A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

Archives Index, 2017 May 16–31


31 May 2017 — 1754 mdt

Will Gianforte’s story be one of sin and redemption, or just of sin?


On election eve, according to eyewitnesses, Republican U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs to the floor, then struck him in anger. Following interviews by deputies from the Gallatin County sheriff’s department, Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault. As per standard procedure, the Gallatin County Attorney is reviewing the charge.

…read the rest


30 May 2017 — 1712 mdt

Graphical history of single U.S. House district Montana

Following the 1990 Census, Montana lost one of its two U.S. House districts. The incumbent congressmen, eastern district Republican Rep. Ron Marlenee and western district Democrat Pat Williams, squared off against each other in 1992, an election that Williams won with an absolute majority of both all votes and the two-party vote (download Excel spreadsheet).

Go directly to graphs.

Williams won re-election in 1994, solidly defeating Republican Cy Jamison. Steve Kelly, who would win the Democratic nomination in 2002, ran as a liberal leaning independent, winning 9.1 percent of the vote and denying Williams a majority of the total vote.

…read the rest


30 May 2017 — 1004 mdt

Montana Democrats need spirited, competitive, primaries next year

A successful statewide campaign is an order of magnitude more complicated than a legislative district campaign. As a general rule, running for statewide office is the best way of learning how to run for a statewide office.

There’s a good argument that Ryan Zinke prevailed in the 2014 general election because of the experience in campaigning statewide that he obtained as soldier of fortune Neil Livingstone’s running mate in the 2012 Republican gubernatorial primary, and as a candidate in the vigorous 2014 Republican primary.

A similar good argument applies to Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, another also-ran from the 2012 Republican primary for governor, and runner-up to Zinke in the 2014 Republican primary for the U.S. House.

…read the rest


27 May 2017

Petitioning at the polls


During voting at the Flathead County Fairgrounds on 25 May, volunteers for Water for the Flathead’s Future collected signatures for a ballot measure that would effectively prohibit the water bottling plant proposed for Creston. And yes, those are plastic bottles of flavored, and possibly carbonated, water that you see on the table. I would have decanted my drink into a reusable container lest I appear a hypocrite.


26 May 2017 — 1117 mdt

Quist has best Dem 2-party numbers in last four U.S. House elections

Libertarian Mark Wicks was not a factor in the just concluded special congressional election, receiving 5.7 percent of the vote and serving as minor distraction. In that situation, examining the two-party vote is the best way of assessing the strengths of the two major party candidates. In the last four elections for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House, Rob Quist turned in the strongest two-party performance.




26 May 2017 — 0725 mdt

Special election’s turnout almost identical to 2014 election’s turnout

Would Rob Quist have defeated Greg Gianforte in a Presidential election year? That’s certainly possible. Steve Bullock defeated Gianforte in an election year. But the electorate that voted in Montana’s special congressional election was Montana’s midterm electorate, which is smaller and much more Republican than Montana’s Presidential year electorate. Here are the salient number from Flathead Memo’s updated spreadsheet for Montana’s turnout for 1920 through the present:


In 2014, the percentage of absentee ballots returned was 12 percent higher than in the 2017 special election, although 12 percent more of the ballots were cast by absentee ballots. The registration rolls may be bloated. And given the dismal tone of the campaign, many who received absentee ballots may have not voted as a way of expressing their disgust.



25 May 2017 — 2336 mdt

Rob Quist campaigned hard and gave Democrats hope


Democrat Rob Quist conceded Montana’s special congressional election to Greg Gianforte a few minutes ago, after the Associated Press called the election for Gianforte.

Quist worked hard and gave Democrats hope. Enduring savage, scurrilous, attacks, he kept smiling, strumming, and running, preaching the progressive gospel throughout Montana’s far-flung valleys and plains. It was a campaign for the history books — and there’s a book in his campaign that I hope he writes. With his knack for telling stories, it would be a best seller.

I thank Quist for running, and I’m proud to have been among the first to endorse him.

Greg Gianforte begins his legislative career as the least senior member of the U.S. House, and with a cloud over his head from his altercation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. I hope Gianforte represents Montana well, and votes to protect the interests of Montana’s middle class from the cruel policies proposed by President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.



25 May 2017

Election Day notes with time-stamped updates

I’m posting updates as information becomes available, with the newest updates listed first. Go to Flathead Memo’s Election Day Page.

…read the rest


25 May 2017 — 0832 mdt

“Get the hell out of here!”


25 May 2017 — 0714 mdt

Greg Gianforte charged with assaulting newspaper reporter
Gazette, Missoulian, Helena IR, rescind endorsement editorials


Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte cracked under the strain of the election yesterday evening, choking, throwing to the floor, and punching, a newspaper reporter, according to witnesses that included a news team from Fox News. After the Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies concluded their investigation, Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault.

Gianforte’s public relations staff argued the “liberal” reporter provoked the wealthy businessman by asking questions too assertively and getting in Gianforte’s personal space, a spin the Fox team rejected:

…read the rest


25 May 2017 — 0600 mdt

Special election absentee return rate at 72.5 percent

The return rate for absentee ballots in federal elections in Montana is higher for general than for primary elections, as displayed in the graph below. Also displayed on the graph, the return rate as of 1637 MDT for the special congressional election that concludes today. That return rate will increase a few percent as more absentee ballots are returned today, but to me it appears that the return rate will be closer to that for a primary than a general election.



24 May 2017 — 1250 mdt

Joe Lamson’s model predicts narrow Quist victory

Old political hand Joe Lamson believes that the 22 May Gravis poll is an outlier. Here’s his analysis, which he graciously allowed Flathead Memo to publish.

Guest post by Joe Lamson

Here’s what my model’s showing:

I ran some projections based on different projected turnout, 5/22 Absentee returns, projected absentee return rates and different projected Quist percent in a three way race in the absentee and election day votes.

My model showed Quist could win with less than 60% turnout. In fact he did better if turnout was near normal of 56% for last two off year elections. And better still with lower turnouts.

To date absentee ballot return rates for all Montana general elections have averaged 93% with a low of 89% in 2014. So far 67% of the absentees have been reported as returned. If you assume a low of 90% absentee return rate, it would result that overall 82% of the voters would vote absentee and 18%, around 72,000, will vote on Thursday at the polls.

Under that scenario, if Quist receives 51% of the the absentees, GG 47% and Wicks 2%. And on election day if Quist receives 42%, GG 56% and Wicks 2%. Then Quist wins by about 2652 votes. It turnout is 60% under that same vote scenario Quist loses by 1262 votes. If the turnout is 52%, Quist wins by 6568 votes.

Looking at all my various scenarios, I think Quist wins with a 1/2 to 1% margin




23 May 2017 — 1547 mdt

Latest Gravis poll has Gianforte leading by 14 points

A Gravis poll of Montana special congressional election that was released today and apparently conducted yesterday reports Republican Greg Gianforte is leading Democrat Rob Quist 49 to 35 percent, with eight percent favoring Libertarian Mark Wicks and nine percent undecided. Gravis sampled 818 likely voters.

Earlier in May, a Google Consumer Survey of Montana reported Quist was leading Gianforte 48.5–41.9, with 95 percent opting for Wicks. The sample for this survey was small, and it was not weighted to compensate for the demographic differences between the sample and the population surveyed.

First, the polls presented graphically. After that, some discussion.

…read the rest


22 May 2017

A reminder: deliver your absentee ballot in person

Even if you live in Kalispell or another county seat city with a Zip Code ending in 01, do not mail, not even at the main post office, your absentee ballot for the special congressional election. Deliver it in person to your county elections department. Surrendering your ballot to the U.S. Postal Service adds a time consuming step — there’s a reason it’s called snail mail — to the process and could result in your ballot not reaching the elections department by 2000 MDT on Thursday.


22 May 2017 — 0606 mdt

President Trump taking budget axe to means tested programs

A fine, sunny, spring day in the Flathead — with chilling news out of Washington, D.C. According to the Washington Post, President Trump’s budget, scheduled for release tomorrow, calls for huge cuts in means tested anti-poverty programs. Social Security and Medicare are, for the moment, mostly being spared. I’ll explain why below.

Medicaid, which provides health insurance for millions, would be cut $800 billion over the next decade, kicking as many as 10 million people out of the program.

The nation’s primary anti-hunger program also is in the administration’s crosshairs:

…read the rest


21 May 2017 — 0312 mdt

Special congressional election turnout update

As of late Thursday, 18 May, 698,912 of Montana’s 804,400 member voting eligible population were registered to vote; 351,681 absentee ballots had been sent out, and 217,329 had been returned. Those are the latest numbers available to me yesterday on the Montana Secretary of State’s website, which does not report realtime tallies, and which seems to be two days behind in reporting end of the day numbers.

Below, the latest results, presented graphically. Flathead Memo’s 1920–2016 voter turnout spreadsheet is also available for download.

…read the rest


20 May 2017 — 1036 mdt

The book on the white working class that all Democrats should read

Two days after Donald Trump’s stunning defeat of Hillary Clinton, the Harvard Business Review published a provocative essay by attorney and class expert Joan Williams, What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class, that became the most widely read article in the HBR’s history — and the genesis of a book, published this week, that all Democrats who want to do right by their nation, and to win elections, should read: White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America.

Williams defines the white working class not as the poor, but as high school educated middle income people. They resent the poor and the professional managerial elite (PME), and admire the wealthy.

And in 2016 they voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, partly because Hillary Clinton’s campaign decided they didn’t deserve to be members of the Democratic coalition:

…read the rest


19 May 2017 — 0708 mdt

Our democracy cannot survive many more
elections as ugly as Gianforte v. Quist

The special congressional election that ends on 25 May has become Montana’s most expensive congressional election, and possibly its dirtiest. Some of the right wing attacks on Rob Quist are so ugly they qualify as depraved, and liberals have lowered themselves to suggesting that Greg Gianforte may be in cahoots with Russia and is guilty of carelessness that gives aid and comfort to the terrorists of ISIS. In my judgment, the GOP’s excesses have been far worse than the Democrat's.

Politics has never been beanbag, but the current level of viciousness has few historical precedents, and if continued will erode, and erode rather quickly, our ability to govern ourselves. What’s kosher in a civil society society is defined not just by a constitutional structure and law, but also by social and political norms, by which I mean generally accepted informal boundaries on what is legitimate in political discourse and governing.

Yale law professor Jack Balkin addressed that earlier this week in a must read essay, Constitutional Rot and Constitutional Crisis. Here’s an extensive excerpt that should sober even the most reckless among us:

…read the rest


18 May 2017 — 0121 mdt

Flathead Electric overstates the advantages of hydropower

In the May, 2017, issue of its newsletter, Light Reading, the Flathead Electric Cooperative presents a list entitled Advantages of hydropower. Some of the alleged advantages don’t make it past a quick fact check.

…read the rest


17 May 2017 — 1726 mdt

Come on, Democrats: Gianforte is not bankrolling ISIS

Today’s Huffington Post reports that Greg Gianforte, whose wealth may exceed $300 million, has an individual retirement account that includes $47,000 of stock in LaFargeHolcim, a French cement company with a factory in Syria. According to HP:

Payments made to local armed groups to secure the factory may have unwittingly ended up in ISIS coffers, the French newspaper Le Monde reported last year. CEO Eric Olsen resigned from the firm last month.

This is neither a BFD nor a LFD, neither a tempest in a teapot nor a squall in a saucer. It’s just an attempt to smear Gianforte, who has not displayed conspicuous enthusiasm for settling Syrian refugees in Montana, as a funder of terrorists who have beheaded Americans.

It’s dirty politics, opposition research run wild.

Almost everyone with a diversified investments portfolio owns a piece of something that stinks. That’s the price of fiscal prudence. Neither Gianforte nor anyone else orders his investments banker to buy stocks in slimy corporations that bribe foreign officials and finance lunatic insurgencies.

This is the second time Montana’s Democrats have tried to question Gianforte’s patriotism by flagging a dubious stock in his investments portfolio. A few weeks ago, the MDP tried to tie him to the Russians because he owned Russian stocks.

Give it a rest, Democrats. Gianforte’s problem with wealth is not the stocks that he owns. It’s that like Mitt Romney, he’s lost touch with the middle class.



17 May 2017 — 0548 mdt

An old tune for a new President’s apologists

Here’s a song for all of the people who don’t let pride or shame get in the way of serving, supporting, and sprinkling hosannas on, Donald Trump. The clip below is from an obscure English film shot in the 1930s. The lyrics first appeared in the 18th century.

In good Prez Trumpy's golden time,
When Donald came in fashion,
A zealous White House aide was I,
And sucked up with a passion.
To keep my job I lied and lied,
And sent the truth a-crashin'.
Loyalty left me pie-eyed,
But Donald blessed my bashin'.



16 May 2017 — 1712 mdt

The long, lonesome, journey of a ballot from Whitefish

A friend mailed his ballot from Whitefish at the end of last week. It was postmarked in Missoula on 8 May, received by the Flathead County Elections Department on 12 May, time-stamped with that date, and on 15 May entered into the state’s database as accepted. My friend believes the elections department processed his ballot efficiently, and I agree.

But the U.S. Postal Service’s handling of his ballot was the antithesis of efficiency.

…read the rest


16 May 2017 — 0614 mdt

Mail ballot postmark law, angel of political death

Montana law should allow ballots postmarked on or before election day to be counted. Officially, election day is the last day voters can cast a ballot. But for Montanans who vote by mail, the de facto last day is actually the last day they can mail a ballot and have a reasonable assurance that it will be delivered to the elections office. That day may actually be a week to ten days before the election ends given the snail’s pace at which the U.S. Post Office moves mail.

An election day postmark law is not a new idea. California accepts ballots postmarked on election day:

Vote-by-mail ballots that are mailed must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by your county elections office no later than 3 days after Election Day.

Montana should do adopt a similar law, but accept ballots that arrive five days after the election closes.

Everything that Hillary Clinton touches turns to defeat. She’s baaaack, reports the Guardian, with a new group called Onward Together (her failed Presidential campaign’s slogan was Stronger Together).

Clinton said in the email that the organization is “dedicated to advancing the vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election”. The figure is a reference to her popular vote victory over Trump, a fact that apparently continues to irritate the president.

On Twitter, Clinton said Onward Together would start by supporting a handful of liberal organizations, including the prominent Swing Left and Indivisible, which are Democratic groups focused on winning the House in the 2018 midterms. She also cited Color of Change, which is focused on criminal justice reform, Emerge America, which trains Democratic women to run for office, and Run for Something, which helps recruit and support millennials running in down-ballot races.

The vision her campaign advanced was Make Hillary Great by making her the first woman to be elected President. She botched the election, inflicting Donald Trump on the nation and placing 80 years of social and economic progress at terrible risk. No one should forgive her for that, or forget what she did. No Democrat who wants to win in 2018 should have anything to do with her. She’s an angel of political death.