Montana Public Radio

Helena Hosts Montana Democratic Convention This Weekend

Jul 12, 2019

This weekend Montana Democrats will convene in Helena to begin strategizing how to appeal to voters in the 2020 election. They’ll elect party leadership, who will guide fundraising and candidate recruitment.

State Democrats have struggled to gain significant political ground in recent elections. Next year will be another big test of the party’s appeal to voters.

Democrats were nearly swept out of statewide office in 2016, when Governor Steve Bullock was the only Democrat to win an executive position in the state.

In the legislature, Democrats have not held more than 42 percent of chamber seats for a decade.

However in the most recent session the party had one of its best showings since 2007.

“I think we have a lot of opportunities and I think we’re on an upward trajectory," said Montana Democratic Party Chair Mary Sexton.

The 2019 Montana Democartic Party’s Officers and Rules Convention starts Friday and runs until Saturday afternoon.

Former U.S. Demcoratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota is booked to give a featured speech the second day.

Sexton says Heitkamp can speak to an area of American politics that Montana Democrats need to work on - appealing to rural voters.

“I think that is something that we are focusing on," Sexton said. "And (we) are looking at positive messaging. Because I think in many ways the Republican party has not served rural areas as well as they would like people in rural areas to believe.”

Sexton says Montanta’s agriculture sector is hurting because of tariffs levied in the United States’ ongoing trade disputes. That’s a topic Democrats will likely bring up on the campaign trail.

She also says the party will focus on the cost and availability of health care and education.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Montana Democrats’ senior elected official, is also scheduled to speak at the convention.