It got off to a rollicking start when Greg Gianforte called for the Commerce Director to resign “over the award of a tourism contract to an out-of-state company.”
This revolves around the August news that the $7 million Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development contract going to Hoffman York instead of Bozeman’s MercuryCSC…where it’d been going for a decade.
Hoffman York is based in Milwaukee and the “bureau chief for the tourism department’s marketing office” has admitted that “she has a relative that works for Hoffman York.”
Voices of Montana later revealed that this relative was a cousin. We also learned that Great Falls company Brickhouse “suddenly received all failing scores while Hoffman York soared in the lead with all superior scores.”
One of those score rankings was “Understanding of the Montana Brand,” something that a Wisconsin firm probably wouldn’t do better on than a Great Falls firm…don’t you think?
So there are questions there, and that leads to the call for Meg O’Leary’s resignation.
But is that all?
If we go to a Billings Gazette story that appeared shortly before the debate we see that Montana GOP chair Jeff Essman wants to get a bunch of Bullock’s old emails.
It pretty much revolves around questions about:
“The resignation of former Lt. Gov. Angela McLean, funds spent by the Department of Public Health and Human Services that employees had flagged as potentially illegal, alleged retaliation against agency employees who raised questions about spending, travel on the state plane to campaign stops or events that were not clearly for a governmental purpose, travel with state employees related to his tenure as president of the Democratic Governors Association and his role in the decision to award a $7 million contract to a Wisconsin firm for marketing state tourism that Republicans have said has family ties to a state employee.”
The governor’s office responded by saying those email accounts no longer exist, as the state deletes them when a person changes jobs…like Bullock did when going from attorney general to governor.
Still, the questions persist and this is an issue that the GOP and Gianforte will ride all the way until November.
It’s not the only issue.
The Associated Press got the debate story out first, though last night it was quite short…just a few paragraphs.
Now today they have a much longer article up, again written by Matthew Brown. You can see it on the Flathead Beacon.
Last night the article mentioned the extramarital affair question at the end of it, and it’s still there today:
“The debate took a brief detour into personal matters,” the AP tells us, “when a panelist asked if the candidates ever had an extramarital affair. Both responded no.”
I felt Bullock was thrown off by that question, and that’s when he really got into smile & smirk mode.
I felt a lot of viewers were probably turned off by that.
I see a look that says, ‘c’mon…this is silly…just give me the damn job for another four years, will ya!’
When the resignation call came up Bullock lost his composure for a bit.
But when the affair question came up he really lost it.
So what’s the deal with this extramarital affair question anyways?
The Billings Gazette finally got their debate story up around 11 PM or so last night…perhaps in time to get people the news in their morning edition today.
Their article was written by Hannah Potes and it’s quite long.
She discusses the substantive arguments from the debate – why the candidates are running, the “cloudy state budget picture,” the future of Colstrip, infrastructure, the business equipment tax – but then 1,200 words into the article she brings it up.
“In the first half of the debate panelist Greg LaMotte asked the candidates if either of them had ever had an extramarital affair.”
We then get a bit more explanation of this question…which many didn’t see coming:
“Though the question may seemed out of left field for more casual observers of Montana politics, a copy of questions obtained before the debate provides some context.
‘The issue of the state plane has been raised by Greg Gianforte,’ it starts, continuing that the Republican-leaning radio station KGVO published a story online saying that ‘at least one person has been on the plane 51 times.’
‘The radio station report causes me to ask both of you gentlemen, and (it) cuts to the issue of morality, if you’ve ever had an extramarital affair?’
As asked during the debate, LaMotte said people in the state have a strong sense of family values and morality but did not mention the plane.”
We then get into the answers both candidates gave.
Gianforte was up first and he said that he’d been married for 28 years. Bullock said he’s been married for 17 years.
That’s great…we know they’re married and thus capable of having an affair.
Still, I see Gianforte going everywhere with his wife. She’s always on the campaign trail.
I never see Steve and Lisa together.
Why is that?
“Both candidates said they have not had an affair,” the Gazette tells us, though I found Bullock’s answer and demeanor when giving it to be quite odd.
He seemed uncomfortable, kind of like a lawyer would be if he knew he was lying.
So he gave that sideways response about being married and having kids and such, but to my way of thinking, he kind of sidestepped the question.
I dunno – maybe you saw it differently.
Bullock isn’t really a good debater anyways, and after being thrown-off by Gianforte’s call for Meg O’Leary’s resignation he was further thrown off by LaMotte’s question.
So who is LaMotte, anyways? I saw that hardliner-Democrats were quick to go after him, calling him a “troll,” as they often do with people whose message they don’t like.
I noticed Don Pogreba put out suggestions that maybe LaMotte had had too much to drink before coming to the debate, and that perhaps he ought to get a ride home.
These are the folks that decry the lack of quality journalism in Montana and then when hard-hitting questions do come, they piss and moan and act all hurt.
Well, the question was directed at a Democrat and not a Republican, so that accounts for that.
Greg LaMotte works at KULR-8, an NBC-affiliate in Billings.
Before working there he was reporting from Cairo, Egypt, “where he worked as the bureau chief and Middle East regional news correspondent for Voice of America radio and television.”
Wow, that sounds pretty impressive to me…not the bio of a troll.
Before the Middle East he was a correspondent for CNN going all the way back to the late-80s.
So he has some serious experience, but again, he asked the wrong question…or at least one the hardline-Democrats don’t want to hear.
MT Cowturd was silent on the debate today, keeping up a 2-day-old post by Mary Sheehy Moe.
There was a wonderful comment put up on it last night that cuts right through the bullshit and strikes at the truth:
An hour or so after I checked this morning they put up a new post hitting at the tired old story of stream access.
Remember, this is the Democratic mouthpiece blog of the state, one that uses anonymous writers more often than not.
They sure as shit aren’t going to mention any questions about an extramarital affair 49 days before the election and a couple weeks before absentee ballots go out.
The truth isn’t important – winning is.
I also didn’t see any of the paid Montana Democratic staffers sending out tweets about the debate this morning.
I guess that means they lost.
And why would they want to send out tweets – what are you going to do…link back to an article that talks about exactly what you don’t want to talk about?
Nope, they don’t want to do that, so we get silence.
That’s to be expected, as that’s about all we’ve seen before.
Logicosity had a good article up on Sunday, saying:
“When it comes to aggressively responding to allegations that the Governor has engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a member of his Cabinet, however, his office has been noticeably mute. Remember, these rumors began swirling about a year ago as then-Lieutenant Governor Angela McLean was headed for the exit door.”
The article goes on to mention the recent news story on KGVO and the governor’s plane records, records which show that Commerce Director Meg O’Leary has travelled on the governor’s plane 56 times.
Democrats were quick to jump on the bandwagon that these were merely smears against a successful woman.
If that’s the case…how come there have been no ‘smears’ against Jennifer Anders, Pam Bucy, Sheila Hogan, or Angela Wong…all successful female members of Bullock’s cabinet?
It’s probably because there are no rumors linking any of them romantically to Bullock.
Prior to the debate those rumors came in hushed whispers.
Now everyone’s talking about ‘em.
Over at Last Best News we get some analysis from David Crisp:
“One point of agreement between the candidates was that both said they had not engaged in any extramarital affairs. That question was posed by Greg LaMotte of KULR 8 News, one of the sponsors of the debate, and it drew some moans from the crowd.”
Perhaps the governor should get out in front of this story and squelch these extramarital affair rumors before the whole state is talking about them.
Or maybe they think they’ll just go away.
Perhaps there were few people watching last night, or reading the papers today.
Maybe they won’t notice, maybe they won’t care.
So I fully expect the governor and his office and his campaign to do nothing but hit on tired old themes that, in my opinion, aren’t resonating.
I’ll leave you with some final thoughts from Logicosity, thoughts which sum of the situation well.
“There has been no effort to clarify or vehemently deny the allegations. After nearly four and a half years, it is safe to say that his bunch is not inclined to “get out in front of it,” whatever “it” might be. A direct and simple response, accompanied by a disclaimer that whatever is said or written is the final and only response, would be a sound first step, not only for the Governor and his family, but for the integrity of his office as well.
Without that, speculation runs rampant and the dialogue spirals downward.”