Sure, Bohlinger and Adams and Wanzenried are in the mix…but when I sit here and look at my homepage – with three women shown across it – I feel we have a good chance in November. What’s more, I know that each one of these women is articulate and can make Montanans care about her.
Will it be enough? Montana hasn’t chosen a Senator like this since the 17th Amendment was passed in 1913, which called for the direct election of Senators. (Please correct me if I’m wrong). Prior to that we had incidents of the legislature being bribed, often by as much as $100,000, as was the case in 1901 with William A. Clark.
But you can read all about that in my book Braves and Businessmen. Right now you want to know who Linda McCulloch is and if she can take that nomination. I think her chances are good, as you’ll soon see.
Montana's Linda McCulloch
Why would she move west? I have a feeling it’s because she met Bill McCulloch in 1978 and married him. She moved to Montana that same year and began teaching as a paraprofessional in Ashland. She was just 23 years old and decided education was her calling, so enrolled at the University of Montana, earning a B.A. in Elementary Education by 1982.
She worked at the campus library while putting herself through school, and afterward worked as a substitute teacher in Missoula elementary schools. McCulloch worked her way up, becoming a librarian and then teacher. By 1985 she moved over to the Bonner School District, where she stayed until 2000, when she was elected as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, a position she held from 2001 to 2009.
Getting Into Politics
After three terms McCulloch decided against the usual switch to the Senate and instead ran for a statewide office. In 2000 she ran against Elaine Sollie Herman for Superintendent of Public Instruction. The kinds of sums she raised for her House races were impressive, but they weren’t going to do in a statewide race so McCulloch got to work.
She raised $157,349 and it paid off – she earned 206,941 votes, defeating Herman 52% to 41%.
To keep the job four years later, McCulloch raised $225,270. Again it paid off and she was reelected as Superintendent of Public Instruction over Bob Anderson in the 2004 election, earning 56% of the vote to his 43%.
Since a Superintendent of Public Instruction can only serve two terms in any 16-year period, McCulloch needed to find another line of work. There are few in state government that pay $104,635 a year (governor’s salary is $108,167, and these are 2013 numbers) but one that’s pretty close is Secretary of State.
McCulloch threw her hat into the ring and raised $184,865 to help her do it. She ran unopposed in the primary and defeated incumbent Brad Johnson in the 2008 general election, narrowly. McCulloch received 233,717 votes, or 49.3%, while Johnson received 228,412 votes, or 48.2%.
McCulloch raised just $98,898…the only candidate I can think of to raise fewer campaign dollars each and every year. Not that it mattered – that DUI before the election 2010 election was still on peoples’ minds, as was corruption.
Johnson signed a series of salary bonuses to his appointed staff on his last day in office in 2009, giving McCulloch some immediate work to do on her very first day. The checks amounting to $58,000 were declared void and McCulloch went on to have a series of successes over her next few years in office, and something to throw back in Johnson’s face.
McCulloch won the race handily, winning 245,024 votes, or 51%, to Johnson’s 214,976 votes, or 45%. (Libertarian Roger Roots ran in this race and picked up 16,622 votes, or 3.5%).
What’s Next for Linda McCulloch?
She can’t run against Bullock – he’s got one more term left. She can try for another cabinet-level position, but really, that’s it. This is a problem we run into in the state – our best and brightest being term-limited out. Of course, maybe they never would have had the chance to become our best and brightest if they’d never had the chance that term limits created.
It’s a tough call, and has been for some time. What is clear is that McCulloch can raise some serious money and can defeat Republicans. The last one she defeated did himself in, but as you saw, their first race was mighty close, within 5,000 votes. Still, knocking off an incumbent is something to brag about.
Could McCulloch win against Daines, and is that even important? We’ve profiled three women in Montana, each at a different area in her career. Some are up and coming while others have been around awhile. Jockying for status and future election prospects is a big part of this, don’t forget that for a second.
But don’t forget that many might not want this attention, either. Many people from around the state are contacting these women and doing their best to convince them to run. Many others are contacting people behind the scenes, perhaps even without their knowledge.
I am certain that each will accept the nomination if it’s given, and I’m also certain each will fall behind whoever is the nominee, and 110%. I think most Democrats in the state feel the same way, and I hope we don’t have a lot of sore losers at a time when we really, really need to be coming together.
Ultimately I think we’re looking for grace and dignity and the ability to beat Daines, but also lose without throwing a fuss. We’re looking for someone that can make us proud after we’ve been drug through the mud this year, for a variety of reasons. We’re looking for strength and determination…and balls – and I can’t help but think we’ll find them in a woman.