First, let’s start with the House and then we’ll get on to the Senate.
Montana House of Representatives
See, on October 23, 2013, Representative Jenifer Gursky stepped down so she could get a job in Helena. Well, if you’re not living in Missoula you can’t represent Missoulians, so her job needed to be filled.
Update: I talked with Andrew Person today (Jan. 9) and he actually graduated from Helena High School in 1997, three years before me. He also is running for HD 96, a different district than me. I hope he wins!
Here are some other House seats I could take if I were to move to a new district before May 4, 2014, when candidates have to be living in the districts they’ll represent:
House District 91
I view it as necessary, at least if we don’t legalize marijuana, and I’m sure the 2,277 people that voted for him wouldn’t agree with that. But then that’s only 45 more people than voted for his democratic opponent, Chuck Erickson, that same year. That looks like a tight district, and one where my door-knocking skills could come into play, and be a real game-changer.
House District 95
House District 97
House District 99
House District 100
And that brings us all the way to the Montana Senate. As you can see, there are really no options open to me in the Montana House unless I move and challenge someone already seated. Well, that’s pretty much the same with the Senate, all except the moving part.
I could move but there really isn’t anyone to challenge – many Senate seats from Missoula won’t be up for grabs in 2014.
So in that case who would be my opponent for Senate District 49? None other than Missoula patriarch and near-God, Dave Wanzenried (D).
Running against him would be nearly impossible, and yet the thought of such an ass-handing, obliteration, all-out-defeat in Montana’s June 6 primary only seems to appeal to me. What’s more, I want to see if this old dog’s still got some fight and a primary battle might just be the way to test that. Really I think this guy should be running for the US House or the US Senate.
Wanzenried was first elected to the House in 1990 with just $7,666 in donations, although that was quite a bit back then. He managed to get reelected again in 1992, raising $8,598, but then dropped out of politics until he was reelected to the House in 2000 with the help of $8,725 in donations. He served each year after that until he ran for the Senate in 2006 with $19,294 in donations.
He was reelected in 2010 with $19,369 in donations. Wanzenried does some great work and serves on some key committees, including Finance and Claims, Highways and Transportation, Public Health, Welfare and Safety, and General Government.
It’s also clear Wanzenried has higher political aspirations, as seen by his run for Montana governor in the 2012 election, when he raised $26,308 in donations. He withdrew from that attempt pretty early, in July 2011, but I think he’s got some fight in him and I think he should challenge someone for a higher office than that he has now.
Here are 5 reasons why I’d be more effective in Helena than Dave Wanzenried:
- Inexperience: Far from being a detriment, I view my inexperience in government as an asset. We’ve seen what those in power can do, and we see them do it time and time again. Whether it’s refusing to stand up for the rights of the working poor, protecting the rich with tax breaks and giveaways, or just the sheer ignorance of a governing body that’s so out of touch with the way the average Montanan lives, I know my inexperience will allow me to enlighten my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
- Communications: Dave Wanzenried is a great communicator but he doesn’t have the skill to stand in front of a room full of people that could care less about what you have to say and make them not only listen to you, but agree with you. I did that for 5 years in China as an ESL teacher. I made people that didn’t want to be in class have fun. I made students that didn’t want to learn English begin to speak it. I made those who thought they couldn’t know they could. I can do that in Helena as well.
- Writing: I’m sure Dave can write quite the sentence and probably even get a few bills produced. But how about 100? Could you show up to Helena not with a few bills you want to pass but an agenda you want to set? I write for people everyday, thousands of words. What those legislative aides are taking a month to pump out I can do in a week. What they can do in a week I can do in a day and what they think they can crank out under pressure in a day I can spin off in 15 minutes. There’s no one in Helena that can compete with that.
- Self-Depreciation: I spent 5 years making people laugh at me. There’s no better way to get someone to like you than to laugh at you. It breaks the ice and allows an otherwise tense situation to suddenly become calm, even enjoyable. It allows things to get done. I’m sure Dave has this ability as well – he wouldn’t have gotten so far otherwise – but I can do it better.
- Courage: Probably what separates me the most from Dave Wanzenried, and why I know I’d make a better State Senator, is that I’m not afraid to lose. In fact, I expect it. Dave, on the other hand, is scared to death of it. Losing to him would be inconceivable, especially after being in Montana politics for so long, nearly 25 years. And to lose to a nobody first-timer with no experience and nothing to go on, someone with $179 in the bank and no hope of raising any money at all? Boy, that would look pretty bad, don’t you think?
That’s why I hope Dave doesn’t file for Montana Senate District 49 come next Thursday. Who knows, maybe I won’t even file. Maybe no one will file, how about that? Really, it’s anyone’s guess. Here are some maps to give you an idea of how large these districts are now:
2014 Montana House District Map
There are 19,798 people living in my district and of those, 15,290 are able to vote. Now, how many of those 15,000 are registered? I’d say maybe half, if even that. After all, just because you’re 18 doesn’t mean you can vote, you have to register to vote in Montana as well. And we know from the 2010 race that Dave got just 4,037 votes, or 57% of the 7,043 votes cast that year.
Now, this is new territory for Dave. See, the district lines were redrawn last session to factor in the 2010 census. And since republicans had control of the legislature when it was done they kind of had their way with the lines, gerrymandering if you will. I know all about that because my grandpa, Bob Hockett (D–Havre) was gerrymandered out in 1992. I mentioned that to Dave once.
Let me tell you a story.
In 2006 Dave was running for the Montana Senate for the first time, making the switch from the House where he was now term-limited out. He was going around the neighborhoods in the then-SD 49 and knocking on doors, passing out his literature, shaking hands – you know, the stuff candidates do.
Well, he got to 634 S. 2nd St. W. where I lived and I was sitting out there on the porch with my neighbor, Nancy Snow, a woman that had Parkinson’s and the misfortune to lose everything in Hurricane Katrina. Well, there come Dave, and I knew it was him, and I called out to him from the porch saying “Hey Senator!”
Now I’m sure that made his day as he was telling people, most of whom probably had no idea that he was running for the Senate, that he wanted to be a senator. And here’s this 24-year-old college student telling him he’ll be just that.
He didn’t tell us much about himself, and I made sure he knew he had my vote come November, but I did tell him a little about the Lincoln/Douglas debates that had occurred in 1856 when the two men were running for the US Senate out of Illinois.
I can’t remember much of what I said, and I’m sure Dave can’t either, but when someone’s talking like that you have to figure you’ll see them at some point in the political circles you’re travelling in, perhaps even facing them in an election.
Whether Dave thought that or not we’ll find out on Thursday when filing opens at 8 AM. My goal is for HD 98, but we'll see.