Sure, some religious zealots and corporate cronies do, respectively, but few others in the state are lining up to.
Now, it is early, but the truth of the matter is that both Gianforte and Johnson are giving GOP donors the cringes.
- It’s easy to cringe when Gianforte opens his mouth about religion or gay people or in-sourcing;
- It’s easy to cringe when Johnson talks about his time in the Secretary of State’s office, or tries to explain away his last-minute money-grabs;
- It’s easy to cringe when the opposition brings up bigotry for Gianforte or drinking and driving for Johnson.
So these are problems, big ones, the kind that require extra baggage to lug around.
You know who doesn’t have that baggage? Bob Brown.
Bob Brown’s had a long and distinguished political career in Montana.
The last time Brown ran for office was in 2004 and he was beat out by Schweitzer.
That must have hurt, but honestly, that was a tough contest. Schweitzer is a good talker, he’s interesting, and he has good ideas.
I’m not saying Brown doesn’t, but gosh, it’s hard to go up against that.
It’s a lot easier to go up against someone that doesn’t quite have the oratorical gifts as our former governor, and Steve Bullock is that someone.
Could Bob Brown do it, could he beat Bullock and become Montana’s 25th governor?
I think he could. I think lots of people could, even a Democrat (I discussed this last December in a post called How Would Dirk Do It?).
Today it’s Bob Brown’s turn. He has a good chance to win and I’ll discuss how in this post.
#1 He Knows Montana Issues Like the Back of his Hand
Honestly, would you want to be in a debate with Bob Brown? I’d love it myself, but I doubt anyone on stage would like it.
Imagine the curveballs this guy could fling, the complete out-of-left-fielder’s that this man’s historical knowledge brings.
Hell, he was in the legislature in the 70s and remembers the state’s third Constitutional Convention. The number of political personalities from Montana’s past that he’s encountered must surely be mind-boggling.
Can you imagine the stories? This guy could really impress people in far, out of the way spots, you know, the rural areas Democrats abandoned two decades ago?
People like that stuff out there, the handshake, the look in the eye, the sitting across the table from you.
Over here in the west and in the cities that doesn’t go over so well. It makes us nervous, actually. We’re used to the TV or barring that, a big event where we don’t have to meet anyone. That face to face stuff is just not our way.
Is it Bob Brown’s way? It could be – he’s from Whitefish, has lived in Helena, is now in Missoula, and has ran for statewide office and won it and run again many times.
He knows this stuff! Does Montana know he knows his stuff?
I think so.
#2 Bob Brown Has a Long History in Montana
Bob Brown was born on December 11, 1947. Bob Brown was born in Missoula but grew up in Whitefish on the family’s cattle and grain ranch.
Brown headed off to Bozeman for college and got his B.A. in History in 1970. After that Brown joined the Navy for two years. He was out in ’72 and in ’75 he married his wife, Susan Stoeckig.
Bob Brown ran for the Montana House at the ripe old age of 22. It was 1970 and he’d just graduated. He did two terms before making the switch to the Montana Senate in 1974. He stayed in that body until 1996 when term limits got him.
In 1988 had got a master’s degree in Education in Missoula. He spent 27 years teaching world history, American history and government to high school kids in Whitefish between his legislative stints.
After the legislature Brown started lobbying for “a telephone company, aluminum plant, and the Montana university system for four years.”
Does all that experience give him the knowledge he needs to help lead the state?
I think so.
#3 Bob Brown Can Win a Statewide Office Because He’s Done It Before
There was Paul Tuss, J.R. Myers, Russ Fillner, and of course Bob Brown. The primary was held on June 6 and Brown took it with 62,501 votes, or 50% of the vote.
In the general that year it was Brown against Democrat Hal Harper. In the primary Harper had run unopposed and had taken 51,969 votes.
When both men were pitted against each other it was Brown taking the race, 202,369 votes to 174,053, or 51% to 44% (the Libertarian and Reform candidates took about 5% between them).
Brown ran for governor in 2004 mainly because Judy Martz didn’t want to. Brown felt “a call of service” and entered the race.
At the time his wife was a teacher in Kalispell, one of his daughters was going to high school in Whitefish, and both of his parents were sick.
Despite this, Brown threw himself into the ring. He tapped Shelby-native Jason Thielman to be his campaign director. He’d need the help.
Eric Stern, New York-native and son of the NBA Commissioner, was managing the Schweitzer campaign that year. Furthermore, there were three other Republicans running.
The June 8 primary pitted Brown against Pat Davison, Tom Keating, and Ken Miller. Brown took it with 43,145 votes, or 39% of the vote.
What’s so impressive about this victory is that Davison spent $700,000 in the race and Brown only spent $390,000.
Brown was able to do this because he spent wisely and tapped his “deep Montana ties to set up campaign committees in nearly every county.” He was “issue-oriented” and focused on “the need to create and expand jobs.”
In the general that year it was Brown vs. Schweitzer and we all know what happened – Schweitzer took the race with 225,016 votes to Brown’s 205,313, or 50% to 46%.
Even if the Green and Libertarian candidates had not run, Brown still would have lost by 0.8%.
Brown might have won that race if he hadn’t run out of money.
By June he’d been down to $44,000 in cash and $53,000 in debts. Schweitzer, likely with help from Stern’s New York and New Jersey connections, had $440,000 at that point.
Did that loss hurt?
I think so.
#4 Bob Brown is Not a Quitter
He’d been the senior fellow at the Mike and Maureen Mansfield Center at UM. After that he became a senior fellow at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West. In that capacity he conducted more than 70 interviews with old Montana figures.
He’s also “an amateur historian for most of his life and loves history, particularly Montana history.” This is what else Chuck Johnson had to say in 2010:
Schweitzer, a Democrat, said Brown had worked at UM and now has some time on his hands now that he's retired.
"He's a guy who has a keen interest in Montana history," Schweitzer said. "I've respected him over the years, in all the positions he's held in state government. He was one of the youngest legislators, president of the Senate, secretary of state. He has a lot of energy and talent, and I'm looking for people who will be contributing to Montana's future."
Yeah, he lost his 2004 gubernatorial bid, but he kept at it. Another way he’s stayed relevant for the past decade is through the newspapers.
Brown writes some good letters to the Missoulian and other state papers. Whether he’s talking about the legacy of Charlie M. Russell or writing on the 2015 Montana Legislature’s end in a letter called Coalition and Compromise, he stays relevant, he doesn’t quit.
Is Bob Brown going to keep on going no matter what?
I think so.
#5 Bob Brown is More Exciting than Bullock
That’s about to change, because Bob Brown has something that is hot right now – oldness and a curmudgeonly outlook.
Those are hot items right now, as we see with both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
The beard is a nice touch as well, and makes him look a little more rugged, a little more mountain-man-y. Do not cut it.
We need that rugged individualism here in Montana again and a little less of that lawyerly sixpence. Lawyers are only ever thinking about money, but individuals think about people.
The people of Montana want to be thought of again, for they’re tired of the corporations and bankers and union bosses and utility heads getting all the attention.
Could Bob Brown harness that anger and frustration? Could he be the Mr. Magoo-like pol we’re looking for?
I think so.
#6 Bob Brown is Hungry, and So are Republicans
But damn it – I know full well that if Gianforte or Johnson gets the nod, Republicans might as well not piss their money away on this gubernatorial cycle.
Yeah, it’s that bad.
Bob Brown has seen bad before, however. He’s eaten bitterness but he’s never quit.
That carpetbagger and ne’er do well VanDyke took his ass off to Nevada or someplace not a month after the 2014 election.
Pansies like that don’t hold a candle to the Bob Brown’s of the world. He’s from the Rankin school, the kind that realizes losing is something that may happen, not once, but again and again and again.
Both Wellington Rankin and Bob Brown held statewide office (Rankin was AG in the 20s), but only Rankin kept at it long after. He had a string of defeats going all the way up to the 50s.
That hurts, and it can jade you. Is Bob Brown jaded or is he ready for one more go, or two or three or more?
I think so.
#7 Bob Brown is a True Conservative
Cracking down on social issues, abortion, and even pushing for fossil fuels – all of that costs money.
To hell with that – let the businessmen handle that stuff. Taxpayers need their money to fund government and when that’s done they need to be given it back. The way interest rates are these days, we should be passing bills that always give the majority of our surplus back.
Being a true conservative is more than that, however – it’s about being a good steward.
Bob Brown knows what being a good steward of the land is like, for he’s lived here his whole life and his forebears worked it.
- I feel people like Bob Brown will stand up for the state’s Indians, giving them the resources they need to compete in the 21st-century.
- I feel he’d start leading us toward more sensible energy policies so we can, again, compete globally in today’s economy.
- I feel he’ll do away with the continuous focus on marginal social issues by corralling his party into focusing on what’s most important – money.
- I feel that as a teacher and university employee he’ll give a good talking to legislators of his own party, one that makes them realize funding education is in our best interest.
I guess what I’m saying is yes – throw the bones to the Democrats – they want all that gay marriage, abortion, and other stuff. Just give it to them so they’ll shut the hell up and do what you want.
When that happens they’ll more that willingly go along with the needed economic measures the people of the state need. And since Bob Brown doesn’t let bankers keep his balls in their pocket, we know he won’t be short-changing future generations.
Yes, the Montana Historical Society will be built and we’ll get our infrastructure, debt-free, and with cash in the bank on top of it.
We could have had all that stuff last time, but for some reason we didn’t.
Bob Brown won’t let those snafus happen.
Could he be Montana’s next governor?
I think so.