Credit: Photo courtesy of Joe Dooling

Joe Dooling sees a narrow path to securing the Republican nomination for the 2020 general election for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. While he acknowledges he’s in for an uphill battle against several primary opponents who have previously held statewide offices, he also says he thinks GOP voters are becoming wary of Republican churn, and he takes aim at primary opponents State Auditor Matt Rosendale and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton for shifting their campaign sights from their incumbent offices to the House race.  

Dooling’s comments came during a late-October conversation with Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams on the Montana Lowdown podcast. Dooling, a former chairman of the Lewis & Clark County Republican Central Committee, tells Adams, “[A]ll the money we raised in a two-year period of time, we spent to help get the Republicans elected to the [state] land board. And for all those guys to abandon ship in the middle, I just don’t think they should be rewarded for that behavior.”

Both Rosendale and Stapleton currently serve on the land board, along with fellow Republicans Attorney General Tim Fox and Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen. Gov. Steve Bullock is the sole Democrat on the board, which administers Montana’s state-owned lands for the benefit of the public school system. Arntzen is the only board member campaigning as an incumbent in 2020, and is currently running in an unopposed primary against lone Democratic challenger Melissa Romano. All other current board members are campaigning for new offices, creating an opportunity for a significant land board shake-up after the general election.

Dooling says his political ambition stops at the House seat, telling Adams, “I don’t have the desire to be the governor, I don’t have the desire to be a senator. I’m just going to be the congressman, and when I’m done being a congressman, I’m going to go back to the farm that Julie and I built in the Helena valley.” Dooling’s wife, Julie, is a Republican state representative serving House District 70. The 2019 session marked her first term in the Legislature.

Dooling also criticizes the Rosendale campaign for benefitting from spending by out-of-state PACs including Club For Growth, and notes that the majority of recent campaign contributions to Rosendale come from outside the state, which FEC filings confirm. 

“We have somebody from out of state, who moved here, getting out-of-state money, trying to represent Montana, and I think the Montana voters are going to see through that,” Dooling says. 

A farmer and rancher from Helena, Dooling grew up watching his family labor to get their agricultural products into global markets. Today he supports President Donald Trump’s global trade policies and likens the process of implementing them to surgery, saying “a little bit of pain” now could result in a future in which Montana farmers have an increased ability to sell commodities in foreign markets. 

Dooling says, “I support what Trump is doing, because we have to get this level playing field … I know from a stockgrower’s point of view, from a farm bureau point of view, free and unrestricted access to trade is what we’re looking for.”

Dooling went on to discuss a range of topics with Adams, weighing in on the congressional impeachment inquiry, Syria, the coming impacts of automation, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water compact, climate change, and more.

Alex McKenzie has worked with a diverse array of start-ups and nonprofit organizations. He is a former record producer and music journalist, has additional experience working in agriculture and food security, and previously operated his own dairy business. He lives in southwest Montana. Follow him on Twitter.