The old battle between the “responsible Republicans” and conservatives in the Montana Legislature comes to a head in today’s primary. How important is today’s primary election? Well, apparently the top supporter of the Democratic party in Montana believes that the winner of many of today’s Republican party primary contests will eventually be the winner of the election in November. As a result, he’s telling his members to vote Republican. It’s all an attempt to try and get the so-called “responsible” Republicans elected. But does it also end up sending a message to Republican primary voters that they are free to vote for a more conservative candidate for the legislature, since the winner today is likely to win in November anyway?
I first reported this news on the radio last week. The full e-mail from Eric Feaver with MEA-MFT is at the bottom of this post.
Here’s some of the additional coverage that has appeared in recent days.
Lee Newspapers: State’s largest union tells members to consider voting for certain Republicans in GOP primaries
The state’s largest labor union, MEA-MFT, usually endorses Democrats — but in Tuesday’s primary election, it’s advising its 18,000 members to consider voting for a slew of centrist Republicans in hotly contested GOP legislative primaries.
Feaver has sent emails to MEA-MFT members in recent days, identifying the two-dozen or so contested GOP legislative primaries across the state that feature harder-line conservatives versus more moderate Republicans.
The union also is sending postcards to its members with the same information, he said, with the same message: If you can vote in the Republican Party primary, do it, and choose the moderate.
Montana Media Trackers: MEA-MFT Urging Members to Vote in GOP Primaries
During the 2013 legislative session, a number of Republican state senators and representatives earned the nickname “the crossover coalition” for voting with Democrats and against their own party on key public funding bills, rendering the GOP’s large overall majority ineffective at times. This helped the legislature deliver a state budget that raised overall state spending by 11 percent for the 2013-2014 biennium.
Media Trackers also dug through the listed candidates’ campaign finance documents on file with the Montana Office of Political Practices and found that the MEA-MFT president has personally donated to four of the Republican legislative candidates listed in the story in 2014. House candidates Christy Clark of Choteau, Ray Shaw of Sheridan, and Senate candidate Duane Ankney of Colstrip each received $100 from Feaver, while House candidate Rob Cook of Conrad received a total of $150.
Cook has also received a total of $260 in donations from other MEA-MFT employees.
Meanwhile, from The Great Falls Tribune: State GOP primary mailers heat up
Some of the same lawmakers who decried dirty campaign tactics, “postcard votes” and “dark money” electioneering during the 2013 Legislature also have ties to political organizations that sent out negative campaign mailers in legislative primary races in the final days before Tuesday’s primary election.
“I just find that it’s pure hypocrisy that they’ve been complaining about last-minute mail pieces, and they just did it (sent negative mail pieces) a week or two ago,” said Sen. Art Wittich of Bozeman.
Campaign finance records show Montanans for Responsible Leadership on May 27 spent $42,500 on direct mail pieces targeting Republican Senate candidates Barry Usher, of Billings; Jed Hinkle, of Bozeman; Scott Boulanger, of Darby; and GOP House candidates Mike Hebert, of Somers; Bob Brown, of Thompson Falls; Ann Morren, of Conrad; Ray Gorham, of Shepherd; Sarah Laszloffy, of Laurel; Jeff Essmann, of Billings; Matthew Monforton, of Bozeman; Bob Wagner, of Harrison; Brooke Erb, of Dillon; Mike Miller, of Helmville; and Frank Delgado, of St. Ignatius.
The group on May 20 spent $22,500 on mailers targeting Republican Senate candidates Gordon “Gordy” Vance of Bozeman, Mark Blasdel of Kalispell, Essmann and Boulanger, and House candidate Kris Hansen of Havre.
FULL EMAIL FROM ERIC FEAVER WITH MEA-MFT