Bowling And Politics In Anaconda
Around the time the state capitol in Helena locked up for the night last Thursday, the regulars at Cedar Park Lanes in Anaconda started pouring a few beers and lacing up for league bowling.
As I walked into the 12-lane bowling alley the TVs were tuned to Thursday night football and playoff baseball: Game One of the ALDS, Red Sox and Indians. A birthday party for a kid was being thrown on the far side of the room.
It’s close to a month before Election Day, and I showed up to ask whoever was there if, and how, they will cast their vote.
Dave Price from Ramsay was leaning up against the shoe rental counter and agreed to chat.
"I'm going to be voting Republican, and I've been a Republican and am going to vote for Trump," Price says.
"I just don't like anybody that will take our own soldiers and kill 'em, y'know? Clinton, in Benghazi, she did nothing. She had everything in the world there to do something, she didn't do anything. So there's no way on God's given earth I'd vote for her,” Price adds.
Corin Cates-Carney: You're a veteran?
Price: Oh yeah. I served 4 years in Vietnam, 5 campaigns.
“It's tough," Price said. "Gianforte, I dunno. They're both lying, both sides. It's tough. I still haven't make up my mind where to go there. It's one of the ones where, if you go Democrat, is it the right way to go? I think that news people in Montana here, they should turn around and say, OK, this is what this candidate said, these are the facts of what was true and not true. And then that way voters can say, well at least we know that was a lie. But they don't do that, they just go along because that's their favorite guy.”
At a nearby table I started talking with a Linda Price, who’s married to Dave. She also supports Trump for president. Jobs and the economy are key issues for her, but she’s not a straight ticket voter.
“I think I like Steve Bullock for that one, and I want to vote for him. I don't want the refugees in Montana and that kind of thing,” Linda Price says.
CCC: Why not Greg Gianforte?
L. Price: I don't know, I just don't think I like the guy. Nothing personal, but I don't like his values. But other than that, I don't know who I'm voting for, I've just gotta look.
Across the table John Durkin, a retired boilermaker from Anaconda, sat watching Price and me talk. When I sat down next to him he told me he’s never missed a chance to vote. But, this year, Durkin doesn’t know who he’s going to vote for for president; he says the options scare him. In local races, he’ll probably vote Democrat.
“Oh yeah, I don't like Giafonte (sic), and I don't like Zinke,” Durkin says. “When Zinke ran, he had a lot of California money to represent last time he ran, and I didn't like that. He did a lot of fundraising down in California, and it worries me how much influence they have on what he votes for in Montana.”
“Giafonte (sic) scares me with his tax proposals,” he says, and adds, “The trickle down doesn't work, you know, take the burden off the rich. Well, I'm still middle income, and I'm hurting. I'm retired, and I don't want to get another job to supplement my retirement. I'm 65 now, and I want to go out and bowl, I want every day to be Saturday. Just two Fridays in the month, when I get my Boilermakers check, and when I get my Social Security check.”
Retired bar owner John Hall from Butte sat a few lanes away.
“Mr. Trump, all the way,” Hall says.
CCC: When did you decide that you were all about Trump?
John Hall: When I found out Hillary was running. I like our regular guys right now, Zinke, for sure. Who else is running?
CCC: In the gubernatorial race, Steve Bullock and Greg Gianforte.
JH: Oh, kind of a toss up there, after I found out what Bullock's been doing, I'm kinda going the other way. I'm kind of an independent. I don't put up with any of their shenanigans.
CCC: You following any of the ballot issues?
JH: Well, the marijuana deal and stuff like that. I don't mind the medical marijuana, I like that. Because, being a bar owner, I know what it is. Some of it's good, some of it's bad. Medical, not the regular, the medical.
CCC: Do you know people who use that?
JH: Oh yeah. If it's medical I'll vote for that.
More than half the people I spoke with at the bowling alley didn’t want to talk about politics or be recorded. They didn’t come to have a reporter disrupt the flow of their game with a microphone and a list of questions. Politics weren’t on their mind when they walked in.
Lynn Hamel from Anaconda was reluctant to speak at first, but then agreed.
“I've always been a Democrat. This time I'm changing,” Hamel says.
CCC: What made you change?
LH: All the stuff that's going on. All the classified, all the emails, all the things that she's done. She's been in office for how many years? 25, 30 years? Nothing's changed since her and Obama. Nothing.
I want us to be safe, I really do. It's scary what's happening here. We have ISIS, and them bringing people in. What's happening around the world? It's scary. It's not even just overseas, it's happening here in the United States, and if it doesn't scare people something's drastically wrong.
CCC: Greg Gianforte or Steve Bullock for governor?
LH: Gianforte, I’d like to see him. I’ve been watching him too. I don’t know, he’s a Republican. Like I said, I’ve never voted Republican, this is going to be the first year that I’ve done it. I like his things too.
He wants to work for the people in the United States. He wants to make changes. I think what’s happened is Democrats have been in office for so long, for so many years, that nothing's getting changed. Nothing’s working.
Hamel pointed me over to a guy a few tables over. Rick Massey sports a blond mullet and a University of Montana Griz tattoo on his forearm. He says he’s definitely going to vote.
“If we get someone we don’t like, you can’t say you don’t like them because you didn’t vote,” Massey says. “It’s very important to vote.”
CCC: And what are some of the issues or candidates your viewing this year?
RM: Mainly lower taxes, jobs. Jobs, create some more jobs, create higher paying jobs. That’s what I look at.
CCC: Do you see specific candidates that are offering that sort of policy change?
RM: I like Hillary Clinton, myself. I like the way she presents herself – I’m all Democrat. I’ll never vote Republican. Republican, they’re all about money. Democrats is for the middle class, Republicans is for the rich and they’ll always be for the rich.
RM: When I go to vote, if they have a D by their name, I’m voting for them. Even if I don’t know anything about them, I’m just all Democrat and I always will be. I’ll never vote for a Republican.
Just about everyone I talked to at Cedar Park Lanes was most passionate about the presidential election. Once the discussion moved into down ticket local races, interest and knowledge really started falling off. Most people I talked with say they get their news from TV, Fox News was popular, along with other local stations. Others turned to online news sources and friends and family.
Bill Edwards, the owner of the bowling alley, says most folks that come in on league bowling night are regulars, and come year after year. He says some have been around for decades.
“My dad got me into it and he loved it,” Edwards says. “I’ve started when I was 10 and have been in the game ever since. I just enjoy being around people bowling. Just the friendship of everybody and being around everybody. Not that they’re any different from people that golf or anything, but just being around them.”
Edwards says talk doesn't ever really get political at the bowling alley. He says people usually have other things they'd rather talk about.
As I walk toward the door there’s a woman bouncing a kid on her hip as she waits for her turn to bowl. In the bar, a couple men sit tapping at keno machines.
Some people aren’t bowling at all, they’ve just come to hang out. It's part of a routine, occasionally interrupted.
Election Day is November 8. You can catch up on election coverage, and listen to interviews and debates with statewide candidates here.