So who is this woman that you might not know a whole lot about, and does she really stand a chance of being chosen as Montana’s next Senate candidate?
Montana’s Franke Wilmer
At some point Wilmer got married, had a daughter, then got a divorce. For much of the 1980s she struggled on her own, working as a waitress, carpenter, and substitute teacher as she worked her way through college.
In 1981 she got a B.S. in Political Science from Shepherd University, a school of 4,200 in West Virginia. By 1985 she’d received her Master’s in Political Science from the University of Maryland, with an emphasis on international relations. A PhD followed in 1990 at which point she found work as an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina at Spartanburg. After a year there she was hired by Montana State University in Bozeman, becoming an associate professor in 1996 and then head of the department in 2001.
That last book currently has a terrible cover showing on Amazon (the Look Inside copy is fine) and a single 3-star review…not the best way to go about selling eBooks. You’ll also notice that the book is $40 for Kindle and $150 for paperback. This in no way makes sense to me as an author that sells books, but oh well.
Ms. Wilmer Goes to Helena
She was reelected again in 2008 and 2010. In the 2009 Legislative Session she was elected Speaker Pro Tempore. During her time in the legislature she served on the Education, Ethics, State Administration, and Fish, Wildlife, and Parks committees.
In 2012 Wilmer threw her hat into the ring for U.S. House of Representatives, entering a crowded 7-person race. She picked up 18.4% in the primary, or 14,836 votes, but it wasn’t enough against Kim Gillan, who got 31% and the nod, and later the bragging rights of losing to Daines.
Wilmer’s good at raising money, too. In 2006, her first Montana race, she raised a whopping $23,308. Remember, this is for the Montana House of Representatives. In 2008 she felt more secure, only raising $9,638. That went down to $7,454 in 2010 although in 2012 she must have felt threatened – donations rose to $19,959.
It was the closest race Wilmer fought, and she won it…barely. Wilmer received 51% of the vote, or 3,567 votes to Burnett’s 3,425.
By 2014 Wilmer’s time in the House was finished. She decided to run for Senate District 32, held by Larry Jent since 2000, but who decided not to run again. Wilmer entered the race and ran unopposed in the primary, picking up 749 votes. In comparison, her Republican challenger, Jedediah Hinkle, picked up 1,069 votes.
Here we’re seeing a trend in those seeking the Democratic Senate nomination – either the candidates are in very tough races that they could lose this November (probably because of Obamacare) or they simply decided running in 2014 wasn’t worth their time, for whatever reason. Could this nomination be nothing more than a way for them to stay in Montana politics when their chances would otherwise be slim? Perhaps.
Franke Wilmer doesn’t seem as exciting as Amanda Curtis to me, but she does seem like someone with more experience, more connections, and more fundraising capabilities. All of those things will be needed in the three months we have to win this Senate race, but will it be enough?
I think Franke Wilmer will have a bright future in Montana politics…in the Montana Senate. It might not be this year, but I know she’ll be back and I suspect a woman of this intelligence will be serving in the some governor’s administration in the future.
But will she be serving in the U.S. Senate in 2015? I’m not holding my breath.