Sunday, March 16, 2008

Real primary challengers

Chuck Johnson wrote last week that the governor and Roy Brown both have an incentive to come up with primary challengers because otherwise they will have to give back money (more than $200,000 by the governor, about $17,000 by Roy Brown.)

In the piece, he wrote:

The law setting up this campaign finance limit was part of a well-intended, if at times impractical, voter initiative passed by Montana voters in 1994.

Since then, no candidate for governor from either political party has had to give back any money for the lack of a primary opponent. Both parties had contested primaries each election for governor in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Earlier in the piece Johnson had implied that token challengers would be found in order to save that money:

You can’t help but wonder whether Democrats or Schweitzer will dredge up some sacrificial lamb to take one for the team by mounting a late campaign against him.

Or whether Republicans or Brown will find some nobody to give him a token primary challenge.

That may sound cynical, but it’s worth a lot of hard-raised cash to the two major candidates to have challengers.

Johnson perhaps had advance intelligence about at least one token challenge when he wrote that.

We don't think he meant to imply that the the last three elections had contested primaries in both parties as a way to circumvent campaign contribution limitations. But it could be taken that way by someone who doesn't follow elections closely or remember their details.

At least when it comes to Republicans, consider:

1996 -- a highly popular and undefeatable Gov. Marc Racicot was challenged from his right by Rob Natelson. Racicot certainly didn't need any help, and if he was going to get any, it wouldn't have come from Natelson, as anyone who remembers Natelson's criticisms of Racicot's policies will attest.

2000 -- Natelson again, this time taking on Lt. Gov. Judy Martz in an open race. He carries 43% of the vote. Serious primary.

2004 -- a serious and bruising 4-way primary on the Republican side, which Sec. State Bob Brown carried with a plurality of the vote.

We'll let the Dems speak for their own primaries in the last 3 elections. As we recall, the last one wasn't much of a primary, and the main "gripe" of the guys who lost was that Bohlinger was a Republican -- which only served to help the governor's eventual campaign. But it had the trappings of a serious primary.

But with regard to the current "challenge" to the governor, well, it seems that Johnson was, as is so often the case, spot-on. The question is whether he also knows something about the Republicans' plans.

The Republicans would be completely justified in responding in kind with their own token challenger to Brown, but they might do well simply to play this one straight, since we imagine that most Montanans are not amused by this kind of manipulation of Montana's campaign-finance laws.


Pogie said...

I have to say that this post is interesting, given your position as the critic of bias in the media. Is it possible that your support of Roy Brown has colored your judgment just a bit?

I have an e-mail address on my web site. I would have been happy to answer any of your allegations or insinuations directly, but allowing me to do so wouldn't fit your agenda terribly well, would it?

Let me clear. No one connected to Governor Schweitzer or the Democratic Party put me or Jason up to this. We're not running as faux opposition to preserve campaign funding, we are running because we are interested in ideas, specifically education.

Is our campaign a long shot? Certainly. But do you really want to limit elections to candidates with huge bankrolls? Enormous donations?

That doesn't sound right to me.

Montana Headlines said...

Chuck Johnson wrote a piece predicting that both parties had an incentive to come up with token primary challengers.

Within a week, you had declared your intent to run, linking to that very article that stated in the title that the governor "needed a primary challenger," and stated from the outset your intention to vote for the governor, rather than for yourselves.

You have been "serving up snark" since 2005, and yet curiously not one word of snark had ever been directed at the governor's policies on your blog, let alone anything critical of his educational policies. Nor is there anything on your campaign website donig a comparison of his educational policies with your better ones. So your contention that you are challenging the governor on education stretches credibility to the outside observer.

I will take you at your word that no one put you up to it. Individual initiative is a wonderful thing, and the governor should be glad that you took care of things for him without him having to ask.

Pogie said...

Did you think to ask me why I haven't been critical of Schweitzer the past three years? Of course not. You decided to attack my motives.

Here's a reason why. I have been teaching either his son or daughter in one of my classes the whole time. How appropriate would that have been, for a teacher building relationships with his students to have been tearing down their father after work?

It would have been unwise, and unprofessional. So I decided from the beginning that I wouldn't use my blog to criticize the governor.

I don't question that decision at all.

Montana Headlines said...

Where did I question your motives for not criticizing the governor? I merely pointed out that you have a self-described "snarky" blog that has never criticized the governor on education or on anything else. I stated that it struck me as stretching credibility to believe that you have a beef with the guv when you've never criticized him -- and still don't.

The questions I raised are pretty obvious ones to raise about a blogger who is seeking public office.

One would think that you could have proactively stated on your website that you have been teaching the governor's kids in school -- hence no criticisms of him in your blog, and none on your campaign website.

But then, that might have raised more questions about personal connections with the governor if that had been part of the public news in the press about your run, I suppose.

Look -- what you are doing is perfectly legal. Just don't expect people to believe that you aren't doing it to benefit the governor when you announce your intention to vote for him and when you don't criticize any of his policies regarding your signature issue.

Maybe helping the governor has nothing at all to do with your run -- only you know that. But don't expect people who don't know you to believe you on that point just because you say so.

You don't believe everything politicians say just because they say so. When you criticize Roy Brown do you e-mail him first, and then print what he tells you rather than what you think based on your analysis and observations of his behavior and words?

Of course not -- so why should things be any different for one candidate for governor than for another?

Anonymous said...

Fascinating little discussion here.

Pogie says he didn't want to criticize the governor's policies as he's teaching the governor's kids. But then he's going to run against the governor? Isn't that a rather stark statement of criticsm?

Unless, of course, its meant as something else. And I suspect the governor's kids are smart enough to figure that out, like everyone else.

By the way, wasn't it rather odd that the Lee story today said nothing about the governor getting to keep his primary donations if he had primary opposition (even though there was mention of the situation in an earlier article). All the story did was make an odd allusion to the issue by saying Pogie denied anyone from the Schweitzer camp put him up to it.

I do have to give Ed Kemmick for raising a question about it in his blog, though. (although it is too bad that not many people see it there)

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing how Pogie's Pinocchio campaign progresses.

Anonymous said...

You know MontanaHeadlines... I think you should watch your tone... you are an anonymous blogger... it's easy for you to compare and contrast public views and public bloggers... why don't you take off the mask?

Pogie said...

Fair enough. I understand that you're skeptical of my motives. I'm comfortable with them, and ultimately, that's what matters.

I do hope that Roy Brown and his supporters do have something more substantive to discuss in this campaign than this, though.

For what it's worth, you might want to review my education issues page more closely. There are differences and criticisms there.


Montana Headlines said...

Anonymous -- not sure what you mean by "my tone." Seems to me that "my tone" is pretty much always the same.

Anonymous said...

Yeah "Montana Headlines," I wonder if making such ubsubstantiated claims is such a good idea for an 'anonymous' blogger such as yourself. My mother always told me that people in certain positions should never blog anonymously as it's really easy to be outed these days. Just a though.

Montana Headlines said...

Anonymous -- which "unsubstantiated claims" are you referring to? It seems to me that your accusation of my making "unsubstantiated claims" is, well, unsubstantiated.

Give me an example, and I'll either defend myself if I think I'm right or apologize if I realize that I've been wrong. People who have been reading MH for some time know that I don't hesitate to apologize or retract when it is indicated. You are apparently new around here.

As to being "outed," it is an eventual inevitability, whether I do it myself or someone else does it for me.

The trouble with your thinking on that topic, though, is that you're obviously fishing and hoping to intimidate someone who has something to lose by being "outed."

The main reason that I have been blogging anonymously for more than a year is precisely that I am a political nobody and that I wanted my political commentary to stand or fall on its own merits. Were you to "out" me, it would provoke a collective yawn across the state, while people ask "who?"

If you want to challenge me, do it like Pogie did -- with substance and clarity of thought.

Anonymous said...

Well, why aren't you attacking any of the other gubernatorial primary challengers, for example?

Montana Headlines said...

Anonymous, first you'll have to explain how your question backs up your assertion that I am making "unsubstantiated allegations." A little logic and orderly thought would help in this discussion.

As to my not commenting on other primary challengers, you'll have to let me know who -- at the time I wrote the original post -- was named in the press or blogosphere as being a gubernatorial primary challenger other than Pogreba/Neiffer.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting to hear your analysis on the other candidates... come on... at least pretend to be balanced...

Montana Headlines said...

What's there to say? We now have several candidates who have all filed for the same fundamental reason -- to help out with Schweitzer and Brown's fundraising.

Pogreba is the one who has gotten the press (and not just at MH, but in the mainstream press, as well) because of being the one to break the ice and jump in first, presumably to be a good egg and help the governor -- and maybe get a little recognition and push favorite issues in the process.

When you were harassing me about not saying anything about the other Dems in the race, you failed to note that at the time I wrote this post, Pogreba was the only candidate who had announced.

You obviously knew more about the plans of other Democrats planning to jump into the race than was public.

When there is something interesting to comment on, I'll post on it.