Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, chairs the Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee. Credit: JOHN ADAMS / MTFP

Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick on why he refuses to be a “brain dead legislator”

Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick is in the middle of a longstanding political battle over who has rightful control over the Cascade County Republican Central Committee. This is a debate that has gotten pretty ugly in the last couple of years.

“From my point of view, I really don’t want to be involved in central committee politics, but I just can’t sit by and have a central committee that espouses racist things in meetings, that threatens people in meetings, and just acts in a way that is so out of the norm of normal human behavior,” Fitzpatrick said. 

Fitzpatrick wrote a bill this session, which Republican Rep. Frank Garner is carrying in the House, that would change state laws governing central committees. Among the changes is a prohibition on the use of  “secret rules,” and the bill makes it illegal for central committee members to vote another member’s proxy without permission.

The bill easily passed the House on Feb. 18, and now heads to the Senate.

House Bill 318 easily passed the Montana House, with 19 Republicans joining all 42 Democrats in favor of the measure.

The conflict is another battlefront in the longstanding struggle for the heart and soul of the Montana Republican Party, one that’s waged between those who pride themselves on being independent thinkers, and those who demand fealty to the party platform.  

“I refuse to subscribe to this notion that I should be a brain-dead legislator and simply turn my vote over to party leadership and let them tell me how to vote,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m going to sit down, I’m going to read the bills, and I’m gog to make sure they’re good for the people I represent, and then I’m going to vote on them.” 

Podcast Transcript [coming soon]

Montana Free Press was founded by veteran award-winning investigative and political reporter John S. Adams. John was formerly the Capital Bureau Chief of the Great Falls Tribune and a correspondent for USA TODAY. John is known as a dogged investigator and the host of the MT Lowdown podcast whose unbiased reporting has changed the shape of Montana politics. Contact John at, or follow him on Twitter.