Campaign Beat Nov 9 – Sally, Chuck and Mike give their final thoughts on the 2012 election…

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk, Mike Dennison

On this final edition of “Campaign Beat”, our weekly political analysis program, News Director Sally Mauk talks with Lee newspaper reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison about who won, who lost, and what happens next…

 

 

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Democrat Steve Bullock elected next Governor of Montana

Governor-elect Steve Bullock holds press conference on Wednesday

Attorney General Steve Bullock has been selected as the next Governor of Montana.

Bullock won the tight race against former Republican Congressman Rick Hill by less than 10 thousand votes.

Cheers of “Bullock! Bullock!” filled a small conference room at Helena’s Great Northern Hotel Wednesday afternoon, shortly before an introduction by Lieutenant Governor Elect, John Walsh.

“One of the best men that I’ve ever met and have gotten the chance to know real well over the last 8 months, Montana’s next Governor, Steve Bullock,” Walsh said to cheers.

“It’s been a long process but being elected as your next governor is an incredible, incredible honor,” Bullock said.

The Associated Press called the race in Bullock’s favor around 1:30 Wednesday afternoon as final polling results were slow coming in and the race was tightening. Latest results from the Secretary of State’s office had Bullock up over Hill by less than two percent.

Hill released a statement shortly after the AP announcement thanking his supporters. Hill said both Bullock and running mate John Walsh are dedicated public servants and he said he knows the two will do their best to make the right decisions for Montana.

Bullock says he spoke with Hill on the phone.

“(He) Wished me the best as governor and said he thought I’d do a good job, offered his help and I said I certainly appreciate that. We talked a little bit about both of our families and I told him I thought he ran a great campaign,” Bullock said.

Much of the news cycle during the last weeks of the Governor’s race was dominated by a controversial half-million dollar donation Hill received from the State Republican Party. The donation was given during a short window when campaign spending limits were dropped. They were later reinstated and the Bullock campaign attacked the donation as illegal. Hill stood behind it. Bullock says he isn’t sure if that issue assisted in his narrow victory. But he says it does send a message about how Montanans feel about big money in politics.

“I mean, I think it is certainly a repudiation and it demonstrates that people still matter in elections,” Bullock said.

The win for Bullock keeps the Governor’s seat in Democratic hands after 8 years with Brian Schweitzer at the helm. Like Schweitzer often did, Bullock will be working with a Republican-dominated state Legislature. Bullock says he looks forward to finding areas of common ground—to focus on what’s best for the state.

Bullock then looked to the supporters in the conference room and offered his gratitude.

“It’s truly a humbling experience to have this many people not only here today but all across the state wishing us well. But it’s also time and it will be time to get to work. We need to present a budget to the Legislature and in the coming days John and I will be meeting with Legislators and leaders from across the state,” he said.

First though, he says he’s looking forward to a little R&R with his family.

 

Campaign Beat Nov 2 – Sally, Chuck and Mike talk polls, break-in’s and ads…

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk, Mike Dennison

On this edition of “Campaign Beat”, our weekly political analysis program, News Director Sally Mauk talks with Lee newspaper reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison about the latest poll showing a LOT of tight races, the ongoing brouhaha over American Tradition Partnership, and the new ads that run from the scary – to the odd…

Schweitzer stepping up support for Democratic candidates in final days of election

Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) makes calls for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Bullock on Tuesday

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer enjoys a 60 percent approval rating, but has not been spending much of that political capital to help democratic candidates locked in tight races across the state.

A Friday Press Conference in Great Falls shows that’s all changing here in the last few weeks before voting day.

Schweitzer says the state may be facing a constitutional crisis if Republican Rick Hill is elected to replace him. He accuses former Congressman Hill of risky, reckless behavior for his acceptance of a contested half-million dollar donation from the State GOP.

That donation is well over the $20 thousand limit the state has in place.

The Hill campaign says the donation was given during a short window when those contribution limits were temporarily tossed out by a Judge. The case involving the donation is still before the courts right now.

Schweitzer says he will be handing over the Governor’s office in January. If the court’s find Hill guilty of this violation, Schweitzer says the law is clear.

“If you have received these funds in violation of the campaign law, then you are not eligible for the office in which you’re running and if you’ve already been elected then you will be removed from office,” Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer says this happened to a Cascade County Sheriff in the 1940s. He also says Montana law is unclear who would be appointed Governor if Hill were removed.

Schweitzer says Hill could rectify this issue by returning the half million dollars to the State GOP. The Hill Campaign says it’s keeping the money as of now.

Montana GOP Executive Director Bowen Greenwood calls this showboating by Governor Schweitzer that’s distracting voters from the issues.

“There’s one thing that’s at the center of this race for Governor and that’s that Rick Hill is the candidate to create more jobs at better wages for Montanans and that’s the message we’re trying to get out. I think the people of Montana are probably pretty disappointed that the democrats have nothing but political process stories to talk about,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood also correctly points out the only candidate for Governor who has been found guilty of campaign finance violations at this point is Democrat Steve Bullock. The state deputy commissioner for political practices says the Bullock campaign violated election rules by writing 11 checks that were signed by someone other than the campaign’s treasurer or deputy treasurer. Bullock campaign officials say staff members signed the checks when the treasurer was out sick and they didn’t know then it was against the rules.

MAKING CALLS

Earlier this week, Schweitzer helped out making calls for Bullock.

“April, this is Brian Schweitzer, I’m here in campaign headquarters and I’m supporting Steve Bullock,” Schweitzer said into his cell phone Tuesday.

“Well, here’s what I need you to do, I need you to spend that night with your mother in law and make sure she’s voting for Steve Bullock too,” Schweitzer said. “Thanks cowgirl, love ya. Bye.”

Schweitzer was actually sitting right by Democratic Candidate Steve Bullock. Bullock’s campaign office in Helena is headquartered downtown in a space still retaining the multicolored walls from its previous status as a Taco del sol restaurant.

Campaign staff and volunteers sit at plastic folding tables with their cell phones and scanning lists.

“To call folks we already know have received ballots, and they haven’t sent their ballots in,” Schweitzer said.

Governor Schweitzer has been stepping up his support of Democratic candidates in the closing days of the 2012 election.

Putting out ads and campaigning for statewide Democratic candidates and some legislative candidates too.

Schweitzer has also been vocal in his support for Initiative 166, but that actually goes back to the Spring.

But again, a lot of the focus now seems to be on the Governor’s office  .

“We have a lot invested, all of us in Montana, and me maybe even more than some and I want to make sure Montana continues in the same direction and Steve Bullock is the guy to get it done,” Schweitzer said.

“Is it also important for your legacy?” I asked “To see that voters put Steve Bullock in your place when you leave, is that sort of a vindication of your record?”

“We’re not looking for any kind of vindication,” Schweitzer said. “What I’m concerned about is I’ve got children and my kids are gonna want to stay in Montana and they’re gonna want good paying jobs. Nancy and I want to make sure that this Montana we love continues going in the right direction.”

As for the direction of the state’s highest profile race, the Tester-Rehberg Senate matchup–Schweitzer is staying out of that one. This despite being a very vocal supporter of Tester’s when he was first elected in 2006.

“Jon Tester is a well-known commodity, people know and trust Jon Tester and of course unlike Steve Bullock or some of these other candidates in Montana, They’re basically talking to us about seven times every 30 minutes on our televisions at home and they’re talking to us on the radio,” Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer hopes his popularity will translate into some more Democratic votes for candidates who aren’t getting quite so much airtime.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Campaign Beat Oct 26 – Sally, Chuck and Mike talk about the $500,000 question…

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk, Mike Dennison

On this edition of “Campaign Beat”, our weekly political analysis program, News Director Sally Mauk talks with Lee newspaper reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison about the flap over the $500,000 donation to Republican Rick Hill’s gubernatorial campaign, the final push in the tight U.S. Senate race, two new attack ads in that race, and the impact of absentee voting…

Candidate Profile: Rick Hill, Republican for Governor

Rick Hill tours Homestead Helicopters in Missoula

Former Montana Congressman Rick Hill has been running for governor full time for the last two years.

During that time he has honed his vision for expanding natural resource development, changing education and putting priority budgeting in place in state government.

News about Hill the last two weeks has been dominated by a contested $500 thousand donation the candidate received from the state Republican Party.

Hill argues that donation was legal because it came after a federal judge tossed out the state’s contribution limits earlier this month, but before an appeals court put the limits back in place six days later.

His opponent, Democrat Steve Bullock says the donation was illegal and just this week, a judge ordered Hill to stop spending that money while the case is under review.

Latest polls show the race is very close with a very large piece of the electorate still undecided.

We have posted profiles on the two men asking to be elected to the state’s highest office.

In this feature, Capitol reporter Dan Boyce spends a day with former Congressman Hill, a man whose vision for the state would look quite different from the Montana of today.

Candidate Profile: Steve Bullock, Democrat for Governor

Steve Bullock speaks to supporters in Bonner Park in Missoula

Democratic Attorney General Steve Bullock has been running to be the state’s next Governor since September of last year. The Montana native was raised in Helena and says his campaign is looking to help define the state he passes on to his kids.

Before his one term as Attorney General, Bullock operated a private law practice in Helena and is known for being the architect of a bill which raised Montana’s minimum wage.

We will be posting profiles on the two men asking to be elected to the state’s highest office.

In this feature, Capitol Reporter Dan Boyce follows Bullock during a day on the campaign trail to find out more about his vision for the state.