A Wild Political Weekend for Montana Republicans
The State Republican Convention wrapped up Saturday in Helena with some major announcements and cross-office moves by candidates for state offices.
On Friday, Greg Gianforte made it official that he would leave the U.S. House of Representatives and pursue the Republican nomination for governor for the second time.
Gianforte said many Montanans encouraged him to seek the chief executive’s office in Helena.
“They said we need an executive in the governor’s office, someone with business experience and a customer service mindset,” said Gianforte. “Someone to fix the important problems facing our state that have been neglected far too long, and that’s why today I am announcing that I’ve decided to run for governor of the great state of Montana.”
The very next morning, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, who had declared for the governor’s office several months ago, abandoned that effort to seek the seat now being vacated by Gianforte.
“The governor’s office has been on the mind of Republicans for so many years because we haven’t held the office, not since Judy Martz, actually,” said Stapleton. “Since now we have so many good people running for governor that equally important is to retain the Congressional seat that Representative Gianforte stepped down from to run for governor, so I’m now running for the congressional seat so that we can enhance some of the issues around creating jobs in business and agriculture and mining and to cover President Trump as he goes into his second term.”
Other Republicans seeking the governor’s office since Stapleton’s decision to quit the race include Attorney General Tim Fox and State Representative Al Olszewski. There are rumors that State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale might also enter the race for the U.S. House seat.
Attorney General Tim Fox responded to Gianforte’s decision through a news release from his own gubernatorial campaign office.
‘The Fox for Governor campaign responded today to Greg Gianforte’s announcement that he is, yet again, running for Governor of Montana after losing the race in 2016, and before he’s even served a full term in his current position as Montana’s lone Congressman.
“Less than eight months ago, Greg Gianforte asked Montanans for the privilege to represent them in Congress as their lone representative in Washington. Now, Greg is abandoning his constituents to run for governor for the second time in three years,” said Jack Cutter, spokesman for the Fox campaign. “Montanans deserve a governor who will actually serve the people of Montana, not just use their trust as a means to campaign for higher office. Greg has made his priorities clear; his ambition is more important than his commitments to Montanans.”
In 2016, an election in which the Republican nominee for President, Donald Trump, won Montana by 20 percentage points, Greg Gianforte was the only statewide Republican candidate in Montana to lose. By contrast, Tim Fox received over 96,000 more votes than Gianforte in 2016, winning his campaign for Attorney General with almost 68 percent of the vote.
In addition to his weak performance as a candidate for governor in 2016, Gianforte will also have a hard time explaining his votes in Congress to Montana voters.
“While Tim has prioritized stopping the flow of dangerous drugs from entering Montana as attorney general, Gianforte has jeopardized the security of our state by voting in favor of amnesty for DACA recipients. Montanans deserve better.” Cutter continued.
“Montana hasn’t elected a Republican Governor since 2000. Republicans can’t afford to risk another loss by nominating a candidate who has already proven he can’t win.”
Montana’s Republican Senator Steve Daines gave the keynote address on Friday and spoke of party unity heading into the 2020 elections, and his own reelection to the Senate.
“It is the men and women in this room that will make sure that we take care of business in November of 2020,” said Daines. “We must preserve the firewall of freedom that we have in the United States Senate. We must protect America from Socialism. I want to thank you for your support, I want to thank you for your hard work. On a beautiful June evening I know there are a lot of other things that you could be doing tonight. You are sacrificing your time, your treasures and you are here to ensure that we keep America great. Thank you and God bless.”