The 7-way Republican Primary Race for Governor is increasingly becoming a battle of the most conservative credentials. This week, candidates Neil Livingstone and Corey Stapleton signed a constitutional pledge. It binds the candidates to pursue conservative policies like privatizing state entitlement programs and pensions. They promise to resign if they don’t follow through.
A conservative mindset is also guiding the policies of political newcomer Bob Fanning. He moved to Montana from Illinois about 15 years ago. He calls himself a Constitutional Populist Republican and his ideals do not always fit the typical Republican mold. He is calling himself a champion of the individual.
Montana Gubernatorial Candidate Bob Fanning stood with me beneath the high marble grandeur of the Capitol Rotunda. We could look just down the hallway and see the Governor’s office. Fanning faces a host of obstacles to get there, though.
Election headquarters, for instance.
“We’re conveniently located in the middle of nowhere in Pray Montana about 11 miles up a gravel road,” he said.
“A little tough for campaigning, is it?” I asked.
“It has its logistical challenges, you betcha.”
Fanning has almost no name recognition. His primary opponents have mobilized campaigns spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fanning reports a little more than $8 thousand in his campaign treasury. None of that is putting a damper on his confidence.
“I have a chance of winning by a landslide,” he said.
Fanning believes a grass roots effort will embrace his adherence to the Constitution. He says the only reason he wants to occupy that office down the hall is to break the state’s addiction to the federal government. His motto–decentralization.
“Decentralization all the way back to the County Commission and ultimately to the individual. My job as Governor is to re-empower the individual. I want to give away all of my power,” Fanning said.
This contempt for the federal government can be seen across his ideology. He came to our talk after speaking to state wildlife officials about more aggressive wolf hunting.
“Defending the big game hunter here in the state of Montana from the federal government and their intrusive wolf reintroduction program,” he said. Fanning feels the same way about the federal healthcare law and national education policy.
“All of these intrusions come with strings,” he said.
He means financial strings, and he also means the force of law. His main example sets him apart from his republican opponents–the federal government’s raids on the state’s medical marijuana industry last year. He said “that’s the poster child for the police state that is being imposed on the state of Montana.” He describes himself as the only champion in the race for the marijuana community.
“They trusted the state of Montana when they came forward…thinking they would be protected and instead the state of Montana took the licensing fees and then served them up to the feds,” Fanning said.
Fanning pointed again and again to the Constitution. Individual freedoms, private property rights. There’s a sense of reverence there for the U.S. Constitution. He doesn’t have the same feeling about the state constitution.
“Montana since the constitution of 1972 has been anti jobs,” he said.
He’s referring to the provision entitling citizens to a clean and healthful environment.
“Cease and desist with this insanity of protecting the environment,” he said, “this environment is pristine.”
It’s holding back natural resource development, he says—and that’s the cornerstone of his jobs plan.
“Nobody’s gonna take a risk when you have punitive income taxes, capital gains and property taxes that is telling the risk taker, not here, not in my backyard,” Fanning said.
Fanning says his business credentials prove he knows how to create jobs. He says he was the CEO of a blast-furnace manufacturer, financial advisor to major mutual fund institutions like Northwestern Mutual and Colonial and a professional investor at the Chicago Board of Trade.
On social issues, Fanning is pro-guns, pro-life and anti-death penalty. Yet, he says social issues are secondary.
“When the Republic is in danger of falling after being captured by corporate fascists in collusion with cultural Marxists in a central government,” he said.
Bob Fanning says he wants to protect the Republic from his future office, just down the capitol hallway. He believes he will get there through a campaign that flies in the face of tradition.
“I think it would be very entertaining and a lot of fun to be elected the governor of Montana without a single road sign up before the primaries,” he said.