According to the Secretary Of State’s office, Montanans are filing in record numbers for public office. Yesterday there were a record 429 Montanan candidates filing for office. And that’s either a sign of increased participation among the population or increased activism- maybe both. Democrats are vying to regain lost Legislative seats and Republicans will be looking to take back the state Land Board, and make a dent in the higher offices of U S Senator, Governor and Attorney General- while trying to hold on to the seat vacated by Denny Rehberg in his bid for the Senate.
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Democrats are optimistic.
“Our candidates are firefighters from Billings, moms from Missoula, farmers from Big Sandy, and other hard working Montanans around the state,” said Jim Elliott, Chairman of the Democratic Party. “We are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of candidates who reflect the values of Montanans.”
Under Democrats’ leadership the state’s economy has maintained a budget in the black and a high record of job creation, higher than elsewhere in the nation.
“Attorney General Steve Bullock and Brigadier General John Walsh (retired) have what it takes to help small businesses create jobs, improve education and keep Montana’s economy on the right track,” said Elliott. “Montanans have come to expect fiscal responsibility from the Governor’s office, and that’s what they’re going to get from Steve and John.”
The Party announces its field of candidates at a time when women’s rights have been under extradoridnary attack in Congress and the State Legislature. Congressman Dennis Rehberg has been at the center of attempts to end women’s access to preventative care, and some Republican legislators went so far as to compare women to cattle.
“We are especially proud that we have dozens of strong women candidates running for office,” said Elliott. “We will not stand by while irresponsible political games threaten women’s health. Our candidates are committed to honoring the important role women play in all our lives.”
Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee chair Lauren Caldwell said during a news conference Monday that the large number of GOP candidates competing against each other in primary races is a telling sign of GOP disorganization and doesn’t send a message of unity.
“They’re struggling for the soul of their party right now,” Caldwell said. “They’re focused on political wrangling … and there is a struggle on their side to keep the candidates that they had in the last legislative session and to not have them challenged.”
Republicans aren’t having that. “Every single election cycle the Democrats try to use the same spin, and they are wrong every single time. Every one of those cycles we gain seats. It is a wrong interpretation of what goes on,” Montana GOP Executive Director Bowen Greenwood said. “We are a party that believes in competition and the free market of ideas. That produces winning candidates for us. It has in the past, and it will now.”
“We are committed to electing a legislature that advances the interests of Montanans in every community,” maintains Democrat Elliott. “Our field of legislative candidates will hold themselves accountable to the people they’re supposed to represent.”
On Saturday, nearly 1,100 Montanans attended the Party’s annual fundraiser, headlined by Jon Tester. That number that exceeds any in recent memory, with the exception of the 2008 event, which featured Presidential candidates.
In a year when the (mostly) Republican craziness of the 2011 Legislature still rings fresh in the minds of Montana voters, the Democrats may have more than a fighting chance
A list of current candidate filings can be found on the Secretary of State’s website at sos.mt.gov/Elections.