Libertarian Breckenridge Endorses Rosendale In Montana Senate Race
Updated at 6:00 p.m. with expanded copy and a follow-up interview with Rick Breckenridge.
This morning, the Libertarian candidate in the race for Montana’s U.S. Senate seat told reporters he’s endorsing Republican Matt Rosendale in that race. Here’s what Libertarian Rick Breckenridge said.
"Honestly I'm not going to take the seat, and I think today that Matt Rosendale is going to be the best person to fulfill that obligation and that role, and so I'm here today to support Matt in his candidacy, and endorse him in his continuing effort to be the front man in the cause of liberty."
Shortly after Breckenridge spoke, Matt Rosendale came on the call.
"Thank you very much, I am honored to have the endorsement of Rick Breckenridge," Rosendale said.
Social media erupted, with lots of Republicans happy about the apparent boost to Rosendale’s chances.
But, later today, Breckenridge was quoted on a website saying that he is not dropping out of the race, and that he did not say people should vote for Rosendale instead of him.
So, is Breckenridge endorsing Matt Rosendale’s candidacy for Senate? I spent 20 minutes on the phone with him trying to get clarity on that.
In the end, Breckenridge says he is not dropping out of the race, and that he does endorse Rosendale, but he says it must be clear that that endorsement is only in response to a recent campaign mailer funded by anonymous or “dark" money. He says he’s endorsing Rosendale for Senate.
"In the context and because of the events that I have no control over – the dark money and the effect that it has had on me, that it has to be, it has to be taken care of," Breckenridge said. "And I endorse Matt Rosendale because I think he can take care of that. Look, I agree with Jon Tester on 30, 40 percent of the things. I agree with Jon Tester on the Kavanaugh appointment. He was a poor appointment to the Supreme Court because of the Fourth Amendment. And I disagree with both him and Matt Rosendale on building a wall on our southern border. So this is not a Republican, a Democrat stance that I'm taking. This is a principle – a stand on principle that has affected me personally."
Breckenridge says he knows he can’t win the Senate race. Recent polls show him getting around two percent of the vote. A couple of percentage points could sway what polls show is a very tight race, and incumbent Senator Jon Tester has never won a Senate race by more than four points.
But, a lot of Montanans have already voted, more than 240,000 (242,446 out of 418,925 total absentee ballot sent). That’s more than half of all absentee ballots sent, and more than a third of all registered voters in the state.
We’ve posted the complete, unedited audio of this morning’s press call with Breckenridge and Rosendale above, and my interview with Breckenridge this afternoon. A transcript of the afternoon interview follows.
Rick Breckenridge: My name is Rick Breckenridge and I'm a surveyor from Proctor, Montana.
Eric Whitney: So what's your take on what's happened since you made those comments on the call this morning.
RB: Well, let's put it in the context. There's an illegal dark money flyer that came out that looks like it came from me. And it did not. The face of it is an out-and-out lie. And its appearance in the way that it's designed is to make it look like it's a Fourth Amendment issue, which most people know is pretty near and dear to the hearts of Libertarians. And there's no disclaimer on it, nowhere where it came from. And when I have friends, neighbors in my community that call me up and ask me why I sent this out, this affects me personally. And this issue is not about me supporting Matt Rosendale. This issue is about dark money coming into Montana politics. And that is what the focus has to be on. And I'm convinced that it came through Democratic operatives; I do not believe that Jon Tester had anything to do with this, but I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that it came from Democratic operatives out of Edison, New Jersey. And that that, then, cannot be rectified or cannot be addressed by Senator Tester. But a man with character, and the character of Matt Rosendale, I feel is qualified to not only look into this but to rectify the situation so it doesn't ever happen again.
I don't have $250,000 to send out a flyer to disavow a statement that looks like it's attributed to me. And so I'm not speaking right now as Rick Breckenridge Libertarian candidate for the United States Senate. I'm talking as Rick Breckenridge, a voter, a citizen of the state of Montana. And that this kind of activity could not be addressed after the election. It had to be – make an impact beforehand. I'm only at 3 or 4 percent in the polling data. And I'm a realist. I'm not going to win this seat. But, if my candidacy can bring and shed light on an illegal activity that happens right under our noses and no one does anything about it then it's shame on me. But if I can have an impact on an election that four trips by the President of the United States to Montana couldn't have had, then my candidacy and the cause of liberty, especially as a Libertarian, will be moved further down the line. This is a statement that stand on principle.
EW: So I understand that you're very upset about the mailer, that you're upset that people are putting words in your mouth, or trying to get voters to think that you've made statements, or taking actions that you have not taken. I understand that. I also – you know when I listen to the call, and I heard you made that statement that, "Matt Rosendale is going to be the best person to fulfill that obligation – that role. And I'm here today to support Matt in his candidacy and endorse him in his continuing effort to be the front man in the cause of liberty." I interpreted that as you endorsing Matt Rosendale's candidacy. Was I incorrect?
RB: No. No, I endorsed it because of this dark money issue. It's not a ...
EW: Just to be 100-percent crystal clear, can you make a statement that you are or are not – can you just make a – I don't want to put words in your mouth. I want to hear it out of your mouth that you do or do not endorse Matt Rosendale in the Senate race.
RB: In the context and because of the events that I have no control over – the dark money and the effect that it has had on me, that it has to be, it has to be taken care of. And I endorse Matt Rosendale because I think he can take care of that. Look, I agree with Jon Tester on 30, 40 percent of the things. I agree with Jon Tester on the Kavanaugh appointment. He was a poor appointment to the Supreme Court because of the Fourth Amendment. And I disagree with both him and Matt Rosendale on building a wall on our southern border. So this is not a Republican, a Democrat stance that I'm taking. This is a principle – a stand on principle that has affected me personally. And I don't think that Jon Tester can address the dark money issue, because of where this has led to. And I endorse Matt Rosendale today, because of the dark money that has affected me personally, and has weakened my stand in my community, because of lies that have been spread through it. That now has not only hurt me but also has hurt my business and hurt my relationships with my friends and neighbors. That is the reason that I did this today. It's not because Matt Rosendale is a Republican and he's a Democrat, I'm a Libertarian. This had to be addressed and it should be about dark money. And that's what the focus has to be on his dark money in Montana politics. And that has to be addressed and addressed by you folks in the media. And it's up to you, now I put the ball into your court. You can make this a, you know, backing out, I'm quitting the Senate race, when I'm not. I endorsed him because realistically, I'm not going to win this seat and dark money now has affected me personally.
EW: I gotcha. And I heard you say twice that 'I endorse Matt Rosendale,' but I just want to be 100-percent crystal clear that you endorse ...When you say 'I endorse Matt Rosendale,' that means you're telling Montana voters they should vote for Matt Rosendale? Is that the right way to interpret that?
RB: Libertarians ... you don't tell Libertarians what to do. Or how to do it. Alright? That's something that has to be made crystal clear. I do not have followers. And I do not create followers. Libertarian Party has no followers whatsoever. What I've made a stand today on was a personal affront to my reputation. As a surveyor, I have to stand for principle. And this violates Montana law. And that's what should be the focus of these conversations. Dark money in Montana politics. And I endorse Matt today, and I'll say it for the fourth time. I endorse Matt today, because I think he's the only one who can address this issue, effectively, and get those people who are accountable or who are responsible for it, they can be held then accountable. That is why I did what I said today.
EW: So I believe I understand what you're saying but, I think if you say, 'I endorse Matt Rosendale,' people could interpret it in two ways: I endorse Matt Rosendale in fighting dark money, or I endorse Matt Rosendale as the candidate in the U.S. Senate race. Can you just make that 100-percent clear? When you say, 'I endorse Matt Rosendale ...'
RB: I endorse Matt Rosendale in the fight against dark money.
EW: So does that mean you do not endorse Matt Rosendale in the race against Jon Tester?
RB: How can I endorse Matt Rosendale when I disagree with him on the border? How can I endorse Jon Tester when I disagree with him on the budget and the size of government, not reducing government? I mean I can't ... I can endorse you on issues, but I cannot say, 100 percent I agree with you on everything, because I don't. I can't. It doesn't work that way.
EW: I understand you ...
RB: I wish the world was black and white. It's just not.
EW: I wish it was too. And my desire is just to make sure that people understand exactly what you're saying. And here's what I hear you saying: I endorse Matt Rosendale on the issue of dark money. But, you're not saying I endorse Matt Rosendale's candidacy for Senate? Is that correct?
RB: No, that wouldn't ... How can you separate the two? He has to be in the office in order to fight the dark money. Alright? So the two are intrinsically connected together.
EW: So like I said ... I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt but, I just want to make sure I'm understanding. Because I heard you say, I endorse Matt Rosendale. And then when I asked you for clarification, you say, I endorse him on the issue. So I'm still unclear if you're endorsing his candidacy. I'd just like a statement from you, just to make that clear for me.
RB: Well, I don't want him to take a soundbite of me out of context. Because what you're going to do, you're going to take this little snippet and you're going to stick it in your story. And you're going to tweak things that I don't mean to say. And I'm telling you what I did today, and the reason why I did it. And the reason why is the dark money. Now take that and what you may and make the story that you're going to make on it. But, to say that, you know, I support him in his run for the United States Senate and I endorse his candidacy because the dark money has affected me personally and he is the only one I think that has the character to combat that that problem.
EW: When people ask me, does Rick Breckinridge support Matt Rosendale's candidacy for the Senate, how should I answer that question?
RB: Answer that question, that dark money has forced Rick Breckenridge to make a decision. And realistically, Rick Breckenridge cannot win the Senate seat. He's at 4 percent. So who can have an effect on ridding this obvious meddling by outside influences in Montana politics, other than a man who is not connected to it through party ties? So when you when you tell people that there ... what's Rick Breckenridge's position on it, tell them exactly that. Dark money has forced him to make a stand, on principle. And Matt Rosendale is the only person in this race who is not affected by those outside influences on this issue. This affected me personally. Alright? This looks like it came from me. Now, you're going to just ... next week at this time, I got to get up in the morning, put my boots back on and go to work, and people in my community that I work with, that I play with, that I socialize with, and who I do business with, are questioning my integrity because I told a lie. What looks like, I attributed a lie about Matt Rosendale. And I did not do it. And because of that, this issue has forced me then to take a position. And dark money ... I don't agree with Matt on the border wall. I don't agree with Matt on Kavanaugh. I don't agree with ... I'm not a Trump yes-man. I'm not that. But someone has to do something about dark money. I believe that Matt Rosendale will do something about dark money if he's elected to the United States Senate.
EW: Loud and clear. I'm just in this situation. I understand how you feel about this situation damaging your trust in the community and that people aren't going to trust you because of false accusations against you. I get that because people make those accusations against me as a reporter all the time.
RB: OK. Alright, so we got to ...
EW: Right, but, again, I'm not trying to put words in your mouth. Again, people are going to ask me, is it true that Rick Breckenridge endorsed Matt Rosendale's candidacy for Senate. And people are going to want a short answer, or a yes or no answer, and it sounds like there is no yes or no answer to that. Is there a simple yes or no answer to whether Rick Breckenridge endorses Matt Rosendale's candidacy for Senate?
RB: Not out of context. Now, if you take it out of context, and just say, Rick Breckenridge, he endorses Matt Rosendale, is taking it totally and completely out of context.
EW: So if I say Rick Breckenridge endorses Matt Rosendale because of ...
RB: Now we're on the same page.
EW: Right. OK, so tell me how to finish that sentence. When I say, Rick Breckenridge endorses Matt Rosendale because ... What comes after because?
RB: Because, Rick Breckenridge believes that Matt Rosendale has the character to rectify, and to bring the responsible people to accountability for their illegal actions in Montana politics.
EW: Are you dropping out of the Senate race?
RB: I can't drop out. There's a week left. I can't drop out. Hopefully I get 25 invitations to go somewhere and speak about dark money. But ... now, I'm in door number three of Hotel California. I'm checked in and I can't check out till next week.
EW: If a Montana voter is considering voting for you or for Matt Rosendale, what do you think they should do?
RB: Well, let's put it both ways. Because, you know, in the letters that I've gotten, in the response I've got after the debate, that – Thank you Yellowstone Public Radio for inviting me – That, what the response has been is that, you know, Rick, we agree with everything that you say. But if I vote for you, then the other guy's going to win. And I got it both about Tester people and Rosendale people. I don't think I ... Libertarians, we don't affect the outcome of that vote as much as people think that we do. I'm still a voice of liberty, and a voice of principle in politics and I think that this position today just takes that that much further. If you want to vote for Rick Breckenridge, mark that box loud and clear and yell from the top of the mountain.
And because of what I've said today, you're not so certain about it. And that Jon Tester ... dark money isn't a concern to you, then go ahead, cast your vote for Jon Tester or Matt Rosendale. But, for me, in my house, I have to look at it from the standpoint of a principal and this has violated me personally. And so I had to make a stand. And so if you want to vote for Matt Rosendale, go ahead. If you want to vote for me, by all means check that box. I'm on the ballot. I'm not going anywhere. But, think about it. Today, what happened, has had a bigger impact on this Senate race than four visits to Montana by the President of the United States. That's a pretty powerful effect on it. And hopefully the dark money issue is the issue that resonates through the population to the voters of Montana, that we can't tolerate this. And we have to have people who will make this front and center. Just like in the debate, I brought up, but only had 30 seconds, but I brought up the problems, the delay problems that I have experienced in the VA. And Matt Hudson did a great job on the, you know, from the Billings Gazette, as a fact checked of what I had to say. And it's true. And that's the kind of journalism I hope we get out of this issue. Is that we get to the bottom of this, as well, and that the sources are revealed. And that the people responsible are held accountable for it. Because this is an illegal activity. And it needs to be.. You guys in the media, are the ones who ... are the watchdog. You have to bring these guys out and expose them for what they're doing.
EW: OK. Thanks for your time. Again, you know, just from my point of view when I heard you made those statements on the call this morning, it seemed pretty clear to me that you were endorsing Matt's candidacy for Senate. And that's what we went with.
RB: And that's what I said, but I want to I want it put into context. It has to stay in context.
EW: Gotcha. Is there anything we didn't talk about today that you think is important for Montana voters to know?
RB: First of all, I'm not a quitter. The Libertarian – the message of liberty, I know it resonates in people's hearts, but if you remember in my opening statement, I said that fear and money in politics has created an environment where people are afraid to cast a vote for liberty. And – don't be afraid to. This is, you know, this dark money thing is on both sides. It just happened to affect me personally on this side of things. And if it would have came from the other side, I would have been just as adamant in the...in my response as I am today. Because this is, you know, hurt me personally. And I didn't sign up to be a candidate for the United States Senate to be used and abused and be a poster child for either side. That I'm an issue-orientated individual. And I hope that liberty is the message that comes out of this. And that we stop the dark money in Montana.
EW: Alright, well Mr. Breckenridge, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.
RB: Thank you. Bye.