Sunday, March 2, 2008

Tussing, Molnar and the PSC race, Part II

When Montana Headlines decided to feature the entry of Billings Mayor Ron Tussing into the PSC District 2 race, it was without any inkling of the vitriol that the post would arouse from passionate haters of PSC Commissioner Brad Molnar. Read the comments for entertainment -- and, taken with a grain of salt, perhaps a little enlightenment.

We had no idea what a fan club Molnar had developed over the years. We're still rooting for the other guy in the Democratic primary -- but we have to admit that the PSC race would hardly be a sleepy one with Molnar and Tussing (and their supporters and detractors) facing off.

David Crisp over at Billings Blog puts it quite nicely:

If Tussing survives the primary, that could set up a highly entertaining race in the general election between Tussing and Brad Molnar: two straight-spoken, smart guys with acid senses of humor and probably plenty to disagree about.

This is the sort of race that makes politics a spectator sport. Bring on the lions.

Montana Headlines is hardly unaware of Molnar's sometimes pugnacious approach to political discourse (although Gazette readers are likely unaware of the life that he brings to PSC meetings, given the generally soporific reportage of the meetings.) Still, unless a more qualified Republican enters the race to challenge Molnar, we suspect we will remain unapologetic in our support for Molnar -- especially if the choice on the other side of the ballot is someone whose temperament is hardly more phlegmatic, and whose knowledge of the issues involved is doubtless inferior.

Agree with Molnar on his policy positions or not, even his detractors have to admit that he has a passion for the details of utilities and how the PSC's work affects the average person. Somehow we have trouble seeing Ron Tussing sharing this particular passion, but we are prepared to be proven wrong in that suspicion.

Does Tussing have a passion for political campaigning and for being in the news? Yes. But it takes more than that to be a good PSC Commissioner.

Tussing should have to convince the voting public that he will be a better commissioner than Molnar. He will have to do better than to drag out the same old canards about deregulation in the 1990's. That dog won't hunt, any more than Republicans can hope to succeed these days in elections just by labeling their opponents as pinko-commie-gun-grabbing-liberals for the 15th consecutive election.

And Molnar-bashers might have some hope in negatively highlighting Molnar's colorful personality if he runs against a conventional politician or against an apparently solid citizen like electrician Tom Curry (Tussings primary opponent.)

But he is running against Mayor Ron Tussing, an amateur musician who penned these delightful and statemanlike lyrics (preserved for posterity in the transcripts of the $1.3 million lawsuit we mentioned in our last post) about the Billings City Manager back when he held the august title of Chief of Police for Billings:

Take this job and shove it, you freaking little creep.
I think you're totally clueless and your bullshit is too deep.

We'll see your "cell-phone-gate" scandal, and raise you every time. Note to Molnar-bashers: start campaigning for Curry, soon, if you want to go down that road.

Some legitimate points were raised in the comments section of our last post: does Molnar miss more PSC meetings than other commissioners? We'd like to know that, and so, we suspect, would voters. Perhaps the Gazette reporting will enlighten us on that.

A commenter claims that Molnar has been convicted of assault and battery (see our response to that in our previous post) -- is this true, and did it happen while he was commissioner, and if it happened before he was commissioner, why wasn't it brought out in the press coverage of the last PSC race if it is relevant to his holding the position? We certainly had no trouble finding press coverage of Tussing shoving someone who annoyed him -- so Molnar detractors should have no problem bringing forth supporting documentation, especially if, as the commenter claims, Molnar was convicted.

Would Brad Molnar's lawsuit against the PSC over deregulation have helped ratepayers had it been successful? (No commenter asked this particular question -- we're asking it because it bears a direct relation to whether that lawsuit was, as claimed by a commenter, frivolous.) This bears exploration in the campaign.

And so forth. A PSC commissioner probably affects the day-to-day life of the average Montanan more than do many state-wide office holders. Who serves on the commission is important, and the issues that PSC commissioners face are ones that we should be at least as conversant with as we are about what the Secretary of State or AG does.

Let's hope that this will be an enlightening PSC campaign. Part of our disappointment at Tussing's entry into the race was that a race between Molnar and Democrat Tom Curry could have centered on policy differences rather than on explosive personalities. But that's a citizen's perspective. From a punditry perspective, Molnar vs. Tussing would be a dream: sort of a to-the-death political cage match.

But who knows, maybe the race will draw the kind of attention that paradoxically gets people to talking about PSC issues? Let's hope so.


Anonymous said...

All one needs to know about the "wonder" that is Brad Molnar need only read Brad's lengthy whining about having to obtain a business license to sell Christmas trees in Billings. Do a search of the name Molnar in Ed Kemmick's City Lights and you will have several sustained minutes of mirth.

Montana Headlines said...

A conservative not liking regulation of simple acts of free enterprise -- now there's a shocker for you.

And yet another penetrating and devastating campaign issue for Tussing to use. Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

an elected official who time and again thinks he is above the rules. Yeah, that's really nothing new. Ask Elliot Spitzer. At least Elliot is educated.

Montana Headlines said...

I looked through the Christmas tree controversy -- it seems that the question Molnar was asking was why some sellers needed licenses and others didn't.

To the extent that this is the case, it doesn't appear that he was acting as though he were above the law. And it appears that he obeyed the law -- but just protested what he perceived as a selective application of it.

Compare this to Tussing, who when in charge of the BPD, didn't think it was necessary to keep tight control of illegal drugs that were in the possession of the BPD. And then he tried to intimidate and harrass the guy who reported it.

Don't ask me -- ask the jury made up of citizens of Billings who made that determination.

And then show me a jury that found that Molnar thinks he is above the law.