Afternoon Extra: Montana Governor 2016

If an outsider looked at the Montana gubernatorial race, they would probably think that there’s no way that incumbent Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, can win re-election. But after examining his opponent, Republican Greg Gianforte, they could probably see why this race is competitive.

The Montana Governor’s race somewhat mirrors the presidential race: One side is tarnished in possible scandals and the other side basically turns people off.

It’s hard to get away from Gianforte – he’s on our TVs, radios, and on our computers.

Here are my very independent thoughts about Steve Bullock and Greg Gianforte with two weeks left before Election Day 2016. Enjoy.

Steve Bullock:

Some might say that Bullock is made out of Teflon – nothing much seems to stick to him. He compares in this area to Montana’s former U.S. Senator, Max Baucus.

Bullock might also be called the “aw shucks” candidate – like Andy Griffith comes to Helena.

Bullock Bumper Sticker

As for Bullock, I think it all starts with him being on his third Lt. Governor in less than four years. That raises a leadership issue. We’ll probably never know what exactly happened between him and his second Lt. Governor, Angela McLean, who might be the better choice for governor instead of Bullock or Gianforte if she ran. I often wonder who she is supporting in this election…

Then there’s the issue of Bullock using the state plane for campaigning and heading to a concert. It’s probably something that has been done by both Republican and Democratic governors, but Bullock is getting hit hard for it. Maybe the legislature will fix this.

The large state contract awarded to a Wisconsin company to promote Montana raised eyebrows because it went to an out of state company and also because someone working for Bullock has a relative working for the Wisconsin company. Maybe the legislature will fix this, too.

Another juicy “scandal” is there are few or no emails from when Bullock was Attorney General. This is probably another job for the legislature to fix.

The Montana Legislature could have a long “to do” list just by keeping track of these perceived scandals by Bullock. There’s more…

A story about the state paying over $900,000 in settlements to state employees that were mostly confidential in nature has not gotten as much attention as it probably should. It’s still a ding on Bullock.

Bullock has many good things going for him. He’s the incumbent. He has name recognition. The state is on relatively sound footing. He’s good looking, which does count in elections. My dear mother, who has since passed, once told me she voted for Bill Clinton because he had nice hair and was a good speaker.

Bullock has an all-American family. He was born in Montana and his opponent was not which matters to some people – “hometown boy does well.”

Bullock has worked with both Democrats and Republicans to pass legislation and that matters to the independents and moderates. Some moderates in my circle say they are afraid if Bullock is defeated the Republican-controlled legislature will run wild and embarrass and harm Montana under a Gianforte administration.

Without Bullock being on watch, some think the Montana legislature just might be stupid enough to ban yoga pants and the United Nations – and probably in that order.

Greg Gianforte:

Greg Gianforte comes across to me and other people I have spoken to about this race as kind of pompous. His campaign people should have portrayed him in his ads as a kind and gentle person, but he is snobbish and pushy. It’s too late to change that now.


Gianforte has tried to portray himself as an outsider fighting the career politicians in Helena. We’ll see how that works out for him. With his money, he can buy most state legislators.

With all the Bullock “scandals” one would think Gianforte would be running away with this race. That’s not happening because Gianforte has his own “problems.”

The public lands access issue near Gianforte’s Bozeman property is still dogging him and we may never know the whole story behind the issue. Public land access is important to Montanans, so this hurt Gianforte.

Although the access issue was big, I don’t think it compares to the audio of Gianforte advocating for a sales tax in Montana. Although he claims he is not for a sales tax, voters already have that in the back of their minds. The only thing that would be worse for a Montana politician to say is he/she is for more gun control. Gianforte did garner the endorsement from the National Rifle Association.

Then there’s the “M” word. Money. With Gianforte spending a little over $5 million of his own money on the campaign, that has to be turning some people off. His opponents have successfully tagged him as the “New Jersey” millionaire – and outsider. Someone told me yesterday after hearing about Gianforte going over the $5 million mark in donations to his own campaign, “Just think about the good he could do with that money by spending it on something useful.”

Greg Gianforte has seen success in the business world and this is his ace in the hole. He has the money to spend to get his message out in the final two weeks, but that can be positive and negative.

Closing Time:

This race will probably come down to which candidate has the better get out to vote effort and how well they use their time and money in the final two weeks. No matter what happens, I would bet this is not the last time we will see these two candidates.

Thanks for reading….


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