Filing ends on June 17, a Monday.
Since I’m interested in filing to run for City Council, I periodically go to the Montana COPP website to see who else is interested.
Today I saw something that really caught my eye, so much so that I had to do a double-take.
You see, it appears that one of the council members from Ward 6 is pissed at the other council member from Ward 6 and would like to see her lose the upcoming election.
The two councilors in question are Julie Merritt and Michelle Cares.
Let’s take a few minutes to dig into this feud.
To fully understand what’s going on here we need to go back in time a bit.
Julie Merritt ran for the open Ward 6 seat in 2017. This seat was open because the old occupant, Marilyn Marler, decided not to seek reelection so she could run for the legislative seat that Ellie Hill got termed out of.
Hill endorsed Marler, and Marler endorsed Merritt. Both women won their races with ease.
Now, the other woman representing Ward 6 is Michelle Cares, who won her seat in 2015.
I think both women are Democrats, and both are more on the liberal than conservative spectrum.
I think both act as rubber stamps for Engen, rarely questioning his agenda and the costs associated with it.
So they’re pretty much the same.
That’s why I wonder what’s going on.
Maybe Merritt’s mouth is the problem.
Last August Merritt came under fire for comments she made on Facebook. The comments pertained to those winning city work contracts, especially if those contractors were critical of the job the local government was doing.
In that social media exchange, Merritt “calls the other contractor a ‘POS’ and then writes she’ll look into an approach to limit their contracts.”
The contractor called a lawyer, but nothing ever came of the incident.
A short time after this, Merritt was called-out for doing embroidery work while concerned citizens were trying to give testimony to the City Council.
She brushed this off, saying the sewing helped her think.
The reason I’m bringing all of this up is because we have a new candidate for Julie Merritt’s seat, and it’s a man named Nicholas Shontz.
Shontz co-founded the company GeoFli, which tries to identify an internet user's location so the website they’re on can alter their ads to better target them.
He lives on Sherwood Lane, lists himself as a Democrat (the races are supposed to be non-partisan) and - here’s the real kicker - he has Michelle Cares working as his campaign treasurer.
Personally, I find it interesting that you’d work as a treasurer for a campaign that wants to unseat your fellow ward representative.
Why would you do that?
I can think of two main reasons - the person currently representing the ward with you isn’t going to run, or you really hate the other person representing the ward with you.
Which one is it?
I do know that Merritt hasn’t filed a C1 form with the state yet, which is a pre-filing indication that you will file to run for that seat.
Other current City Council members do this, like Julie Armstrong, who currently has a C1 with the state.
Maybe this is all much ado about nothing, and Merritt has signaled to Cares that she’s not going to run again, and Cares took this as a cue to work on a campaign to help her run Ward 6, or even as a cue to go out and find a viable candidate to help her in Ward 6.
She views that viable candidate as Nick Shontz.
It could also be that Merritt signaled to Shontz that she's not running and has encouraged him to run. After all, both serve together on the River Road Neighborhood Council.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming weeks.
Merritt might not run, but if she does, we know she’s only ever raised $1,105 before (Cares has raised $2,915).
Either way, I don’t think much on the City Council will change. Whether it’s Shontz or Merritt or someone else in that seat, they’ll act as yet another rubber stamp for Engen’s agenda.
- Taxes will continue to rise, housing will become more out-of-reach for most of the city’s renters.
- Out-of-state companies will be given tax handouts, wages will remain stagnant.
- The roads will be full of potholes, the streets will go unplowed, and our leaves won’t be picked up.
Yep, it’ll be business as usual in Missoula...just how the powers that be like it.