Montana Missoula Democrat Insiders Not Acting Very Democratic


Hot on the heals of Skink’s previous post on the shenanigans of the Montana Dem Party, we have another prime example of the Dem party wanting to tinker with picking the candidate before the public has a chance to weigh in.

Yesterday, Missoula County Democrats met to begin winnowing down the slate of candidates to replace Missoula County Commissioner Bill Carey, who is retiring. While Carey’s retirement raised more than a few eyebrows on its own, we’ll leave Bill to his retirement without inspecting the ghosts in his closet…

In a parody that uncanningly plays out what was going on at MT Cowgirl with the Mt Dems picking a new party leader, and the governor’s office while picking the winners loser (John Walsh) to finish out Senator Baucus’ term and run as an incumbent, Missoula County Dems seem to be losing touch with their history and their base.

5 candidates submitted applications to fill out Carey’s term. Of the 5, only one — Jim Parker — committed to being a placeholder candidate and to not run for the office. Missoula County Dems advanced 3 candidates to the two remaining County Commissioners to pick a replacement. Fortunately, the Commissioners have the choice between Parker and former City Councilwoman Stacey Rye. Missoula political newcomer Chantelle Gaynor was the third candidate chosen by the straw poll, but my sense is that the Commissioners would choose Rye, a political known, over Gaynor, a newcomer. You can read up on the bios about the applicants here.

Now where this gets interesting, outside of the obvious problem of two County Commissioners picking a candidate that could act as an incumbent and theoretically garner an advantage (how’d that work out for Walsh?), we get to look at the eviction notice that Skink and I received at 4&20 Blackbirds last month from Jay Stevens:

But, honestly, with Lee Enterprises cutting its state political bureau, now is the time for informative writing about state and local politics. Now is the time for reasoned views about the critical issues that affect everyday Montanans and Missoulians.

Which is why I put a lockdown on the site for now. It’s time for a reboot.

I don’t know what will happen to the site. I hope it will continue. I’ve asked jhwygirl to step up again, and I think she’s game. We’ll try to recruit new writers, and we’ll keep some of the old ones. But we’ll redirect the site to opinions and news that people need and like.

And the next (and up to the time of this post) and last post at 4&20 had jhwygirl plugging Stacey Rye for County Commissioner:

…and Stacy Rye is back on the political scene, throwing her hat in the ring for Missoula County Commissioner.  With the loss of Supermontanareporter John S. Adams, and now Mike Dennison and Chuck Johnson from the state capital, I’d like to do my part and get back to facilitating awareness of legislation in action.

In other words, some pretty milquetoast stuff.

And electing Stacy Rye to Missoula County Commissioner should be a no-brainer.

I have to interject here that my intent is not to beat up on jhwygirl’s enthusiasm for Rye’s candidacy, nor am I suggesting that Rye could be a bad candidate (and jhwygirl wasn’t aware of who else was running for the interim appointment when she wrote her piece). I just happen to think it is premature for Missoula Dems to be throwing all their weight behind Rye (she won the straw poll yesterday, beating out Parker by 6 votes). Particularly with such an interesting candidate that Gaynor would make. If she doesn’t get the appointment, I hope she stays in the race to raise her issues and give Rye a good challenge.

Does it really serve the political interests of Missoulians that a handful of Missoula County Dems forward on 3 candidates, and that 2 Commissioners get to pick the incumbent if he/she chooses to run for election? And given an appointee’s temporary incumbency, is it good for Missoulians that she be given an advantage over other possible candidates? I for one would love to see Rye and Gaynor (and whatever other candidates throw their hats into the tussle) debate issues critical to Missoula County on an even keel.

The reasoning behind having Rye as an incumbent make me very uncomfortable. Here’s a few quotes from the Missoulian’s coverage of the straw poll:

A plug for Parker:

“I want to speak in favor of the candidate I won’t be voting for next November, and that’s Jim Parker,” said party member Ben Darrow. “I would encourage his consideration. As a placeholder, he gives commissioners some interesting options. He’s not electable as a person because he’s so progressive [emphasis added]He can push things forward in a way other candidates cannot.”

In my estimation, Parker would make a great interim appointee, not the least because of his intention to not muck up the primary process. As to being “so progressive”, I’ve known Parker for a long time, and while maybe compared to rightward-leaning dems he’s “progressive”, he’s really a pretty mainstream Democrat for Missoula.

And for Stacy Rye:

Tim Lovely, a precinct committee member, said the advantage of incumbency shouldn’t be overlooked.

“We need to think seriously about who we’re bringing forward here,” said Lovely. “Once a person has spent time in office, they’re more likely to be reelected to that office. By not choosing one of these candidates who will run for reelection, we’re putting ourselves at a disadvantage.”

Lovely said the party’s mission statement said it was bound by regulation to elect Democrats.

“We cannot pass up the opportunity to give one of those Democrats the position of incumbency,” said Lovely.

So we’ve basically got Tim Lovely creating a political landscape for Missoula County that precludes the interests of “progressives”, as that would disadvantage the Democrat Party. Does Lovely agree with Ben Darrow that “He’s [Parker’s] not electable as a person because he’s so progressive”? Good question!

One would think that Stacey Rye could quite capably run on her record as a Missoula City Councilwoman, and the grand communitarian she is (she’s currently listed as the Community Relations Manager at the United Way of Missoula County). Of course, that City Council record is peppered with some of what I would consider less than progressive votes, and that I have criticized over the years.

One of those votes was for not extending the time frame of the Missoula Performing Arts Center proposal for the empty Fox site downtown (which took the land reservation for the Fox site away from them). And what did that vote precipate for the site? Well, 4 years later we still have an empty site with the promise of a hotel/convention center and a bunch of condos and restaurants catering to the wealthy. Then there’s the downtown homeless debate and votes she was involved in several years ago, but that’s a topic for another day…

Finally, I just have to make the statement that it seems that Missoula Democrats seem to be going the way of Montana Dems, and I have one piece of advice:

Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face!

And maybe 4&20 will offer up some “reasoned views” as Mr. Stevens says, to counter our criticism of the Montana and Missoula Dem party here. Or maybe Missoula dems will just keep sliding politically to the right due to lack of pushback (or maybe that is Stevens’ goal)…

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27 Responses to Montana Missoula Democrat Insiders Not Acting Very Democratic

  1. petetalbot says:

    So, JC, what process would you use to fill the interim position? Hold a special election? (I’d imagine there’d be about a 20% turnout.) I was there last night and it was small ‘d’ democracy in action. Anyone who wanted to throw their hat in the ring for the interim county commissioner seat, as a Democrat, was welcome to do so, and five people did. Then, precinct committeemen and woman, after listening to the candidates on a variety of issues, got to vote. You, too, can be a precinct committeeman, although I’m guessing you’d be in Lake County. I’m sure the central committee there could use you.

    Anyway, we advanced three names and the two commissioners will decide which one. I think any of the three would be an excellent choice, but I’m not sure getting the position is a leg up. Whoever gets the seat will now have to vote on issues which will make some people happy, some not.

    I supported Jim Parker as I like the idea of a “place holder” who won’t be running for the seat in Fall 2016. My guess is the choice will be Shantelle Gaynor just because she is a newcomer without a history that could be perceived as controversial.

    After the interim period, there’ll be a county-wide race and the candidate with the best message and campaign will win. I imagine the Republicans will put up one or two people also.

    As you know, I’ll always back the most progressive candidate in any campaign (unless they’re total dimwits) and all three of the candidates have progressive credentials and are on the ball. The two who didn’t make the cut were good candidates, too. I was proud to be a part of the process and in no way do I feel that ” … Missoula will just keep sliding politically to the right due to lack of pushback…”

    We be pushing back all the time.

    • JC says:

      It’s not the appointment process that is at fault, Pete. It is the attitude that a handful of Dem insiders get to choose an incumbent outside of the normal electoral process, and that they still think that incumbency automatically conveys an advantage. The John Walsh debacle proves that incumbency isn’t always an advantage.

      I like Parker’s view that County residents and the Commission would be best served with a placeholder candidate and a clean primary. Do you have an issue with that? Is it really “small ‘d’ democracy in action” when non-elected party insiders pick an incumbent wanting to run, as opposed to a placeholder? That’s my main point here.

      • petetalbot says:

        You’re making no sense, JC, and comparing apples to oranges. Read my comment: I supported Jim Parker as a ‘place holder’. The state Democratic process (the John Walsh, Dirk Adams, Amanda Curtis) endorsement is history and has no relation to what we did in Missoula. We got no “attitude” here. You do.

        • JC says:

          Pete, if Democrats want to understand that they are making their “big tent” smaller and smaller by alienating progressives and leftists in a misguided stumble to the right, then they should listen to disaffected activists, instead of taking those who could be (and once were) part of their local support base for granted.

          And I don’t know why you’re getting all upset with me, as I wasn’t singling you out in my comment, and didn’t even mention you in my post. But Tim Lovely’s claim that Missoula dems need an incumbent to win, damn the primaries, and Ben Darrow’s claim that Jim Parker is too progressive to be elected signals that the dem party is getting out of touch with a significant part of leftist Missoula, is headed rightward, and thinks they know best for the rest of everybody who isn’t a die-hard conservative. I find that sort of hubris and split in Missoula’s left side politics to be indicative of a downward spiral, paralleling state and national dem party trends.

      • petetalbot says:

        Precinct Committeemen and Women – the folks who sent the three names to the commissioners – are elected officials (their names appear on municipal ballots every two years). They are not “party insiders.”

        • JC says:

          What’s wrong with holding a special election to replace a retiring Commissioner? I realize that would necessitate a change instate law. And Precinct Committeepersons are elected by the Party, under state law. So Montana law relegates Committeepersons to only the dem or rep party, unless a third party gets on the state ballot, and that has happened when…???

          Actually, I think of precinct Committeepersons elected on party ballots as a succinct definition of “party insiders.” More to the point, that the interim selection gets to be handled by current County Commissioners (like the Governors selection of Walsh and Curtis) is an ultimate party insider decision, and happens behind closed doors.

          What’s wrong with an opening in County Commissions (or state or federal offices for that matter) triggering an open special election to finish out a term?

  2. I do wish that the words “controlled opposition” appeared in print now and then. The Democratic Party is not hard to understand. The rank and file might comprise what constitutes a “left” point of view in this crazy place, but the leadership are right wingers who have siezed leadership posts. The best way to control the opposition is to lead them.

    It is no accident that progressives are shunted aside as right wingers like Walsh, Bullock, Baucus, Tester and others assume leadership. The skids are greased for these are actors. The party exists to absorb progressive movements and crush them. True liberals find themselves marginalized, forced to vote for losers like Walsh and pretend they are real, as there is no other choice.

    Study up on controlled opposition. It will all make sense to you then Pete.

  3. steve kelly says:

    “Collaboration” is controlled opposition. No better example than what passes for forest “conservation” these days. Pew and other extractors give money to Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Montana Wilderness Assn. etc. to pay career “professionals” to make damn sure no real grassroots movement can gain enough strength to conserve anything extractors may want now or in the future. These groups are part of the Democratic wing of a global extractive industry cartel.

    Pick any substantive political issue — war/peace, single-payer health care, labor/wages, food security, housing, etc.. — and it’s structured pretty much the same way — bought and paid for. There’s a cartel for almost everything, and you’re either in or out.

  4. petetalbot says:

    Just a little upset, JC :-). What happened at the Missoula meeting was nothing like the John Walsh selection at the state level. Everything was above board – there was no “insider” action. There was a lively discussion and folks like Lovely expressed their preferences and others, like Darrow, voiced theirs. The fact that Parker got the second highest tally indicates that progressives had a significant role in the outcome. I certainly don’t see Missoula County Democrats “headed rightward.”

    There has always been friction, at all levels, in the Democratic Party. It keeps things interesting and is why I’m still involved (and pushing progressive policy).

    You know, JC, you could be the “dem party.” I’ll bet there are a bunch of open seats for precinct committeemen and women up there in Lake County. Organize your friends and family and take over the damn central committee. Then you can call the shots, at the local level, and maybe even have some influence at the state level.

    • JC says:

      I mostly stay out of Lake County politics, Pete. You piss off the wrong people and bad things happen… The sheriff’s dept. here is corrupt and vindictive. Much easier to lob volleys over the Rattlesnake. But I still work in, and maintain all my connections to Missoula County, and really, I’m only a mile or so over the border…

  5. Big Swede says:

    Democrats (nationally) not acting democratically could mean they’re acting like socialists?

    • steve kelly says:

      By your definition, as are Republicans. Which kind of “socialist” do you prefer? If we agree that the system is “corporatism” is there a difference?

      • Big Swede says:

        A liberal is a progressive is a socialist is a communist is a fascist. The only difference is how long it takes for the camps to be opened.

        • steve kelly says:

          Conflate much? I know how much you like things made simple. Glad you cleared that up. Thanks professor.

        • Steve W says:

          Once again proving to us and the rest of the blog reading world just what a complete doofus Swede is, was, and will always be.
          Thanks for being you, Ingemar!

    • petetalbot says:

      The Democrats aren’t acting like socialists enough, IMHO, Swede.

      • steve kelly says:

        noun so·cial·ism \ˈsō-shə-ˌli-zəm\

        : a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies

        Please help me understand, which major industries are owned and controlled by the government? Private/company property is everywhere you turn, and encroaching on most public spaces. Most countries in the world today do not operate socialist economies. An example, please, if you’d be so kind, Pete, Swede, anyone.

        • Craig Moore says:

          Pete’s advocating for the socialist takeover of Missoula’s commercial water company over at ID. The present employees are against it.

          BTW, note to moderator. I have had comments stuck in moderation. Just figured out I had transposed some letters in my email address. Please delete those moderated comments.

        • JC says:

          Several Mountain Water employees have complained that they are being pressured by the company to take a stand against public ownership. There are employees that would rather work for the City of Missoula than whatever transnational corporation holds the company at the moment.

          As to your moderated comments, I’ve deleted them. I’m not sure why, but the blog is setup to moderate a commenter’s first comment, as represented by email address. There’s been no intention or efforts to enforce commenting policies like at MTCG or ID.

        • JC says:

          Steve, a lot of folks think that public ownership = government ownership. In the case of Mountain Water, that would be the case, and I have no problem with monopoly utilities being publicly held.

          What Swede has a hard time with is the notion of cooperative or communal ownership, i’e. Cooperatives (banks, phone companies, electric utilities, food coops, etc.) or alternative payment systems (time banks, sharing setups like MUD’s tool library, etc.) or worker-owned businesses. Cooperative ownership is the antithesis of socialism. Worker-owned businesses are antithetical to capitalism.

          The new economy needs to distinguish itself from outdated notions of capitalism, socialism and communism, if only because those terms carry such baggage. There are a lot of alternative economic forms that don’t need to rely on failed systems, and capitalism is in its late stages, failing right before our eyes.

          Single payer health care can be had through a statewide cooperative (no profits, or surplus funds are reinvested in whatever the cooperative — the populace of the state — wants like preventive health care or to buffer against future demographic changes) where the federal government collects a small percent of every paycheck or transaction (withholding or VAT depending on your preference). And every citizen is guaranteed full basic coverage life to death. Luxury policies can be purchased on whatever failed market system the purchaser wants.

        • Craig Moore says:

          JC, would you be so kind as to share your source as to the water company employee wishes.

        • JC says:

          Personal conversations.

        • petetalbot says:

          I didn’t realize that a district judge’s ruling that a city has the right to use eminent domain against a utility company was “socialism,” Craig. I learn something everyday.

          BTW, I think one of the few things the city did wrong it’s bid to get Mountain Water was not to do more outreach to the company’s employees.

        • Craig Moore says:

          Gosh Pete, above you were lamenting that Dems weren’t socialist enough and now you are running away from that characterization for the government taking of private property to convert to public ownership. Having that “taking” pass through the judicial process doesn’t change that fact.

          I would be interested in your justification for the loss of pay and benefits by the water company employees under “public” ownership.

  6. steve kelly says:

    Agreed. Just trying to define the words so we can proceed without misunderstanding. A local utility like Missoula’s water supply hardly fits the usual definition of “major industries.”

    Even in so-called “communist” Russia and China major industries issue publicly-traded stocks and bonds, ie. privately held companies. Nor do any countries practice so-called free-market capitalism as an economic system. Try to break that news to someone drooling in their bud light after a day of watching FOX and listening to ClearChannel. Alice and The Mad Hatter ain’t got nothin’ on this crowd.

  7. JC says:

    Jim Parker weighed in on the Dem caucus yesterday in another interview with Martin Kidston:

    He [Jim Parker] said his appointment would also avoid a public perception of party cronyism.

    “I honestly believe it’s going to support the strength of the party if the electorate sees that it’s not trying to impose its will on the people prior to the election,” said Parker. “We have good candidates with the viability and skill to do the job well, and it’s to the benefit of Democrats – but mostly to the citizens – that they have equal footing to run their race. I believe that’s healthy for our democracy.”

    Gotta agree with Parker here. What I was pointing to in my post was the issue of party cronyism.

  8. JC says:

    This whole thing reminds me of the history of Missoula’s New Party (of which I was involved in many ways). Poking around in the Indy archives, I came up with this statement from Dan Kemmis:

    “I see it as a rhythm or cycle, especially in Democratic politics,” says longtime Democrat and former Missoula Mayor Dan Kemmis. “There seem to be periods in which the energy of the progressive wing of the party begins to relax a little bit, people lose their edge and organizing starts to fall off. The party becomes sort of tired and worn out, and it’s that kind of vacuum that I think the New Party stepped into.”

    “The party becomes sort of tired and worn out…” Yeah, Kemmis is right on about that, and what was true when the New Party branched off from the Dems over 20 years ago, is definitely true today, if not moreso. It seems that today’s breed of dems in Missoula have forgotten the lessons they learned during the time of the New Party.

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