That’s the big question on everyone’s mind in Montana as we look ahead on the political calendar to 2020, when Montana’s open governor’s seat is up for grabs.
So can Gianforte win it?
Today let’s use history as our guide, letting it show us which paths people have taken to the Montana governor’s office before.
The most popular path in recent years to the Montana governor’s office has been through the attorney general’s office.
Here are the men that have taken that route:
- Steve Bullock: AG from 2008-12 (governor in ‘12)
- Marc Racicot: 1988-92 (governor in ‘92)
- Forrest Anderson: 1957-68 (governor in ‘68)
- John Bonner: 1941-42 (resigned to get into WWII, governor in ‘48)
- Sam Ford: 1917-21 (MT supreme court ‘29-33, governor in ‘40)
Just five men have taken this route, and only three directly. Still, we know that most that have served as AG usually run for governor.
It’s just that most don’t win.
A local reporter had a very good set of tweets on this on January 24, the day Tim Fox declared:
The most common path to the governor’s office has you serving in the legislature first. Here are the men that have been legislators before becoming governor:
History is not on Gianforte’s side, as moving from Congress to the Montana governor’s office is rare.
Just two men have done so.
An interesting case is Joe Dixon, who is one of the only men who served as a U.S. House member and a U.S. Senator for Montana to then go on and serve as governor. He was elected to congress in 1902 and 1904 and was appointed to the U.S. Senate by the Montana Legislature in 1907.
He would go on to become governor following the 1920 election. He had a very rough term as governor.
Before Montana became a state, Joseph Toole represented us in Congress as a territorial delegate for two terms, starting in 1885 and 1887. He would go on to become the state’s first governor in 1889 and the state’s fourth in 1900.
Ran for Governor Before
Very few men run for governor and lose and then run again and win. It is possible, however.
In this regard, Gianforte’s path reminds me most of Roy Ayers’ path back in the 1920s and 1930s.
Back then, Democratic Ayers - a native of Lewistown - had quite the list of accomplishments, and offices.
He served on the Montana Supreme Court for less than a year in 1922; ran for governor in 1924 and lost in the primary; ran again in 1928 and lost again in the primary; tried his hand at the U.S House in 1932 and was elected; go reelected in 1934; ran for governor again in 1936 and this time managed to squeak by in the primary - defeating the incumbent governor in the process, which allowed him to go on and win in the general that year.
I’m not sure what’ll happen in 2020, but I do think Gianforte will run. I think he has a good shot at winning. He has a lot of money, and Montana voters also trust him - they gave him more votes in 2018 than any other candidate in the state.
Ironically, I think a Gianforte win will be one of the best things to happen to Montana Democrats in years, as it might knock some sense into them, something that could result in new leadership...leadership that has winning as their goal, not self-aggrandizement.
It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.