The Montana Senate had been expected to wrap up its business and head home this afternoon. Instead, Senators debated for more than an hour on one of the governor’s most controversial nominees.
In the end, Jonathan Motl became the first Commissioner of political practices to be confirmed by the Montana Senate in nearly a decade. Appointed by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock, Motl has drawn fire from many Republicans who claim he targets conservatives for campaign violations, like Miles City Republican Eric Moore.
“This individual clearly has a bias, which is certainly his right," Moore said, "but that same bias and passion for what he believes in disqualify him for this position, and we must do the right thing and vote no.”
Thompson Falls Republican Jennifer Fielder said Motl’s actions would drive good people away from running for political office.
“Whether or not I want to subject myself to a tyrant who’s supposed to be a referee will be a major factor in deciding whether I decide to serve the state of Montana any longer," she said. "That shouldn’t be that way."
Democratic Leader Jon Sesso said just the opposite is true, that Motl has been even-handed in his legal practice, and in two years as the referee in Montana’s political arena.
“Mister Motl has demonstrated both in his law practice and during his tenure as commissioner, to be firm fair and unbiased," Sesso said.
The 29-to-21 vote to confirm Motl was also a defeat for the hard-right wing of the Republican party, which had tried to stall Motl’s nomination in committee. His term will run through the end of 2016.