Nancy Keenan says Democrats are coming out of the primary and headed into the general election season both excited and optimistic. Keenan is the executive director of the Montana Democratic Party. She says Democratic candidates will focus on a handful of issues that she believes are key to voters.
Nancy Keenan: Look, it's about a stronger economy in Montana. It's about protecting our public lands and making sure they're not sold off to the highest bidder. And making sure we have quality education and future for all Montanans to share in.
Edward O'Brien: What sort of gains, if any, are you predicting in the legislature this year?
NK: You know, it's gonna depend. I think it's possible to pick up several seats in the House. I think that's real doable this time around. And then I think on the Senate side, I think we've got some seats to protect there, but opportunities that we'll take advantage of where I think we can draw the contrast between what Democrats believe, and share the values of Montanans, versus ... right now the Republican party in Montana is very divided and I think, split on what they really see moving forward with regard to their party.
EO: You said that several seats in the House are doable. Specifically? Care to mention any in particular, and why do you say that?
NK: Just off the top of my head, possibly House District 28 up in Havre. Obviously Laurie Bishop out there in the Livingston-area House District 60 could be a pickup. I think Addrien Marx who's running in House District 92, Steve Muggli out in Miles City, and then Nick Davis out in Lolo. So there's some opportunities here that I think we have, we're just gonna have to work hard.
EO: Notice anything interesting from the Republican races yesterday?
NK: Yeah, absolutely; that some of the moderate Republicans that were taking on the more conservative side of their party did not win. It's important that moderate Republicans are elected. There's gotta be a working majority that Democrats and Republicans come together to solve the problems that face Montana. And I think what we're seeing is more obstructionist Republicans possibly emerging after the primary, and that's gonna make it tough to move an agenda forward if they're not willing to work with Democrats.
EO: I notice in the gubernatorial race, Terry Nelson pulled in 23 percent in what some are describing as his "token race" against Mr. Gianforte. What do you make of that, if anything?
NK: I think that Mr. Gianforte is a little bit too far out there for some of the moderates in the Republican Party, and so I think they're looking for an alternative there. And again, it speaks to that that party is not united, and that's a contrast with the Democratic Party. We are all on the same page with regard to how we have to work together to move forward.
EO: You've been quoted as saying you're certain Montana Democrats will rally behind Secretary Clinton. Why did you say that when Senator Sanders won Montana yesterday?
NK: We know that there's one goal here, and that is to beat Donald Trump. He's dangerous. I think he's unpredictable. I think it's a risk. So I think Democrats will readily unite against somebody that is not prepared to be president.
EO: You've been talking a lot about unity in the Democratic Party, and yet some will point to some major rifts, even today in the Democratic Party. They point to some of the violence and threats at the Nevada convention. To them, what do you say?
NK: I was not in Nevada. I can't speak to what happened down there, but I still believe that Democrats across the country are going to see that there is a stark difference in having a Donald Trump presidency vs. a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Montana Democrats will hold their state convention this weekend in Helena to update their party platform and select 21 delegates to attend the Democratic National Convention in July.