I guess it’s the businessman in him, perhaps a bit of the salesman.
Overall, I was quite impressed by this 8-city tour he managed to pull off over the course of two days.
Let’s get right into it.
Gianforte’s First Day of Announcing
Whoever’s on his Twitter account did a pretty good job getting the message out that he was telling the crowd.
I went ahead and made up an infographic of that message, or what I believe to be the main Gianforte campaign points:
He was in Sydney at 11:30 AM.
At 2 PM he was in Lewistown.
Then at 4:30 PM he was at Thompson Precision in Kalispell.
He did another stop in Kalispell, though I’m not sure where exactly.
At the end of that first day Gianforte must have been beat.
Rumor had it that he’d been going around the state via chartered flights.
That could be the case – I’m not sure.
I do think he had enough time between events to drive, if you look at his schedule below.
What I do know is that he made his third Kalispell stop at Moose’s for pizza and Missoula’s Coldsmoke beer.
Gianforte’s 2nd Day of Announcing
Some of you might know that the plant is owned by Brian Hoven. He beat out frequent #mtpol-poster Tom Glover for a House seat in 2012 by about 800 votes.
At noon Gianforte was in Helena, where he was on the front page of the paper.
James DeHaven, the Capitol reporter that was working in Nevada, had this photo to share of Gianforte speaking this morning.
Bullock was in Billings at the time, talking with students at City College there about graduation.
This just so happened to be the same time that Missoula County Democrats were meeting outside the Union Club to discuss their 2016 campaign message:
The Missoula County Democrats Meet
The meeting was upstairs. There were 20 people or so at the meeting, which was held upstairs at the Union Hall.
Some of those present included:
- Kim Dudik
- Ellie Hill
- Andrew Person
- Dave Kendall
- Dick Barrett
- Diane Sands
- Willis Curdy
There were quite a few others, but honestly, I’m not the best with names.
I talked with Andrew Person before things got underway. He’s going to have a tough race against Adam Hertz this year in HD 96.
Another person I talked with was Kim Dudik. She had Gary Marbut run against her last time, though I don’t think he’ll be running this time as he had heart surgery over the winter, something I mentioned in my Missoula City Council gun background check debate post.
Overall, with this meeting the Missoula Democrats had an amazing chance to get their message out before any other Democrats in the state, or at least an organized Democratic voting bloc.
This was a big thing, and that’s why the lack of media attention is such a painful thing.
Thankfully, the Missoula media pulled through.
Martin Kidston of the Missoulian was there, taking notes and a few images.
I also saw Peter Christian from KGVO radio at the meeting.
He was taking notes and got a couple pictures. His post is now up on KGVO's site.
I was surprised by this media presence, as there was no interest in anything the Missoula Democrats did in 2014.
So this wasn’t just people talking to each other, they were getting their message out. Besides that, they were meeting, getting an idea of who their colleagues are, and could be in Helena.
The fact is, most of these folks will be in Helena in 2017. Missoula favors Democrats and Republicans hardly ever win.
As of right now, only HD 93 and HD 97 have no Democratic Candidate. For Republicans, however, six seats have no candidate.
So they had a great chance to get their message out. Alas, they just talked about the bad things with Gianforte.
Things started off with talk about everything Gianforte is doing wrong, not what the Democrats are doing right.
After a bit we got to those accomplishments, however.
During the meeting, Andrew Person spoke quite strongly and forcefully on Bullock’s successes.
He was talking about how Greg Gianforte’s message that the Montana economy is weak is not going to win.
Person is a good speaker, perhaps owing to his legal work, and that’s going to be tough for the more soft-spoken Hertz to beat…in my opinion.
Kim Dudik got up after that and also questioned why Gianforte was running.
She spoke of common values that liberals, conservatives, and independents all hold – Montana values.
Things that Gianforte is doing that Missoula Democrats don’t agree with include:
- Tax breaks to the rich;
- Opposing the Disclose Act;
- Supporting groups that privatize national forests;
- Criticizing seniors for taking social security with Biblical concepts;
- Opposing a woman’s right to decide her own healthcare decisions;
- Working against all equality, but especially LGBT equality.
After that Dudik spoke of how Bullock is protecting the LGBT community. She asked, ‘would Gianforte repeal the recent equality order that Bullock just passed?’
Greg Gianforte’s values do not reflect what Kim Dudik wants for her children, she said.
There was a question about the infrastructure bill. Dudik explained that we had an ideological divide over bonding.
This was unfortunate, she said, because lots of people want this regardless of their political affiliations.
The defeat of that infrastructure bill was a detriment to Montana, she said.
After that Dick Barrett said that Greg Gianforte has an incredible level of ignorance regarding what’s going on in the state.
“He doesn’t understand what the infrastructure bill was or who defeated it, and he does that all the time,” Barrett said.
For instance, Gianforte routinely says that Colstrip will lose 7,000 jobs yet there’s only 5,000 jobs in that county.
At that point Andrew Person said that partisanship is the greatest threat facing Montana, because it leads to no solutions at all.
Person mentioned that everything passed last session took bipartisan work.
After that Martin Kidston of the Missoulian asked about the dark money Citizen United rally taking place in Missoula today.
I hadn’t heard of that.
Democrats seemed to want to get out of there, but I asked what they hope to accomplish in Helena next session.
- The infrastructure bill is the critical thing that needs to be done, I was told.
- Tax credits to businesses that hire and train to veterans is something else that will be pushed.
Actually this is one of Andrew Person’s efforts. His veterans bill got out of House last time but didn’t make it out of Senate.
This will help get veterans good-paying jobs in Montana. Considering that Missoula County has 15,916 veterans, this will probably help him.
Peter Christian of KGVO asked if anyone would be attending the Gianforte event. Also he asked if anyone would be asking questions.
I was the only one to raise my hand that said I was going, and I mentioned that I probably wouldn’t ask any questions as Gianforte wasn’t taking any.
I’m not sure a lot of people knew where the Gianforte event was. It could also be that the Gianforte event was being referred to as the Citizens United meeting – I dunno.
Kim Dudik then mentioned a whole array of things they tried to get done last session, and those will carry over.
- Early childhood education;
- Getting healthcare working better;
- Job training;
- Human safety.
On that last one we’re mainly talking about human trafficking issues.
At that point Willis Curdy asked about criminal justice reform.
Kim Dudik said the Council of State Governments West is working to improve some of these things, like the time people spend behind bars.
The trick is done while still ensuring rehabilitation happens. Other state models will be chosen.
After that the meeting was over and people took off.
Gianforte Announces His Campaign in Missoula
It took place on Main Street, just a street up and two blocks over from the Union Club.
It was held at Advanced Technology Group, or ATG, which is a business and information technology consulting firm.
They have 60 employees in Missoula and the average pay for those individuals is $80,000 a year.
I had a good chat with Tom Stergios, the head of the ATG Missoula office. He told me that he’s had Senator Jon Tester in to talk before.
So he supports Democrats, as I’m sure many of his employees do…if not most.
The thing is, Tom likes Gianforte’s message of jobs. He credits Gianforte with helping ATG go from 3 people to 60 people.
Companies like ATG feel that we need more high-paying, high-education and high-skilled (for the 21st-century) jobs.
Tom has those and he’s known Gianforte since 2012. They’re in the same industry, after all.
Gianforte makes the product and ATG helps get that product to market.
I’d say there were 50 to 60 people at the event. The place was kind of empty of furniture because the company is moving into their 4th office.
We had lots of GOP legislators there. I saw Nancy Balance there as well as Ed Greef.
There were several other representatives of the general Missoula area, though I didn’t recognize them all.
I spoke with Aaron Flint before we started. It was the first time I’ve met him and he was pretty well-spoken and friendly and an all around nice guy.
He gave me the press packet for the event, or the 8-city tour in general.
Flint went ahead and brought up the Democratic charge that Gianforte won’t be taking any questions from the press.
He told me that he’s got a one-on-one set up with Lee Enterprises tomorrow.
I also overheard him say to Martin Kidston of The Missoulian that he could have a one-on-one interview next week.
He also told me how the Democrats making these dark money charges against Gianforte got real quiet when Gianforte delivered his pledge to the governor’s office today.
As you can see from this image, they looked quite stunned:
Gianforte showed up at the Missoula event at 2:35 or so.
Tom went ahead and introduced Gianforte at the event.
Gianforte got started by recognizing his wife Susan, who he’s been married to for 27 years.
He had his prepared comments but he didn’t really need to look at them.
The speech primarily consisted of him telling about the same thing he’d been saying at the other stops.
It’s called staying on message and he spoke about his background and how he first got started in Montana.
Most people said he couldn’t start a global technology business in a rural state like Montana.
That company grew to 1,100 employees, workers who had an average salary of $90,000 a year.
He said that the Montana work ethic combined with good leadership creates limitless possibilities.
Gianforte spoke about his business creating other jobs in construction, retail, and a myriad of other fields. This eventually led to increased transportation options, and of course jobs.
Innovation, hard work, and faith created those jobs – not government handouts.
When asked why he’s running for governor, Gianforte says that he wants his kids around the kitchen table on Sunday mornings.
He wants to see his grandkids go to recitals and school plays and all the other things that he’d miss out on if those kids were living out of state.
Gianforte mentioned the prairie chicken quote we’ve been hearing, saying there’s a chicken in Helena as well, one too scared to stand up for your jobs.
We heard the 7,100 job loss that Montana will take with the Colstrip closure – the singled hardest economic hit to Montana in the past 30 years.
Montana needs new leadership, Gianforte says, telling us that Bullock failed to deliver on infrastructure.
A water bill in Culbertson is $1,200 a year and will go up by 18% this year.
State spending has gone up by 20% in the past 3 years.
Montana has consistently been at the bottom of the nation in terms of wages, and we’d be dead last if it wasn’t for Mississippi.
Our kids have become our most precious export, Gianforte say.
“We’ve had enough of empty suits,” he says, “and that Montana can prosper again.”
Gianforte says we can stick with the same, or change the way we do business in Montana.
We can’t expect high-paying jobs to be created by the government sector, Gianforte says.
After this we saw a reiteration of the main campaign platform of Gianforte...which you can see in that infographic near the top of the post.
He mentioned the Regulation Roundup.
That’s the name of the tour to figure out the job-killing regulations that businesses have to deal with.
“When I’m governor, we’ll put ‘em out to pasture,” Gianforte says of those regulations.
The business equipment tax as well as the massive surplus are two issues for Gianforte.
He knows that this money is the hard-earned money of Montanans and wants to give it back.
“A stunning combination of incompetence and complacency” is what Bullock’s “billion dollar accounting error” showed, according to Gianforte.
After this Gianforte went into the concept of telecommuting in Montana, which I wrote about last week.
- He then mentioned he’ll be donating his whole governor’s salary to charity.
- Also, he’s released the past 10 years of his tax returns.
- And he mentioned his pledge to tear up the checks of any PACs donating to his campaign.
“It’s time to bring campaigns out of the shadows and into the light,” Gianforte said, throwing down the challenge to Gianforte.
A round of fire-up the troops talk followed, where Gianforte asked everyone to join him in making Montana better for business and giving Bullock a pink slip.
Gianforte pledged that he’d campaign everyday with the same determination he showed in that room today.
A lot of people were fired-up and happy. There was lots of clapping, at least 12 to 15 incidents of the speech pausing for applause.
After this Gianforte went around the room and shook hands and met people and did a little chit-chat.
Hearing Flint talk earlier, I overheard that Gianforte doesn’t want to do a whole lot of talking after events because he’s trying to speed off to the next event.
That’s a plausible argument, but Democrats don’t want you to hear it. They want you to think that Gianforte is avoiding the press at all costs.
Overall, the campaign seems pretty open to me.
I mean, Flint gave me a press folder with Gianforte’s announcement speech, the pledge he delivered to the governor today, and a short biography.
I didn’t stay around to talk with Gianforte, myself. I probably could have, but I wanted to get back and write up this story.
Besides, I already met him last week.
Gianforte sent me his book after I mentioned it on my site. I sent him a thank-you note and after that we arranged to have coffee.
I was really surprised by that.
So I had a half-hour chat with him here in Missoula and he pretty much told me a lot of what he’s telling people in his announcement speech.
Overall, he seems like a nice guy, not at all like the terrible person that the Democrats are trying to make him out to be.
He’ll be at the Hilton Garden Inn at 5:30 and we can expect him to be there on November 8 as well.
It’ll be his campaign headquarters on election night, and if this opener is any indication, he should do well.
Who might not do so well is Steve Bullock.
- How is he going to top an 8-city tour?
- And how is he going to keep up with Gianforte’s entrepreneur tour that’s set to commence in a couple weeks?
- And how is he going to respond to that darn PAC pledge that Gianforte threw in his face today?
I don’t think Democrats know.
Ah hell…let’s just attack Gianforte!
Yes, the Gianforte campaign is off to a strong start.
More, they’ve put Bullock off-balance with that PAC pledge today.
Remember, Bullock hasn’t even filed yet.
I don’t blame him – how do you top this event by Gianforte? Clearly he should have filed when the legislative Democrats filed last week.
Oh well – maybe he has something big in the works.
Gianforte will continue on.
He has a new tour starting, and when I asked campaign worker Amy Lunde if he was taking a well-deserved day off tomorrow, she said nope, they had some stuff planned.
So the Gianforte campaign is in full-gear. It’ll be quite interesting to see how it unfolds and how the Bullock campaign responds.
Personally, I don’t think the Democrats have an effective message. So far their message consists of saying everything is great and that Gianforte is terrible.
I’m not sure that’ll resonate, and I’m not sure constant attacks for 10 months will work.
So far the Democrats are on the defensive. Will they continue to be?
We’ll have to wait and see…though I’m not optimistic for them.