This year’s Missoula elections are over.
Initial results came out at 8:01 PM.
Boy, I was surprised!
The conservatives from Team Liberty were winning in Ward 5 and 6, and Ward 2 was awfully close.
There was no way Ward 3 and 4 were going for anyone but the Democrats, that was clear with those early numbers.
And then we waited...waited for the expected blue wave to come.
We were still waiting at 9 and then...around 9:30 some new results came in.
Ward 2 was now firmly in the Democrats’ hands. Ward 5 and 6 were still very tight, with just 105 votes separating the Dem from the conservative in the latter.
I was pretty confident that by the time the next vote count came out, the Democrats would have somehow found the votes they needed to push them over the top. Always seems to happen.
Nothing else had come out by 10:30. NBC Montana was telling us that just 75% of precincts were in. This didn’t stop the Missoula Current from declaring that four Dems won and two conservatives had won, though the Missoulian was still saying it was too close to call. Perhaps Kidston got an inside tip that counting was done for the night.
And it appeared to be...until 11:32 when the last update was put up. By then just 12 votes separated the liberal from the conservative in Ward 6. That race will likely go to a recount.
I was completely wrong, thinking all the conservatives would lose. Turns out just four did, with two winning...maybe. That means we’ll have nine liberals on the council, three conservatives.
It’s not going to tip the balance of power too much, and I bet the liberals will band together more than ever to ensure the conservatives never get a single one of their issues through. But perhaps I’ll be surprised again.
Something that didn’t surprise me was the turnout.
One thing you always notice about Missoula, the liberal bastion of Montana, is how little people care about voting.
Once again, our turnout rate was abysmal.
It came out to 40% (though by 11:32 it was listed at 32%).
Lots of local media were touting the fact that it was up to 30% by last night, then 33% by mid-morning.
Yeah, it’s really special when 60% of the people that are registered to vote simply don’t give a damn...even when all they had to do was mail the ballot back.
Yep, so lazy are the good people of Missoula that they can’t even fill out a form and stick it in the mail.
While I do think laziness has a big part to play, a bigger issue is apathy.
People simply do not care.
Last year across the state, nearly 30% of people didn’t bother voting even though they were registered. In 2016, 25% of voters didn’t bother. Nearly 50% of Americans aren’t registered to vote at all.
So this is a big issue, one each Party struggles with each year, and which they’re helpless to solve.
Is the GOP on the Right Track?
I’m not sure what Vondene Kopetski and Jill Chapman and Sarah Weber are doing, or what the status of the 2018 lawsuit between them all is.
When the leaders of the local Party are suing each other, it’s not good.
Also, I feel that the current leadership is too old and too out of touch. Their website is old and antiquated and gives us little information. I don’t understand why they’re not utilizing a blog on the site to get ideas out and lambast Democrats and give local Republican voters some confidence, something to root for.
Their social media accounts are a disaster. Even though we have an election right now, the Missoula GOP has put up just 5 posts since July...of last year. Yes, I shit you not - their last post was on October 17, 2018!!!
Local Party leadership doesn’t even care about these city elections, I think that’s clear...painfully so.
The Missoula GOP’s online presence has been like this for years.
The thing is, Missoula has a lot of Republican voters.
Back in 2016, Trump got 22,000 votes here in Missoula County, compared to the 31,000 Hillary got. And 19,000 voted for Gianforte that year. In 2018, Rosendale picked up 18,000 votes here. Gianforte grabbed 20,000.
Yeah, those guys all lost to the Democratic candidate here. But those numbers are more than several rural counties put up, combined. With more competent leadership here in Missoula, the GOP could pick up a few thousand more votes every major election cycle. That could counteract the libertarian influence; could push a candidate over the top statewide.
I wonder how the local Party would do if it had younger, more active leadership. Mike Hopkins is Vondene’s son, and he’s doing a good job as treasurer of the Montana Republican Party. Perhaps he should take on a larger role here in Missoula.
I’d like to see Adam Hertz get more active in restructuring the local Party so it works better, though he is currently vice-chair so you’d think this would be happening already. It’s not.
I think Sam Redfern might be one to look to for advice and direction. I’m not sure who the Sardot’s are, but they seem to be taking an active interest these days. Sandra Vasecka will clearly take a larger leadership role now, and of course we have Jesse Ramos, the leading Republican in the city right now...but one that’s not very effective. After all, he found all these candidates and called them Team Liberty, but over half of them lost.
Missoula’s a tough town for conservatives.
There are surely other Republicans that I’m missing, but to be honest...the last time I went to GOP meetings, it was mostly very old people, many of whom didn’t even live within the city limits.
It is time for change. We know it’s possible for certain districts in the city to flip to the GOP, if you get good candidates and support them with funding and ideas. Hell, Tom ‘TIF’ Winter got into HD 96 last time by only 40 votes!
This idea that we’re only going to get placeholder candidates for the legislative races has to go out the window. It’s not working, and it says to everyone that you’ve given up before you even started.
But where do you get these candidates?
Of the three members of Team Liberty that lost tonight, I only see Vasecka lasting long-term. John Contos didn’t run a very strong campaign, and I was quite surprised he did so well. I doubt he’ll do more than a single term on the council. I think Alan Ault will hang it up after this. I didn’t hear much from either Amber Shaffer or Brent Sperry, so can’t really comment on them.
Like I said, it’s hard being a conservative here in the Garden City, even harder being a Republican.
Mostly, it seems like the local Party has given up. This cycle they sat on the sidelines, letting Jesse Ramos do all the work. If that’s the strategy, why isn’t he Chairman of the local Party?
At least someone over at the UM College Republicans is at least trying on Facebook, but not getting a lot of luck there. Having that person head up the Party’s social media would be a good place to start.
As it stands now, I suspect the local GOP will have trouble recruiting serious candidates for the legislature next year. I have no idea who might run for mayor against Engen in ‘21, but Ramos is about the only one I can think of. If not, I suspect he’ll probably jump to the legislature or let his term expire. It’s got to be frustrating for him, and these two extra votes won't make much difference.
The Missoula Republicans are set to have a very good year next year, with so many Democratic legislators quitting the legislature to run for statewide or federal offices. Several seats are open. Many up-and-coming Dems we’ve never heard of will knock heads with each other trying to get primary wins for those seats, but finding a serious Republican that can actually mount a challenge will be difficult.
The local Party has a year to get its act together.
I feel things like a sense of entitlement, ego, and obstinacy from those currently in leadership will prevent this from happening.
But maybe I’ll be surprised.