Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gazette gets 3 out of 4 in Billings City Council races

It's always interesting to see who the Gazette is going to endorse in any given election. Reading the tea-leaves in non-partisan Billings City Council races is difficult enough, since the real campaigning goes on neighbor to neighbor, finding out the "real story" (supposedly) on this candidate or that.

Montana Headlines confesses to having trouble following the intricacies of city government in Billings, so this is commentary that is completely free of meaningful issues or critiques -- more of a horse-race kind of thing. (With a little tongue-in-cheek here and there.)

The Gazette did pretty well in their endorsements this time around.

In Ward 1, incumbent Peggy Gaghen, a former field representative for Democratic Senator Max Baucus (something the Gazette didn't mention in its endorsement) won easily -- helped along by an immediate pre-election North Park Task Force putsch of her opponent.

Rumor has it that an organization supporting Gaghen was getting ready to release a video that purportedly showed her opponent applying facial cream onto another man's face, but decided not to, thinking that getting 2/3rds of the vote might be enough after all.

In Ward 4, Jani McCall also won easily in a 3-way race. This is an open seat, but McCall is not exactly a fresh face on the City government scene, having been a lobbyist for the City of Billings for 10 years.

In Ward 3, the Gazette's candidate, incumbent Vince Ruegamer, is leading by a razor-thin 9 votes over challenger Mark Elison. Elison was a favorite of many conservative Republicans. Presumably the Gazette endorsement was good for at least a half-dozen votes, so if Ruegamer's lead holds up, he'll owe his win to the editoral board.

On the other hand, perhaps the reason that Elison was a favorite of so many Republicans was that the Gazette endorsed the other guy -- in which case Ruegamer may nearly have had cause to rue having the Gazette come out in his favor.

In Ward 2 up in the Heights, it appears that the Gazette's guy, incumbent Larry Brewster, is going to be narrowly defeated by Denis Pitman. We don't know anything about Brewster's political connections, but Pitman is well-known from his previous legislative races as a Republican.

So, all in all a very good night for the Gazette and a good night for the status quo on the Billings City Council. Whether the status quo is good for a city government that has recently been in the news most prominently for losing a couple of high-profile lawsuits remains to be seen.

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