Jim Shockley emphasizes legislative, military experience in Republican run for Attorney General

Jim Shockley

State Senator Jim Shockley has been playing a role in the Montana Legislature for 14 years. He currently chairs the committee that deals with law and justice issues. He’s looking to these years in the Legislature and his over 30 years of law experience to help him stand out in the Republican Primary Race for Attorney General.

Shockley was up at 4 AM the morning of our interview. The 67 year-old drove to Helena from his home in the Bitterroot Valley town of Victor. He had another radio interview on the phone beforehand and other stops in other communities afterward. That’s a statewide campaign for you.

“It’s a lot of work,” Shockley laughed, predicting he would be getting to bed around midnight.

In one respect, the Republican primary race between Shockley and attorney Tim Fox mirrors the Democratic AG primary between Jesse Laslovich and Pam Bucy. One candidate has extensive legislative experience—the other does not. The question is whether or not that’s important for the Attorney General’s seat. Not surprisingly, Senator Shockley says it is.

“If you’re in the legislature and you learn how the law is made, it’s easier to implement it and there will be certain times when the Attorney General is gonna want to lobby for legislation he thinks is needed by law enforcement, if you’ve been in the Legislature and know how the system works,” Shockley said. “You know the people in the Legislature, you can be much more effective.”

Shockley spent 20 some years in the Marine Corps. He received a purple heart for injuries received in Vietnam. And before opening his private law practice in Victor he worked as a military lawyer. When it comes to managing something, like the Attorney General manages the Department of Justice, he says Marines make things work.

“You’re oriented towards the mission–let’s call it a job. Second consideration is your people, let’s call that H.R. I’d take that approach to the Attorney General’s Office and I think I’d make it a better place to work and a more efficient place,” he said.

Shockley supports Attorney General Steve Bullock’s defense of Montana’s ban on Corporate Campaign Spending—the century-old Corrupt Practices Act. He also commends the Attorney General’s office for defending the most recent medical marijuana reform law passed by the state legislature.

He says that’s the Attorney General’s job regardless, though—to defend Montana’s laws—no matter how they came to be.

“I would represent the Legislature if they pass it by initiative or referendum regardless of how I might think about it,” he said.

He disagrees with Bullock not joining a lawsuit with other Attorney’s General against the Affordable Care Act. He calls the federal healthcare reform unconstitutional.

And he says Bullock made the wrong move in his state Land Board vote against leasing the Otter Creek Coal tracts. Bullock says he supported mining Otter Creek coal, but didn’t think the state was being offered enough money for the leases. The sale did end up going through anyway. But Shockley says that vote against Otter Creek is a risk he would not have taken.

He says with his seat on the land board he would be a strong advocate for responsible natural resource development. Shockley says people who worry about CO-2 emissions should look to China—which is building new coal-fired power plants every month.

“Us digging our coal in Montana is not going to make a difference in the big picture. They ought to have scrubbers to take out the sulfur and they do–there’s ways to take out the mercury,” Shockley said.

When asked about policy priorities he would pursue, Shockley does not list laws he wants to see enacted. He says Montana has enough law for the most part.

“I know a lot of politicians running for office saying I’m gonna do this that or the other with the law. Well I think enforcing what we got is probably the place to start and if we need more we can discuss it with the legislature.”

Shockley says he is being outspent two to one by his primary opponent, Tim Fox. But he says he’s trying to spend his money wisely meeting as many different people in as many different venues as he can—all across the state.

“I think the retail politics will pay off. People like to see the person who’s running for office, see what he looks like,” Shockley said.

He leaves my office shortly afterward to give more voters that opportunity.

Republican Tim Fox confident in run for Attorney General again despite 2008 loss

Tim Fox

Republican candidate for state Attorney General Tim Fox knows what it’s like to run a statewide campaign. The Helena attorney ran for the exact same post in 2008, narrowly losing to current Attorney General, Democrat Steve Bullock.

Fox believes results will turn out differently this time around.

Fox says he’s working hard to win this primary election against challenger State Senator Jim Shockley.

“I know from my days as a competitive athlete for many many years that you don’t want to look beyond the race at hand,” Fox said.

Fox says he brings 25 years of law experience to bear in this candidacy.

He’s held jobs in both the private and public sectors in criminal law and constitutional law. He’s been appointed a special assistant Attorney General. Fox has also served as a division administrator at the Department of Environmental Quality.

He says that prepares him to run something as large as the Department of Justice.

“I’ve budgeted. I’ve hired and fired. I’ve set policy and carried out policy,” he said. “I’ve worked with the legislature I’ve helped draft laws and regulations. I’ve carried out and defended laws and regulations.”

Fox says he’s hearing from supporters around the state that people want an Attorney General who will stand up to the Federal Government when it oversteps its bounds.

“One example of that of course is the Affordable Healthcare Act, otherwise known as Obamacare,” Fox said. He criticizes current Attorney General Bullock for not signing onto a lawsuit signed by 26 other Attorney’s General challenging the Affordable Care Act.

“There will be circumstances in the future where the federal government will overreach once again and I think we need a change of philosophy in how the Attorney General Acts in those circumstances,” he said.

Fox supports Bullock’s stance defending Montana’s century-old Corrupt Practices Act. A lawsuit has been filed to throw out this prohibition on corporate campaign spending in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision. The nation’s high court has put a hold on the law until they decide whether or not to take the case.

Fox says he would also vigorously defend Montana’s Law.

“If I’m fortunate enough to be elected and take office in January it’s possible that case would be pending and I’ll be happy to take over that effort because that’s one of the responsibilities of the Attorney General, is to defend the statutes of the state of Montana,” he said.

Fox once served as the state’s primary hard rock and coal mining attorney—making sure mining companies were adhering to environmental laws. He says that experience will help him protect the provision of the Montana Constitution ensuring a clean and healthful environment.

Unlike some Republican Candidates, Fox supports Montana’s 1972 Constitution.

“There’s no one part of Montana’s Constitution that’s more important than the other,” he said. “It stands as a whole, it’s a great document. the people of Montana should be proud of that document and as Montana’s next Attorney General I would do everything I can to make sure that the provisions of the Montana Constitution are not only defended but respected as well.”

Tim Fox says the political atmosphere was different in 2008, when he lost to Steve Bullock. He says he thinks 2012 will be a better year to be a Republican and his 2008 loss will help him pull through.

“It’s always good to have experienced a campaign, particularly a statewide campaign once before and hopefully we’re making sure we get the message out,” he said.

But again, one race at a time. He first has to get past next Tuesday’s Primary Election.

Pam Bucy touts courtroom experience in Democratic Primary for Attorney General

Pam Bucy

Democratic Attorney General Candidate Pam Bucy says she knows a lot about the seat she is looking to win. She served as the Executive Assistant Attorney General under former Attorney General Mike McGrath for seven years. Bucy wants voters to focus on that experience when choosing between her and primary challenger, Jesse Laslovich.

Pam Bucy asked to meet me in the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse across from the County jail. She got her start down the hall in Justice Court and would have been pretty busy this time of day.

“One o’clock…that’s when the prisoners appear from across the street. That’s when we as county attorneys would go in and that’s when you do all your bond hearings and all of that,” she said.

Bucy says she learned so much about the criminal justice system from that job. She moved from the County Attorney’s Office to working for District Court, then over to the Supreme Court. Bucy wants Democrats to look at that legal experience, that courtroom experience when marking their primary ballots. Her opponent, Jesse Laslovich, points to his long experience as a State Legislator, in both the House and the Senate.

That’s something Bucy does not have. She says working with the Legislature is not an enormous part of the Attorney General’s job, though.

“The daily work of the Attorney General’s Office…is making legal decisions, making administrative decisions and in all deference to my good friend Jesse, this is not a legislative job, at all,” she said in a recent primary debate with Laslovich.

The A.G. does interact with the Legislature in pushing for funding and advocating for certain policies. She says she has as much experience as Laslovich as far as that interaction is concerned. She says she was doing it from the side of the Attorney General’s office since Laslovich’s first term as a young representative.

“I’ve been carrying the department’s legislation in the legislature for as long –you know, since he was 19 years old I’ve been doing that kind of work,” she said.

Jesse Laslovich also does have his fair share of legal experience as an attorney. He even worked in the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s office for a year.

“I was there for 7 and a half years doing a wide variety of work,” Bucy countered.

Both candidates are asking to be considered on their different types of experience because on substantive policy, they’re very similar. Bucy admits that.

“On some of the more major issues I really do think we probably agree and I think that’s why we’re both democrats and that’s what led us both to this place,” she said.

She says social justice issues would be one of her key priorities if elected.

“One of the things I’m very passionate about is ensuring that our insurance industry does not reintroduce gender discrimination into the purchase of insurance products,” she said.

She wants to better protect children from online predators. She says the Attorney General’s position on the state land board is key to getting fair market value for leases on school trust lands. And Bucy applauds current Attorney General Steve Bullock, especially when it comes to his defense of Montana’s ban on corporate campaign spending. That law now waits for judgment from the U.S. Supreme Court and Bucy says she would very much like to carry on Bullock’s work.

“I would absolutely be thrilled to make the argument at the United State’s Supreme Court that Montana’s people want to control their elections and not corporations,” she said.

Before she gets there, she would have to get through the November election. But she has to pass the primary first of all. Despite her resume, Bucy says running a statewide campaign is a whole different kind of challenge.

“I find this to be the toughest job that I’ve ever had to do,” Bucy said.


Democratic Attorney General Candidate Jesse Laslovich looking to be seen as passionate, family man

Attorney General candidate Jesse Laslovich plays with his son Cooper Wednesday afternoon

Anaconda native Jesse Laslovich started making a political name for himself at a young age. At 20 years old, he was the second youngest person ever elected to the State Legislature. He served two terms in the state House of Representatives before moving on to the State Senate. Laslovich has since served as an Assistant Attorney General, a special assistant U.S. Attorney and the Chief Legal Counsel at the State Auditor’s Office.

He’s now running in the Democratic Primary for State Attorney General.

“Hey! Wanna go again,” Laslovich asked his 3 year old son Cooper on Wednesday. Cooper loves this new slide at the small playground a block from their Helena home.

“With the nice weather we’re here probably if not every night then every other night,” Laslovich said.

This is the Jesse Laslovich the candidate himself wants voters to get to know–not only as a young guy who’s gotten stuff done, but as a family man. Cooper and his wife Jill feature prominently in his first campaign ad: In that ad, Laslovich also touts legislation he drafted creating stricter penalties for sexual predators and DUI offenders. Those continue to be priorities in his bid to be Montana’s top lawyer.

Here’s Laslovich speaking in a recent primary debate with his democratic opponent, Pam Bucy.

LASLOVICH: “What we have is simply not working when it comes to DUI’s, we continually read about 5th, 6th, 7th, I saw 11 DUIs,” Laslovich said during a recent primary debate with his Democratic opponent, Pam Bucy.

The Attorney General cannot enact new policies. But Laslovich says he would push on the Legislature to tighten DUI penalties. He calls consumer protection his top priority if elected–helping people who get scammed. Laslovich served as the head consumer protection attorney under Attorney General Mike McGrath.

“I still don’t think we have enough resources in the consumer protection office. It’s about education in addition to going after these companies I did it–I was on the ground doing it full time,” he said. He calls the Attorney General’s post a unique, multi-faceted position, from heading the Department of Justice to a seat on the State Land Board. And on that board, which sets policy for the state’s public lands and natural resources, he says the buzz words for candidates are responsible development.

“That’s a no-brainer, I say that too,” Laslovich said in the debate. “But it’s personal to me. You see what Anaconda’s like and what we’re dealing with. They are extraordinary people fighting through it, you see the Berkeley Pit in Butte. It’s really important that we do it right.”

He uses this phrase, it’s personal several times in this debate. This is also how Jesse Laslovich wants to be seen, as a passionate—hard worker.

“It’s about judgement,” he said at the debate, pounding on his podium. “It’s about the values you bring to the Attorney General’s Office, it’s about the work ethic you bring to the Attorney General’s Office and I’m here to tell ya there’s no one who has a better work ethic than me, I’m biased—I know.”

But when it comes to the values, the types of change Laslovich wants to affect, it more often than not sounds very much like what his opponent advocates. They both support stances taken by current Attorney General Steve Bullock on recent high profile issues like corporate campaign spending. Answers between Bucy and Laslovich during the 90 minute democratic debate almost mirrored each other many times. He doesn’t shy from that.

“We agree on a lot of things…a lot of times it’s been hard to find major differences, really,” he said.

He says their differences go to their backgrounds; Bucy has not served in the legislature and flatly says the Attorney General is not a legislative position. Laslovich says knowing the ins and outs of that lawmaking process is crucial.

“Hitting the ground running, working with the legislature, moving agenda, trying to get funding is really important. So I don’t want to be dismissive about the legislative experience,” he said.

Laslovich is hoping Democratic voters will also not dismiss that experience in this June’s primary election.

Bullock/MT Delegation support bill validating concealed carry permits across state lines

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock is supporting a bill before the US Senate which validates concealed weapons permits across state lines. Bullock recently signed a letter supporting the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act along with 21 other state Attorney’s General. Montanans would follow Montana laws on concealed carry in other states. That also means carriers from other states would follow their laws in Montana.

Bullock says the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act recognizes all Montanans have a fundamental right to self-defense.  He says that right shouldn’t disappear just because a Montanan crosses the border into another state making “sure that Montanan’s with their concealed carry permit can go into the other state’s carrying their firearm.”

The national non-profit Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence opposes the legislation.

Vice President Dennis Henigan makes it a state’s rights argument. He calls it outrageous for a state Attorney General to stand behind it.

“This is a piece of federal legislation that would make Montana’s laws concerning concealed carry unenforceable,” he said.

To get a concealed carry permit in Montana you have to show evidence of some kind of training—like a hunter safety course. You need to undergo a criminal background check, too. The state denies permits to those convicted of certain crimes. Henigan argues other states may have less strict requirements.

“I would think that the Attorney General’s first responsibility would not be to the concealed carry holders in Montana that might want to travel to other states,” he said, “but rather to the residents of Montana whether they are gun owners or not, whether they are concealed carry holders or not, who have an interest in preserving Montana’s laws.”

Attorney General Bullock says yes, other states might have looser requirements for concealed carry. However, Montana already accepts those permits.

“For out of state carriers coming in, as long as they’ve had that background check, we would recognize it anyway,” Bullock said.

So Montana supporters of this National Right to Carry Act say it can’t encroach on our state sovereignty because our state law already allows it.

On the Department of Justice website, it says, “Non-residents must meet the following criteria to carry a concealed weapon in Montana:

  1. The state that issued the permit must require a criminal records background check before issue.
  2. The permit must be in the holder’s possession.
  3. The permit holder must have a photo ID

There are six states, plus the District of Columbia, that do not expressly require background checks for concealed carry permits. Permits from those states are not valid here.

Would they be if the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act passes? Well, yes, but here’s the deal– in order to comply with that act, the carrier has to comply with federal gun law. Federal gun law requires a background check.

“Under Federal Law, to buy, possess or transfer firearms there’s certain requirements,” Bullock said. “You know, you can’t have a felony conviction of over a year and certain numerated crimes. Those are the same that we check for our backgrounds as well.”

The National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act passed the U.S. House last November by a 272 to 154 vote. A version now waits for action in the Senate.

Montana’s full congressional delegation supports the bill.