The campaign consultant who helped orchestrate the Democratic upset in Alabama’s special U.S. Senate election last year has signed on to help Montana congressional candidate John Heenan who’s running in a contested primary.
The Billings attorney says he first met Joe Trippi when he was in Washington D.C. to attend a law conference. He recalls most of their conversation was about that Alabama U.S. Senate race, “Frankly he saw a lot of similarities between this race and the Alabama race.”
Trippi was the chief media strategist for the Doug Jones campaign in the Alabama race. Moore defeated Republican Roy Moore. Trippi has worked for numerous Democratic candidates over the past 3 decades.
Heenan says while Trippi is helping his campaign, he is not interested in becoming a template politician. He says his playbook is to meet face-to-face with Montanans.
“What none of us like when politicians become this politician-bot/robot that doesn’t connect with people,” Heenan says.
He wryly says that includes not following what some consultants have already told him, straighten his curly hair.
“I am who I am,” says Heenan.
Still, he is pleased someone of Trippi’s caliber is a member of his team.
“I feel fortunate now to be surrounded by people that know how to win and can guide me because this is a whole different realm,” he says.
This is Heenan’s first run for elected office.
David Parker, a professor of political science at Montana State University, says most people don’t know of Joe Trippi. Parker says it does send a message to Democratic and other political insiders that there is now a certain level of professionalism in the Heenan campaign.
“The June ballot is the real test,” says Parker. “It doesn’t mean that because you’ve got Joe Trippi you’ve got the secret sauce to win the election or anything like that. It just means that you’ve got someone that at least knows what putting together a campaign looks like."
Parker says that means the money will be spent more effectively, but more importantly put into the right areas.
So far, Montana’s June primary ballot will feature Heenan, Grant Kier, Lynda Moss, and Kathleen Williams. All have officially filed with the Montana Secretary of State’s office. Declared candidate, Jared Pettinato, has yet to file. Candidate filing closes March 12, 2018.
Montana's primary election is June 5, 2018.
The winner faces Republican Greg Gianforte on November 6, 2018 general election ballot.