Reilly Neill set her sights on the Governor’s Office last year, but this week she stopped aiming for that high position.
Yep, last Sunday - January 12 - Reilly dropped out of the race.
No one noticed.
No one cared.
No one said a damn thing.
Well, Reilly did. In fact, she wrote 2,600 words that day explaining how she felt and what she saw were the problems with Montana’s electoral process:
“The race all comes down to the money. Whoever has the most money is the favorite to win, not the candidate who might be best equipped for the job or the best representative of the people or the issues they champion. Changing this dynamic appears nearly impossible in Montana or anywhere else in the country.”
“Last week, a member of a major Montana outlet reached out for an interview with me, finally, after six months of my being in the race. In fact, the AP "story" circulated about me in June 2019 after I filed (a story then republished across the country) contained glaring errors that could have easily been corrected with a quick phone call or a few minutes of research.
No member of the press covered my campaign except an intern from Montana Public Radio who called after I filed and only asked me about fund raising in a two-minute brief. A few months ago, a reporter interviewed me about the other Democratic candidates for governor and then printed complete inaccuracies. This reporter never issued a correction, even when I provided sources for them to check. This last experience confirmed what I had gathered about the press in Montana since launching a statewide publication: they are insular, biased and absolutely unable to consistently expose truth. We can do better.”
“Issues should be driving our political discourse. Sadly, this is not the case. Money and social status appear to be the deciding factors in the coverage of political campaigns creating a no-win cycle for many individuals qualified and ready to serve. The horse race reporting about campaigns in the state disenfranchises candidates and voters.”
“I see Kim Dudik running a phenomenal race for Attorney General, running twice as hard as her primary opponent. I know she is used to the extra work by now in her career. She and I are not women born into influential families or working with wealthy clients in our professional careers. She has had her shoulder to the wheel of public service for decades and her background is truly more impressive than her opponent’s as far as a connection to state issues, work in the courts, and affiliation with regular citizens. But voters will be more inclined to choose the man with the education, family wealth and political legacy to represent them. Why?
For being the “liberal” party supposedly championing women’s rights, the Democratic party in Montana party often lacks inclusiveness and perpetuates the pervasive discrimination against women and low-income individuals embedded in our Western culture. I'm glad to see Dudik's message being covered by press outlets, even if they are outside of the state, in order to speak to our citizens here.”
“I attended an event, a festival in a rural area of Montana last summer and, although we were invited as guests, we paid our own way in and looked for the Democrats who invited us. They were separated from every other person at the festival and one could assume from their stance as a small group that they would like to keep it that way. I had come to meet all types of people in the area so I strayed from the insular group who were talking amongst themselves and looking smugly at the rest of the crowd. These were Democrats in a red county and for the life of me I’ll never understand why so many continue to practice this us-against-them personal politics.”
My opinion of Reilly Neill has shot through the roof with what she said last week.
Remember, no one noticed that she dropped out of the race until 10 days after she’d done so. All NBC Montana said about her departure was that her departing blog post “criticized the media for failing to cover her campaign and the Montana Democratic Party for not supporting candidates who don't have large fundraising circles.”
Everyone who reads a newspaper or watches a TV news segment in this state knows that the Montana media has been in the gutter for years.
Lee Enterprises is the main reason for this, but we might be able to blame Sinclair Broadcasting as well.
We should mostly blame ourselves, however. We choose to get most of our news on social media, and we rarely pay for any kind of internet news anymore. Few get the paper these days.
All of this means the media outlets don’t have money, and what money they do have is sent back to corporate to divvy out in bonuses. Your decision to turn off the TV or cancel a subscription doesn’t make a dent in this policy.
What I find most insightful - and most troubling - about Reilly’s farewell post is how she talks about the Montana Democratic Party.
She nails it.
Here’s a Party that’s lost its way, that has no direction.
Years of lackluster leadership in Dem HQ in Helena have led to this, while a reliance upon a weak and can-barely-win-an-election Senator as your Party’s leader is not working, either.
We know it’s not working because the statewide offices are not going to Dems, and the legislature hasn’t gone their way in over a decade. The PSC has been gone to them for years and the Supreme Court is as well.
But the Dems just keep raising money for their staff and their insular Party operations in the counties.
And of course, they flutter over to the candidates that can raise the most money, even if they’re from out-of-state and raise most of their money from out-of-state, too.
Then there’s the favoritism bordering on sexism. Democrats in this state like men, and they like those with connections and family history. Hence the automatic support for Graybill over Dudik, even though Dudik’s been around for years and has been working a lot harder.
Reilly just pointed out the obvious there.
Sadly, Reilly is done.
She spoke out publicly against the Montana Democratic Party, and now the Party that unofficially abandoned her after she announced her run will now officially abandon her...unofficially, of course.
Yep, she’s done.
She’ll never get an ounce of Party support ever again, and will now be branded an enemy and put on the enemies list.
For you see, the Democrats in this state don’t want constructive criticism, and they especially don’t want someone airing their dirty laundry.
Trust me, I know.
So thank you for your bravery, Reilly, and I’m glad you’re going to keep writing.
But your time with the Montana Democratic Party is now over; your time in Montana politics is now done.