

In today’s “The Edge,” the Tribune’s editorial board took issue with Republican Rep. Jeff Essmann’s opposition to a mail-in ballot for Montana’s U.S. House special election.

The Tribune raises a legitimate point, one we agree with:

Shouldn’t we want the most people, regardless of party, voting?

Commenter and occasional contributor to this blog, Rick Tryon, wrote the following:

‘Shouldn’t we want the most people, regardless of party, voting?…

…The counties still are reeling from the $3 million spent on the Nov. 8 general election, which was the most expensive statewide election on record, and are looking to find a way to cut costs in a special election to replace Zinke.

That seems smart to us.’

The problem with the GF Tribune opining and lecturing here is that they are being selective in their concern for wanting ‘the most people…voting’ and ways ‘to cut costs’ in elections.

The Trib editorial board raised no such concerns when the GFPS held a special bond election a month before the General Election last year costing tax payers an extra $25,000 or so and yielding a lower turnout than the General Election. [emphasis added]

Another Tribune double standard.

Hypocrisy In Action: Montana Democrats Welcome Sen. Cory Booker From…New Jersey!

There’s comedy, there’s high comedy, and then there’s the Montana Democratic Party.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s Troy Carter has a story up that Montana Democrats hope will quietly just… go away. Of course, they have no one to blame but themselves:

Montana Democrats have announced that they’re bringing in a New Jersey politician for their keynote speaker at an annual fundraising event in Helena.
Executive board member Jorge Quintana tweeted Wednesday that New Jersey’s U.S. Sen. Cory Booker would be coming to the Democrats’ Mansfield-Metcalf dinner on March 18.

Gianforte’s team wasted no time in pounding away at Democrats:

By inviting Booker to Montana, the Democrats have taken their “New Jersey” attack off the table, said Brock Lowrance, Gianforte’s new congressional campaign manager.

‘Montana Democrats spent an entire election leveling false and dishonest attacks against Greg Gianforte and where he is from,’ Lowrance told the Chronicle on Thursday. ‘Being the hypocrites they are, they’ve invited a liberal senator from New Jersey to give them advice following their horrible election year. That’s not irony, it’s satire.’

How did the D’s respond? Crickets…

A spokeswoman for the Montana Democrats did not respond to a request for comment.

Gianforte should send a “thank you” card to whoever thought it would be a great idea to invite a senator from New Jersey. Too funny.

Why Republicans Should Say, “Thanks, But No Thanks,” To Greg Gianforte

After waging the only unsuccessful state-wide campaign among Montana Republicans, former gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte seems to have the inside track on his party’s nomination for the upcoming special election for the U.S. House. After weeks of contrived “Will he or won’t be?” speculation (was there ever any doubt?), Gianforte is now officially in the mix. With all due respect to Mr. Gianforte, Republicans should say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Considered alone, the arguments for Gianforte make sense. He possesses high name ID, a strong fundraising apparatus, and a willingness to campaign hard. But his strengths are belied by considerable negatives, all of which the Republican Central Committee ignores at its peril.

Voting electors within the GOP should carefully consider all of the following before tapping Gianforte:

  • In a year when every other Republican won state elections, Gianforte lost. Right now, his name ID, while prominent, is a bug, not a feature. Democrats successfully (albeit unfairly) painted him as a “billionaire from New Jersey.” This strategy decimated his run against Bullock, and Democrats will use it again just as opportunely. The millions of dollars spent on negative ads by Democrats still have purchase today, and they will for some time.
  • Public lands. In similarly dubious fashion, Democrats pilloried Gianforte as a restrictive plutocrat who would block access to Montana’s public lands. While untrue, the narrative stuck, and certainly will endure through this election, as well.
  • Dinosaurs. TV ads featuring paleontologist Jack Horner labeled Gianforte as an anti-science creationist who thinks the world is only 6,000 years old. According to a Fox News report, Gianforte’s (excellent) communications director, Aaron Flint, “forwarded a comment made last year by Gianforte in which he said, ‘I believe young people should be taught how to think, not what to think, and a diversity of views are what should be presented.'” In spite of this sensible rebuttal, too many Montanans found Gianforte’s creationist ties disqualifying.
  • As The Western Word’s Mike Brown points out, “[Gianforte] is too far to the right for many people.” Brown, who was Sen. Conrad Burns’ former deputy state director, knows a thing or two about Republican politics in Montana. Gianforte’s struggles with independents and his inability to expand his core constituency in the face of an upstart opponent (more on this later) could cost Republicans a special election they have every reason to win.
  • Montanans validated their approval of Ryan Zinke, who won re-election in a landslide. Since Zinke has occasionally carved out moderate stances on issues, wouldn’t it make sense  — if the goal is to win — to appoint someone who is closer on the political spectrum to a winner like Zinke, than to prop up a losing and far-right candidate like Gianforte, who is more ideologically aligned to the flailing Tea Party?

Republicans should not underestimate Democrats in this election.

Imagine the following scenario: a “straight-talking” political outsider, born and raised in Montana, one with the endorsement of a popular former governor in Brian Schweitzer, barnstorming the state — with Schweitzer on the stump — on a populist platform of “Montana values” who will “keep public lands public” in opposition to the wealthy, “out of state” Gianforte. The candidate performs short musical riffs on social media, which quickly go viral. Aided by a friendly press, this upstart has no political record to speak of, and thus is largely exempt from Republican attack and media audit. In a truncated election cycle, where anything can happen, Gianforte struggles to win over the same centrists who rejected him in November. His opponent, a Democrat from Cut Bank, successfully turns the conventional political narrative on its head and captures just enough outsider-leaning, rural voters who embraced Donald Trump to eek out an upset. Can you say, Congressman Rob Quist?

Meanwhile, Zeno Baucus, U.S. attorney and son of Max, is reportedly mulling a run for the Democratic nomination. Decades of electoral evidence have affirmed the Baucus name in Montana. If left to face a candidate like Gianforte, who couldn’t get it done in an enormously favorable year for Republicans, even after injecting $6 million of his own wealth into his campaign, Democrats could, in this scenario, too, steal the election.

So who should Republicans pick? Other far-right choices like Scott Sales and Ken Miller are Gianforte Lite. If the goal is to “out conservative” the field, they might as well settle on Gianforte. (They also might as well spot Democrats 7-10 points off the top and prepare for a fight they may lose.)

But if the goal is to pick the strongest general election candidate, and to keep the seat in Republican hands for at least a decade, this one isn’t close: it’s Ed Buttrey.

Sen. Ed Buttrey

Sen. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls

Sen. Buttrey was the first to declare for the vacancy, and brings with him more advantages than does Gianforte.

Buttrey is a Montana native and also a successful entrepreneur. His business background is diverse — he founded Cable Technology, a manufacturing company with significant military and aerospace contracts, and he owns real estate and tavern holdings. Unlike Gianforte, he has actual legislative experience.

And while Buttrey’s role in expanding Medicaid has rankled much of the far-right, that seems to be just fine with the Great Falls senator:

Buttrey said his work as a senator isn’t about following the party line wherever it leads, but about finding solutions. His work on Medicaid shows that.

On his campaign website for the 2014 election, he said he would support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but also makes the concession that it is law and pledges to work within the law to find a solution.

“It’s the easiest thing in the world for a legislator to do to spout rhetoric and vote no on everything,” Buttrey said. “You’re popular, you can defend your positions, but do you get anything done?”

Buttrey is one of very few legislators — from either party — to actually get things done in Helena. No other candidate is better equipped for the frenzied culture of Washington wheeling-and-dealing.

It’s this commitment to solutions, not ideology, that make Buttrey the stronger, more representative pick for all Montanans. If House Republicans drift to the unhinged right (as they are sometimes wont to do), Gianforte will almost certainly follow the establishment herd, whereas Buttrey, in Ryan Zinke and Donald Trump fashion, will break from party ranks, if necessary, and side with the people.

Moreover, successful Congressional representation is to a large degree a seniority game. Tenure matters. Why gamble on a wishy-washy Gianforte over a stable Buttrey? Would Gianforte treat the House like his former colleague Steve Daines did, as a jumping-off point to challenge Tester in 2018? Or to run again for Governor in 2020? With only one vote out of 435, we would like to see Montana’s next Congressional member commit to sticking around for awhile. Buttrey has promised that he would.

Finally, we couldn’t help but smile at the opening line in Gianforte’s announcement email to his supporters:

I wanted you to be among the first to hear that when my good friend Congressman Ryan Zinke is confirmed as our Secretary of Interior and a Special Election is called, I will seek the nomination to fill our open House seat at the MTGOP Delegate Convention.

Cozying up to Zinke is clever, but anyone who follows Montana politics knows that Buttrey is much closer to Zinke than Gianforte is — personally, politically, etc. Republican Central Committee members know this, too.

Greg Gianforte had his turn, and he lost. It’s time for the GOP to look in a new direction, and go “all in” with a personable and proven legislator who won’t leverage this House seat as a stepping stone for higher office.

It is time, finally, for insider Republicans to put Montana voters ahead of party ideology, and the surest, most decisive way to do that is to nominate Ed Buttrey.

(The featured image is attributable to Rowebotz under the Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

Schweitzer Out Of U.S. House Race, Endorses…Quist!

Earlier, we wrote about legislative candidates vying to fill Ryan Zinke’s soon-to-be vacated U.S. House seat.

While the eventual winner may indeed come from the Legislature, maneuvering from outside the Capitol chambers has brought far more intrigue, especially recently. Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer all but took himself out of the running, endorsing political newcomer Rob Quist yesterday. From Troy Carter in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Nothing against the other candidates running, but I think we need a different kind of person in Congress,” Schweitzer said of Quist. “He hasn’t been contemplating running for Congress for 30 years; he’s been contemplating what it is that’s special about Montana and the people who live in it, and he’s been writing it down, writing it in verse, and singing that song.

Will Democrats rally behind Quist, or will establishment insiders from the Helena-Butte-Missoula corridor steer the party to defeated, retread candidates like Denise Juneau, Jesse Laslovich, Melissa Romano, John Lewis, Amanda Curtis, et. al.? Casey Schreiner and Kelly McCarthy deserve a look, but barring a major GOP scandal, the nomination by Democrats of any conventional candidate will virtually ensure they will lose this election. Now, however, they just might have been gifted the Hail Mary they needed to contend: the chance to embrace a popular entertainer and a political outsider who was not only endorsed by Schweitzer, but who was called and encouraged to run by Schweitzer.