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November 16, 2023
First, a programming note:
We won’t be publishing a Capitolized newsletter next Thursday, Nov. 23, as our reporters take a break to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll be back, as rested as we can be, on Nov. 30.
But before we rest, Capitolized lead reporter Arren Kimbel-Sannit will be participating in a panel discussion at the University of Montana Law School in Missoula about judicial politics. Moderated by University of Montana journalism school director and professor Lee Banville, the discussion will feature longtime Capitol reporter (and occasional Montana Free Press contributor) Mike Dennison, the Flathead Beacon’s Tristan Scott, and MTFP’s own Kimbel-Sannit.
The discussion will address legislation that impacts the judiciary, the political interests behind those measures, the forthcoming elections for Montana Supreme Court and much more.
The panel is slated to kick off at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17, in the law school’s Yellowstone Room. While the limited in-person seating is intended for lawyers and law students, we encourage you to watch the event live on Zoom.
The same link will allow you to view, at 3 p.m., a panel discussion on a similar subject featuring Montana Constitutional Convention delegate Mae Nan Ellingson, retired District Court Judge Jeff Sherlock and former Montana Legislative Services Executive Director Susan Fox. (Disclosure: Fox is a newly minted member of MTFP’s Board.) We hope you can join.
“I am 99% convinced that Rosendale is running for Senate. Rosendale, he’s got his plan, he’s gonna do what he does. His social media, his rhetoric, everything indicates he’s planning on doing that. I have no intention of running against Rosendale.”
—Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Troy Downing, speaking to Capitolized in an interview this week about the possibility of Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale running for Montana’s in-cycle U.S. Senate seat in 2024. Downing, also a Republican, is campaigning for the eastern U.S. House seat currently held by Rosendale under the assumption that Rosendale will run for Senate — a move the incumbent representative has telegraphed, but not confirmed. If Rosendale does decide to enter the race, he’ll first face Belgrade businessman Tim Sheehy and former Public Service Commissioner Brad Johnson in the primary. Whoever survives the primary will take on longtime incumbent Democrat Jon Tester, seen by political observers as vulnerable due to Montana’s otherwise red hue. Sheehy has the support of several prominent local and national Republicans, including Gov. Greg Gianforte and Montana’s junior U.S. senator, Steve Daines.
The possibility of Rosendale running for Senate has generated considerable speculation about who might run to replace him in the state’s reliably conservative eastern district. Several candidates are already testing the waters. Among the most prominent are Downing, who is in his first term as securities commissioner and state auditor, and term-limited superintendent of public instruction Elsie Arntzen. Downing said he sees Arntzen as his main competition in the primary.
Libertarian Enters Senate Race
Sid Daoud, a Kalispell City Council member and chair of the Montana Libertarian Party, is running for U.S. Senate in 2024, he announced this week.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a more critical time for someone to be in the Senate who will be pushing for some fiscal responsibility and to temper our economy. We are in dire straits right now,” Daoud told the Flathead Beacon, adding that the Libertarian party is “the only anti-war party out there.”
The Libertarian Party qualifies for automatic ballot access in 2024, so Daoud will not have to gather signatures to appear as an option.
He will enter a scrum competing to defeat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, who has won three close Senate races in his career, often with a third-party candidate eating up a few points. Daoud, speaking to the Beacon, pushed back on the suggestion that a Libertarian would only spoil the chances of retiring Tester by cannibalizing the Republican vote.
“I think the other two big parties in Montana are going to be surprised about how well put together and how professional this campaign is going to be,” Daoud told the Beacon. “We’ve been reduced to the role of spoilers and some people call us like ‘Republican-lite.’ We’re a different and … unique political party. We have our own platform.”
Rosendale, Zinke Vote No on CR
Both of Montana’s representatives in the U.S. House, Republicans Ryan Zinke and Matt Rosendale, voted against a stopgap funding measure to keep the federal government operating until either January or February, depending on the agency in question.
The “continuing resolution,” brokered by newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, passed on a bipartisan 336-95 vote, with 93 Republicans voting against it. Johnson managed to secure the support of congressional Democrats by avoiding steep budget cuts or attaching conservative policy goals to the measure.
It’s the sort of political tightrope walking that landed Johnson’s predecessor, California Republican Kevin McCarthy, in hot water with his own caucus, eventually resulting in his ouster at the hands of the GOP’s hard-right flank. That faction of Republicans has said they only want to see Congress pass spending measures one at a time, not lumped together in carefully negotiated continuing resolutions.
“Our nation is facing over $33 trillion of national debt. Our credit has been downgraded. Something must change,” Rosendale said in a press release following the vote. “Unfortunately, this CR changes nothing. Instead, it subjects the American people to two more months of Joe Biden’s policies and Nancy Pelosi’s budget, which is why I voted against it.”
Zinke, for his part, posted on the social media site X: “No spending cuts? No policy changes? No CR. I can’t justify a yes vote when it’s just prolonging the status quo to punt again.”
Kalispell Libertarian Sid Daoud Announces Third-Party Senate Run: Daoud sat down with the Flathead Beacon to explain what he sees as the distinctions between the Libertarian Party and the two major parties, and to dispel notions that he’ll act as a “spoiler” in 2024.
Montana Reps reject bill preventing government shutdown: The Billings Gazette’s Tom Lutey has more context on the shutdown vote.