Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rick Hill claims he is the Primary front-runner for a reason

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill still seems to be carrying momentum into tomorrow’s primary election. The former Montana Congressman has raised by far the most money in the GOP race.

Rick Hill jaunted up the steps leading to the third floor of the State Capitol building. The Lewis and Clark County Republican women were taking a picture on the stairs before a luncheon—and they asked him to join in.

“Republican Women are the backbone of the Republican Party,” Hill said during the luncheon late last week. He casually moved between tables luncheon, chatting-up some of the ladies. His wife is in the group so he knows most of them.

It was mostly well-wishing, no really intense conversations on the issues. He’s willing to have those at any time, though.

“This has been the most fun political campaign I’ve ever been involved in in my life,” Hill said.

He says it’s been a hard-fought primary in the crowded G.O.P field.

“I think it’d be fair to say we have an eclectic group of candidates,” Hill said. “They’ve been fun people to get to know.”

He says that even as those other candidates are looking for ways to de-throne Hill as the presumed front-runner. Hill’s opponents point to his experience in the House of Representatives as evidence Hill is a Washington insider who’s lost touch with real Montanans.

“What bothers them is I have broad experience in the private sector and the public sector,” Hill replied.

Hill is a businessman who served under Governor Mark Racicot as chairman of the Montana State Fund. He was Montana’s lone U.S. Representative from 1997 to 2001. He left due to problems with his eyesight he says have since been corrected. He says he knows how to get bills passed and build a strategic plan.

“So they’ve tried to turn that into a negative but I really think it’s a positive. I think right now what people in this country and Montana want are experienced leaders that know how to get things done,” Hill said.

Hill says he has a broad economic mission for the state. He pledges to create between 30-thousand and 40-thousand jobs in his first term. He says regulation is keeping Montana from fulfilling its potential and that goes beyond increasing natural resource development.

“All kinds of businesses, whether you’re in the hospitality business or the healthcare business or the financial services business or the construction business. All of those industries are being adversely impacted by what we have in Montana, which is an adverse regulatory and legal climate,” he said, adding it’s a climate our neighboring states do not have to face.

Natural resources do make a piece of that plan. Hill says Montana can increase production and create jobs without affecting the quality of life for everyone else. He says we can have the Treasure State and Big Sky Country at the same time.

“We’re not talking about lowering environmental standards, we’re talking about implementing a process so that people have a predictable process with a predictable outcome in the regulatory process,” he said. And he wants to use more revenue from that development to pay for K-12 education. He says Wyoming has been doing that with coal development for decades.

“They have a much lower non-graduation rate than we do. they’re able to help kids get into college better than we do. They have better schools, they pay their teachers more,” Hill said. “I don’t know that we would get to the point we could rely entirely on natural resource revenues to support education but I think we could substantially lower property taxes for most Montana residents and for most small business and that would be a good thing.”

Hill talks about limiting the Federal Government’s presence as a cornerstone of his campaign. He lists the Affordable Care Act and wolf management as examples of federal overreach and says Montanans need to push back against that.

“Even beyond that, we need to demand the federal government manage its lands in Montana better than they do,” he added. He says the large swaths of pine-beetle killed trees on national forest lands overlook an economic opportunity and limit certain types of recreational access.

“Are your positions on social issues, are any of them different than what we may consider the standard Republican Platform?” I asked Hill.

“I don’t know what the standard…The Republicans are all over the place on the social issues but I’m pro-life. I believe in traditional marriage, which Montana voters put into our constitution and I think it should stay there. If that’s what you’re asking I am a social conservative,” he replied. He is also in favor of the death penalty and calls himself a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.

 The Republican race for governor is anything but certain. But Rick Hill says he is being called the front-runner for a reason.

“One of the ways you get the largest amount of financial support and largest amount of volunteer support is you have a vision people believe in. I think that’s what’s reflected in the success of my campaign so far,” he said.

We shall see if that success carries all the way to Wednesday.


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.

Republican Senatorial candidate Dennis Teske

Dennis Teske

Republican Senatorial candidate Dennis Teske says he barely recognizes America anymore.
As a young man, the 62-year-old first-generation farmer from Terry worked in Wyoming’s oil fields. He’s also owned a trucking business. He and his wife owned several Seattle-area convenience stores before moving back to Montana in 1996.
Teske says when he was a school-kid in the 50’s and 60’s, students were routinely taught about the Constitution and good government.
Now, he says the Patriot Act and National Defense Authorization Act which, in part, allows indefinite detention without trial of suspected terrorists, are clearly unconstitutional measures.
He also believes government is now simply too big and too powerful. Teske – a self-proclaimed lover of small government, describes the existing federal government as a “monster”.
In this evening’s feature interview with Edward O’Brien, Teske says if things continue as they’re going, the nation will go broke.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neil Livingstone wants to bring business sense to state’s highest office

Neil Livingstone poses with fiancee Cynthia Tsai and dog Whisper outside of their Helena home

Republican Gubernatorial candidate Neil Livingstone has made headlines as a candidate for his diverse background. Stories have labeled him an ‘international man of mystery’. He’s considered a counter-terrorism expert and has written several books on the subject as well as making over 15-hundred television appearances. Livingstone is a former intelligence officer, part-owner of a Panamanian airline, director of a helicopter manufacturer, and founder of an international risk management and business solutions company.

The Helena native wants to bring that varied experience to bear in the state’s highest office.

Neil Livingstone lives in a beautiful stone home in Helena’s mansion district.

“Well, this home was built around 1903,” he said during a recent interview at the house. “It’s a a favorite home of many people in town. You’ll notice it’s not Victorian, this was considered a daringly modern design when it was built.” It was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the U.S. Supreme Court building. Livingstone says he often has visits from architects now who want to see the place.

He is a multi-millionaire, but says his blue-collar Republican values lead him to his prominent campaign pledge. Here he is speaking during a press conference in the Capitol Building earlier this month.

“If elected Governor, I will not take a salary until I have created a thousand new private sector jobs in Montana,” he said.

The Governor’s salary is almost $110 thousand a year. Livingstone acknowledges he would not feel a financial pinch from refusing that pay. He says it sends a message.

“It’s a symbolic action to show solidarity with those out of work right now. I don’t know of another way I can do that other than the fact that I’ve traveled from one end of this state to the other,” he said.

He says he has been campaigning in traditionally Democratic parts of the state as well as Republican strongholds—spreading his theme that he’s a candidate who comes with ideas, not a political background.

“I’ve actually created jobs. I’m not a politician, I am a businessman,” he said.

He says he has enough friends and connections in Montana politics on both sides of the aisle that he will be able to effectively lead the state government—even without inside experience about how it works.

Livingstone follows traditional conservative values on most social issues. He’s pro-life, pro-death penalty. He’s against gay marriage but says he has many gay friends and firmly supports civil unions.

And labor unions.

“Where I probably am different from many of my opponents is on the issue of (labor) unions.”

Livingstone is supportive of labor union rights, something he says may help him succeed in places like Butte, where many vote democratic while being socially conservative.

He says he’s campaigning for working class Montanans whether they are in a union or not.

“Working men and women today have more in common with the Republicans who are gonna get them jobs and get the economy moving than with the environmental radicals,” he said.

Like his Republican opponents, Livingstone wants to open up natural resource development in the state and increase government funding from that development. He wants to pay for K12 education largely through natural resource development, for instance.

“I’d like to see resource taxes essentially take over so we can phase out everything from the corporate income tax and the business equipment tax to local property taxes. And I’d like to simplify the tax system. I’m a flat taxer, basically,” he said.

As for higher education, Livingstone says he wants to enact sweeping changes.

“I see duplication and overlap across the Montana University System. And I think we need to reconfigure it,” said Livingstone.

He wants to eliminate redundant programs from one University to another to save resources. He wants to put more effort into two year and technical education in the state. He says there’s a greater supply of better paying jobs available through those degrees right now.

But he is quick to point out he’s no stranger to Universities. He’s a former adjunct professor and boasts three Masters Degrees and a PhD. And even though he has made his millions travelling the world running large companies based in other places—he says he is still no stranger to his home state. He says he’s never held a driver’s license from anywhere else, And he has never voted in any other state than Montana.

Republican U.S. Senate Primary: Denny Rehberg


Our coverage of contested statewide primary election races continues with Edward O’Brien’s conversation with Republican Senatorial candidate Denny Rehberg who’s being challenged by farmer Dennis Teske.  Rehberg opens the conversation by addressing Americans’ generally low opinion of Congress.