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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

'Campaign Beat': Running Mates, Planes And Coal

Campaign Beat, Montana Public Radio's weekly political analysis program.

On this episode of “Campaign Beat” we talk about Greg Gianforte’s pick for a running mate, the role of ambition in the U.S. House race, how a coal company’s decision not to mine Otter Creek affects the governor’s race, and whether the governor is using his plane too much for campaign fundraising events.

Gianforte running mate:

“Republican Greg Gianforte’s pick for lieutenant governor brings some diversity to the ticket,” says Sally Mauk. Gianforte is running with Phillips county commissioner and rancher Lesley Robinson.

“I think she brings a nice contrast to Greg Gianforte, who’s a high tech businessman from Bozeman and certainly a contrast with Steve Bullock and Mike Cooney, both of whom are longtime elected officials,” says Chuck Johnson.

Rob Saldin adds the pick also has the potential to remind voters of the falling out between Governor Bullock and his previous lieutenant governor Angela McClean, who ostensibly was forced out for not being enough of a team player.

House race:

In the U.S. House race, Democratic challenger Denise Juneau continues to insinuate her opponent, incumbent Republican Ryan Zinke, is more interested in advancing his political career than in working for Montana. For his part, Zinke declines to answer directly what his political ambitions are beyond being re-elected to the House, saying he wants to “do what’s right for Montana.”

Chuck Johnson points out it’s hardly unusual for politicians to be ambitious, but that this will continue to be a line of attack in this race.

Arch coal:

This week’s announcement by Arch coal that they are suspending development of their Otter Creek coal tracts has Republican Gianforte blaming the Bullock administration for the loss of coal jobs, charging the Administration dragged its feet in issuing the company permits. Mine opponents point out the market for coal has drastically shrunk and that’s the main factor in Arch’s decision.

Regardless, Rob Saldin says coal development continues to be an issue in the governor’s race. “As a purely campaign issue, it puts Bullock in a little bit of a tough spot, and is something that we’ll continue to hear Gianforte hammering away with.”

Governor’s plane:

Republicans are criticizing Bullock for flying to campaign fundraising events held the same days as events that are part of his official duties. They question whether taxpayers should be footing the bill for the flights. Chuck Johnson points out some past governors – both democrat and republican – have paid for part or all of such flights out of their campaign coffers.

"Campaign Beat" is hosted by MTPR's Sally Mauk, with UM Political Science Professor Rob Saldin, and former Capitol Reporter Chuck Johnson. Listen every Friday at 6:48 p.m. and again on Sunday at 11:00 a.m., or via podcast.

Retired in 2014 but still a presence at MTPR, Sally Mauk is a University of Kansas graduate and former wilderness ranger who has reported on everything from the Legislature to forest fires.
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