For some reason, there was a file for the Montana Democratic Party’s Conventions out on one of the filing cabinets.
Obviously someone had been looking through it recently, probably on Friday. Who knows – maybe someone was leaving it out for me.
So I took a look. For the most part, it was just newspaper clippings.
The most interesting was a Chuck Johnson Helena Independent Record article from June 27, 1997.
I decided to go through those clippings, and that in particular, to make up a list of profiles.
These are former state chairmen and executive directors of the Montana Democratic Party.
State Chairmen of the Montana Democratic Party
1991-1997: Kelly Addy (Billings, chose not to run again)
1997-2005: Bob Ream (Missoula forestry professor)
2005-2009: Dennis McDonald (Melville rancher, stepped down for Congressional campaign)
2009-2013: Jim Elliott (politician from Trout Creek)
2013-2014: Nancy Anderson (party activist from Great Falls)
2014-Present: Jim Larson (UPS worker from Billings)
Executive Directors of the Montana Democratic Party
2005-2007: Jim Farrell (Former staffer of Minnesota’s Paul Wellstone, who died in plane crash. Farrell quit the position to work for Bill Richardson’s 2008 presidential campaign)
2007-2009: Art Noonan (Works at AWARE in Butte, former legislator).
2009-2010: David Benson (was ousted after 2010 losses of 19 legislative seats, though Democratic spokesman at the time, Martin Kidston, said this was not the reason)
2010-2013: Ted Dick (Political director of SEIU from Iowa, close to Tester. Left position to work for Monica Lindeen as director of government and state relations, though there were allegations he was fired by Jim Elliot, perhaps over financial improprieties).
2013-2015: Andrea Marcoccio (28-year-old from Rhode Island who worked for Forward Montana in northwest Montana in 2008, she was brought on board with sights set on Baucus re-election. Was ‘dismissed’ after the lackluster 2014 election performances).
2015-Present: Nancy Keenan (Anaconda-native, teacher, served as OPI director after stint in legislature, ran for U.S. House in 2000, president of NARAL Pro-Choice in Washington, D.C.)
I honestly have no idea what either of those two positions do.
Much of the current political makeup, and the alliances it breeds, can be traced to the Jim Elliot/Ted Dick dispute of January 2013. Read two accounts from Democratic mouthpieces, here and here.
Many were angered to see this dismissal/firing as Dick had done such a good job in the 2012 elections. I feel there was a group of supporters around certain individuals. Many of the current position, policies and procedures of the Montana Democratic Party can be traced to that time.
Think about it – we used to keep people in a position for years. That all changed around 2013, as we’ve had 3 people as Chairman since then but it took nearly 20 years to see 3 people in that position before.
On the other side, we’ve had 3 Executive Directors in as many years.
What’s going on?
I have no idea what was going on around this time as I was living outside the country and not following things at all.
Maybe you do. Someone does.
In it we hear from Jim Elliot of Trout Creek. We’re told he was concerned over “the party’s failure to deal with its poor showings in recent years.” Because of that he started Conversation 2000.
Conversation 2000 consisted of “meetings in 16 cities, with a total of 130 invited Democrats of varying backgrounds participating.”
Elliot wanted to “hear out Democrats across the state,” though I’m not sure the party brass at the time would have approved. I guess they must have, for the thing went off without a hitch. Whether 20 years later it has anything to show for it I’m not sure.
“We realized something needed to be done to resuscitate the Democratic Party in Montana,” Elliot wrote of the tour. He decries the fact that the 200 years-worth of “ideas and principles of the Democratic Party” have not been reflected in Montana.
Elliot points out that “he and many others have a tendency to think that ‘those in important positions in the party intuitively know what the public is thinking. Nothing could be further from the truth.’”
Elliot went on to tell Chuck Johnson that “the party needs to visit with people around the state who identify themselves with the Democratic Party and see what they expect from the party, what are their goals and what issues do they want raised.”
“A Political party in power a long time goes on auto-pilot as long as it wins elections,” Elliot said, and Johnson pointed out that “Democrats are no longer winning.”
Elliot mentions that “the Democratic platform says what you stand for, it doesn’t say what you’re going to do about it.”
Elliot mentioned that “Democrats have ‘neglected entirely’ the business community, which provides the jobs” though he added that “businesses must treat employees responsibly.”
Democrats must “encourage a diversity of viewpoints in the party” he tells us. “Democrats who are for a sales tax and against abortion, both contrary to party positions, ‘feel effectively driven out.’”
“If there is no debate on the issues, there’s no discovery of common ground, and Democrats have a lot of common ground.” Elliot pointed out that these common ground areas are:
- Fighting for the little guy;
- Protecting the environment “and physical health of Montana and the United States;”
- Advocating “pay-as-you-go government rather than borrow-and-spend.”
Pretty good ideas. I wish we heard more of them.
Monica Lindeen’s Journey
It was a side story in the same Helena Independent Record article from June 27, 1997. It profiled the Democratic convention in Lewistown that year.
Wow, Lewistown, huh? I doubt we’d see that kind of focus on rural issues today.
It’s a great Chuck Johnson article that profiles the three-way party chairman race between:
- June Hermanson;
- Monica Lindeen;
- Rep. Bob Ream.
Lindeen is written up as a Huntley Democrat that’s “twice been an unsuccessful legislative candidate.”
Boy, she’s come far.
We were told two days later in the June 29 article that Bob Ream had won the race for party chairman, picking up 89 votes (55%) compared to the 54 for Hermanson and the 18 for Lindeen.
Today no one knows who those other two people are.
Everyone that reads the newspaper in Montana today knows Monica Lindeen.
Perspective and accomplishment, think about it.