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

13 October 2017 — 1519 mdt

Russell Fagg would be strongest GOP challenger to Tester


Former Republican legislator Russell Fagg retired as a district judge today after serving 20 years on the bench in Billings. He’s scheduled an event for tomorrow and is widely expected to announce his formal candidacy for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Sen. Jon Tester.

State Sen. Albert Olszewski (R-Kalispell), Gallatin newcomer Troy Downing, and Montana Auditor Matt Rosendale have already announced their candidacies for the nomination

Fagg’s been running a de facto shadow campaign for months. His exploratory website discusses issues, but trys to stay within the sideboards of an exploratory campaign by coyly asking visitors whether he should run for the U.S. Senate. Democrats think he stretched the constraints of exploratory status past the breaking point.

Earlier this week, the American Democracy Legal Fund, a group with ties to the brass knuckled Clinton crony, David Brock, filed with the Federal Election Commission a 58-page complaint alleging that Fagg violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. I don’t think their case is all that strong, but just filing the complaint allows Democrats to discuss the possibility that a sitting judge, a man supposed to be a model of rectitude, is a crook.

Fagg has deep roots in Montana. His 86-year-old father, Harrison, a state legislator during the seventies and eighties, is a noted outdoorsman and mountaineer who, with Russell’s brother, Grantland, scaled all 27 of Montana’s 12,000-foot and higher peaks.

Russell’s lean fitness, and rugged good looks of a westerner’s westerner, would match up well against farmer Jon Tester’s burly and beefy bulk; and as a man born in Montana he could not be derided by Democrats as an outsider in thrall to east coast financial interests.

Democrats would much rather run against Rosendale, who immigrated from Maryland, shoots drones with a deer rifle, and has the blessing of right wing troublemaker Steve Bannon, or Downing, whose campaign is chaired by Ryan Zinke’s wife, and who seems to be the kind of guy who would fly his own flag over the Senate in solidarity with Zinke. Olszewski’s a wild card who’ll have trouble raising enough money to be competitive.

Fagg’s biggest problem is winning the nomination. Relatively speaking, he’s moderate in a radical right party. A large primary field helps him, as it could split the teabagger vote, allowing him to win with a weak plurality.

What’s in the name of Fagg

At The Western Word, J.M. Brown quoted from the Surname Database:

This interesting English surname originated in Kent as a metonymic nickname describing a fishmonger or baker. The surname dates back to the 13th Century. One source attributes the name to the Old English word “Fagg”, a flat fish, plaice or a flat loaf, and is reflected in the early modern word “Fadge”. Another source informs us that the nickname is a variation from either of two homonymous Middle English words “fagge” and “Fage”, the former meaning a fault in the weave of a piece of cloth, the latter, deception, or flattery.”

If Fagg runs a fishy or half-baked campaign, he’ll have plenty of time to enjoy his return to the private practice of law.