Thursday, February 24, 2011

Libyan protester a Griz fan!

A reader sent me a CNN YouTube video of a the amazing and massive protests yesterday in Benghazi, Libya in which a University of Montana Grizzly fan make an appearance.

I’m not making this up:

Griz gear in Libya

Check out the full video here and notice that at the :54 mark a man is clearly donning a UM Griz hoodie.

I don’t know what to make of this, I just found it pretty interesting.

Thanks to all Lowdown readers for forwarding me tips and info!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

March 4 Tea Party Rally: “grab your favorite weapon and join us on the steps of the capitol”.

The Lewis and Clark Conservative Tea Party is hosting a “Constitution Rally” at the state capitol on March 4.

The groups executive director, Tim Ravndal, announced the rally on the Montana Freedom Caucus’ online message board:

Are you ready to rock the steps of the capitol? grab your favorite weapon and join us on the steps of the capitol March 4th at 11:00AM. We will be focused on the Constitution and our rights. We will highlight the 2nd and 10th Amendments to our Constitution and will send a very very very loud message to our legislators who will be in the building when we are gathered outside on the steps. ”A coward will die a thousand deaths, while a brave warrior will die only one!”—The Alamo

Here’s a link to a screenshot in case the message disappears.

Ravndal followed that up with an e-mail blast to members of the Lewis and Clark Conservative Tea Party Association in which he advised:

“No Loaded Weapons!

All Weapons Must Be Safely Secured!

No Alcohol Or Drugs!

Having Our Voices Heard!

Standing For Freedom!”


The Lewis and Clark Conservative Tea Party is the group that spun off of the Big Sky Tea Party Association after its then-president, Tim Ravndal, posted an offensive comment on Facebook about homosexuals and was summarily ousted from the organization.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It’s good to be back

After a week off for what we in the biz like to call a “furcation,” I’ve resumed my reportorial duties at the capitol. It’s going to take me a day or two to dig myself out of a week’s worth of e-mail, voice mail messages, etc. I’ll post more in-depth stories later this week when I get caught-up.

In the meantime, here’s your latest Montana Legislature Social Calendar.

As always, feel free to drop me a line if you’ve got a tip or a story idea.

Oh, yeah. One more thing…

Thanks, Pack, for a great and memorable season!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lowdown will be dark for a week

Dear Reader,

I will be out of the office and unreachable next week for reasons you can read about here. Let’s just say I’m taking an involuntary vacation.

So, you won’t see my byline in the Great Falls Tribune and you won’t see posts here until I return on February 14th.

If you have tips for stories, or you need to reach someone at the Great Falls Tribune, please contact us via this page, or call (406) 791-1444 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In the meantime, be sure to watch as Rodgers and the gang return the hardware to Titletown U.S.A. on Super Sunday!

Oh, and be sure to read Trib assistant sports editor Scott Mansch’s fantastic story about a green-and-gold-blooded Packer fan’s fond memories of the Ice Bowl. Subscribe to the Tibe e-edition here to get ALL of great Tribune content online.

GO PACK!!!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Freshman Hutton to step down after session

HuttonFreshman Sen. Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, said he will resign his Senate seat following adjournment of the Legislature to pursue a new preaching opportunity out of state.

Hutton, who defeated former Democratic House Speaker Bob Bergren in the Nov. 2 election, said he plans to move to Nebraska to preach at the Kingsway Christian Church in Omaha after the Legislature wraps up business later this spring.

Hutton is the senior minister at the Fifth Avenue Christian Church in Havre where he has preached for 14 years. He said he informed the congregation there of his decision earlier this week.

"When you are a preacher opportunities come your way randomly, and sometimes they are opportunities you have to take," Hutton said in an interview on the Senate floor Thursday.

Hutton, just a few month into the first year of a four-year Senate term, serves on the agriculture, judiciary and public health committees. He will resign effective upon completion of the legislative session.

His departure will trigger a process in which county commissioners in Blaine and Hill Counties will name a replacement from a list of candidates provided by the Republican central committees in those counties.

Hutton is the second Republican Senator to announce his resignation this session. Polson Sen. John Brueggeman resigned his seat shortly after the Republican caucuses in November. He was replaced by Sen. Carmine Mowbray.

Hutton said he plans to speak with Republicans Reps. Wendy Warburton and Kris Hansen, both of Havre, and members of the central committees, and the Blaine & Hill County Commissioners to ensure a timely replacement and smooth transition.

Hutton said the decision to leave the Legislature was not easy.

"My priorities are my family first, my church second, and my priority to the Senate is third," Hutton said. "That's not to say I don't take my duties here seriously. I want to finish strong here."

Hutton said he will fly to Omaha on weekends and breaks to meet with officials and members of his new congregation.

Hutton said the toughest part of leaving will be saying goodbye to the church in Havre and to members of his hometown church in Turner, where he occasionally preached over the past decade.

"I'm looking forward to a new beginning for me and my family," Hutton said. "This will be a great opportunity to use my leadership abilities in a new setting."

UPDATE: The Havre Daily Corrector posted the letter that Hutton delivered to the congregation. You can read it here.

Social calendar

Here’s the latest iteration of the 2011 Montana Legislature’s social calendar. See anything of interest? E-mail me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Possible 2012 contenders?

The Capitol is abuzz following the news that Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg is planning announce his bid for the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Franke Wilmer, D-Bozeman, confirmed Tuesday that she plans to seek Rehberg’s House seat.

Bozeman businessman Steve Daines, the only Republican to officially announce his intent to run for the Senate, is expected to announce on Thursday that he’s stepping out of Rehberg’s way in order to pursue the House instead.

No others have officially announced their plans, but here are some of the names floating around the Capitol for possible 2012 U.S. House bids:


Tyler Gernant, D-Missoula

Gernant, a Missoula attorney, mounted a respectable challenge to eventual Democratic Party nominee Dennis McDonald in 2010. Gernant has run a state-wide campaign, so he should have some name recognition among the party faithful. Gernant said he has been considering another run for the House even before the news that Rehberg would likely seek the Senate, but he hasn’t made a decision yet.

“It’s something I’ve thought about, but I’m going to check around before I make a decision,” Gernant said. “A lot of good could come from that seat and I don’t think Montanan’s have gotten much in the past 12 years.”


Sen. Kim Gillan, D-Billings

Gillan is the minority whip for the Senate Democrats. She served in the House from 1997-2004, and was the minority leader in the 2001 Session. Originally from El Cerrito, Calif., Gillan is the Workforce Development Coordinator for Montana State University-Billings.

“I will wait until after the session before I make any decisions," Gillan said. "My constituents sent me up here to work on jobs, business equipment tax reform and I've got my anti-bullying bill. I don't want (constituents) to think I'm distracted from the job they sent me here to do."

AugareSen. Shannon Augare, D-Browning

Augare was first elected to the House in 2007 and was the Democratic Whip in the 2009 session before running successfully for the Senate in 2010.

Augare said he, too, is thinking about a possible House run.

"I think every politician has considered running for higher office," Augare said. "I've had some conversations about the House, but I really don't know where I'm at at this point in time. There are some opportunities on the horizon."

livingstoneNeil Livingstone

Livingstone is co-chairman and CEO of Executive Action, a Washington, D.C.-based crisis management firm. He’s considered an internationally recognized terrorism expert, and he’s probably the most intriguing of the possible 2012 contenders.

According to his official bio:

He is a familiar face on the nation's newscasts as a commentator on terrorism, intelligence, and national security issues. A veteran of more than 1300 television appearances, he has appeared on such programs as "Nightline," "Meet the Press," "Today," "The Early Show," "Crossfire," "Newsmaker Sunday," "The Charlie Rose Show," "Hardball," "Dateline," "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer," "The O'Reilly Report," and the evening newscasts on all of the major networks.

According to multiple news reports (<-three separate links there), Livingstone is said s also said to be considering a run for office in Montana. He purchased a house here in 2009 and registered the Internet domain

Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer's term ends in 2012 and he can’t run again due to term limits.

A spokesman for Livingstone could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

A Montana GOP source said Livingstone’s name is still being tossed around as a possible state-wide or congressional candidate. It’s not clear whether Livingstone would challenge the popular Rehberg, take on Steve Daines in a Republican House primary, or seek the Governor’s seat…if any.

kernsRep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel

Kerns, a Tea Party Republican, is also been mentioned as a possible candidate for the House or Governor seats. Kerns, who ran unsuccessfully for Speaker of the House this session, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2012 here we come! Senate race to be a bruiser

tester rehberg

Roll Call beat Congressman Denny Rehberg to the punch last night, reporting that the six-term Republican would announce his bid for the U.S. Senate on Saturday.

Quoting an unnamed source in the Rehberg camp, the article stated:

“It’s happening Saturday,” said a knowledgeable Montana GOP political operative. “He’s running. There is a lot of support and enthusiasm back home, and Denny knows he can win.”

“The operative offered some internal Rehberg polling numbers showing the Montana Republican in a statistical tie with Tester in a prospective 2012 matchup.”

Rehberg’s campaign is mum on the issue, but you can read between the lines in this statement from Rehberg spokesman Brian Barrett:

“Denny has received a lot of support and encouragement to run for the United States Senate in 2012.  He is weighing all of his options carefully and will announce his decision Saturday.”

UPDATE: I just received this statement from Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy:

“Jon is running for another opportunity to serve Montana in the U.S. Senate, not against anyone. He looks forward to comparing his record of the past four years with any challenger. Jon’s known for creating jobs, cutting spending and working together with his colleagues to get substantive things done for Montanans, and nobody is going to outwork him. We look forward to beginning an honest debate following the 2012 primary a year and a half from now.”

Montana’s Primary Election is Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

FrankeWilmerMeanwhile, back in Helena, Rep. Franke Wilmer, D-Bozeman, a political science professor at Montana State University, announced she plans to seek Rehberg’s (presumed) open seat. If elected, Wilmer would be the first woman to hold that seat since Jeannette Rankin.

In an interview with Capitol reporters this afternoon, Wilmer, a three-term member of the House,  said she considered running for Congress a decade ago. She said she has the experience, qualifications and the common sense ideals to be an effective legislator in Washington, D.C.

Wilmer said her campaign will be built around three major themes:

1) Reducing the Deficit – “There are some good bi-partisan ideas out there. This is not a partisan issue.”

2) Health Care – “If health care reform is going to be declared unconstitutional then we’ve got to get on with the program and fix it because we need it.”

3) Energy: “Montanans don’t like having to make a tradeoff between developing new energy and protecting our natural resources. It’s shouldn’t be one or the other.”

Wilmer said her decision to seek the House seat hinged, in part, on whether Rehberg would stay in the race:

“It’s hard to beat an incumbent that has such widespread support. I don’t know if I’d want to push that rock up hill.”

As far as I know, no one else is publically talking about running for Congress on the Democrats’ side, but apparently at least a handful of state lawmakers are testing the waters.  It’s unlikely that Rehberg will face any serious primary opposition from a Republican.

dainesBozeman Businessman Steve Daines, who ran for Lieutenant Governor on a failed gubernatorial ticket in 2008, announced in November  that he would run against Tester.  However, a  Montana GOP  insider told me then that  Daines was prepared to step aside from the senate race if Rehberg decided to throw his hat in the ring. In that scenario Daines would then run for Rehberg’s House seat, the source said.

Thus it came as no surprise to see this statement from Daines’ campaign in my e-mail inbox this morning:

“U.S. Senate candidate Steve Daines will make a major campaign announcement Thursday February 3rd.”

Will Daines announce he his switching races to run for the House?

Most likely. Stay tuned.

Now that Roll Call spilled the beans about Rehberg’s plans the story has gone national. Political guru’s are already handicapping the Tester/Rehberg race and it’s possible implications for the Senate in 2012. According to the Cook Political Report, via Jennifer Rubin at WaPo:

Rehberg's entry vaults this contest that had been in the Likely Democratic column to Toss Up, bringing the total number of Democratic-held seats in that column to five. Sens. Ben Nelson (NE), Jim Webb (VA) and Joe Manchin (WV) as well as the open seat in North Dakota are already in the Toss Up column. . .

Speculation over Rehberg’s 2012 plans has been rampant for years. I think it’s safe to say that most political insiders for quite some time expected Rehberg would challenge first-term Tester. After all, Rehberg was the only Republican to ever come within striking distance of Max Baucus, losing to Montana’s senior senator by a mere 5 percent of the vote in 1996, and he’s been politically untouchable in his six House races winning by wide margins in each.

Rehberg fueled speculation about a possible Senate run throughout his 2010 reelection campaign, where he spent almost as much time attacking Tester as he did his opponent in the race, Democrat Dennis McDonald. Rehberg held some 23 “public listening sessions” on Tester’s signature piece of legislation, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, throughout his campaign. At a debate in Bozeman, Rehberg not-so-subtly attacked Tester for the way in which the proposed legislation was created: 

“I want to point out the difference between collaboration and consensus. (Tester’s bill) was a collaboration effort. Those were selected people that came together around a table and decided and then wanted to go out and try to convince everybody else it was a great idea. That’s different than consensus. Consensus is actually getting out now before the legislation is introduced and sitting down and listening to them.” 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was the first group to rush to Tester’s defense on Tuesday.

DSCC Communications Director Eric Schultz released the following statement:

"Congressman Rehberg has been in Washington for ten years and has nothing to show for it. He's got a record long on spending but short on accomplishments. Rehberg has taken on 9/11 heroes and sued Montana firefighters. Montanans rejected the last career politician who took on the firefighters, and we expect them to ultimately do the same this time."

The Montana Democratic Party was also quit to attack, bringing up, predictably, a certain boating crash on Flathead Lake:

"This is turning out to be one of the worst-kept secrets in Montana," said Ted Dick, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party. "Despite his near-fatal boat accident with a drunk driver, his frivolous lawsuit against Montana firefighters, years of deficit spending and voting against Montana, and an embarrassing record of, well, nothing, Dennis Rehberg wants a new job. He's going to have a tough two years ahead of him explaining to Montanans why he deserves it."

Let the fireworks fly!

Political insiders tell me they expect a flurry of news in the coming days regarding the 2012 elections, including the possibility of other candidates jumping into the race.