The Billings Outpost

Daines, Lewis look like winners in state races


Cathy Siegner

There’s an interesting reverse parallel situation in the state’s two congressional races this year. In the U.S. Senate contest, it’s pretty much all over but the shouting since U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., will win the seat warmed for decades by Max Baucus unless something really nasty emerges before Nov. 4 (e.g., he’s a Muslim extremist and/or beats his wife and children).

In the U.S. House race, John Lewis looks to have clear sailing in the June 3 Democratic primary and, barring some equally startling news, should at least have a fighting chance to snag Daines’ soon-to-be-vacated seat in November. I’ve come to that conclusion because the five U.S. House candidates in the Republican primary appear locked in their own battles, and it may take more than one campaign cycle before the dust settles.

The House contest also appears to be splitting the Montana Republican Party as a whole since various factions are fighting among themselves about which of the five GOP House candidates is a “true conservative.” It’s hard to imagine the Dems fighting over who is their “most liberal” candidate, mainly because they usually avoid that adjective.

So far, state Sen. Matt Rosendale, R-Glendive, seems to be positioning himself as the drone-shooting candidate in the crowded GOP primary field ever since he released an ad showing himself “shooting” down a government drone. Former state Sen. Ryan Zinke, R-Whitefish, seems to be pinning his electoral hopes on his former career as a Navy SEAL and the fact that he’s raised the most money to date.

Neither candidate has exactly set the party faithful on fire so far, but there are small skirmishes going on behind the scenes between those who think Rosendale is too right-wing and those who think Zinke is too liberal to wear the GOP mantle in November.

If neither of those guys is a “true conservative” by Big Sky standards, someone will have to tell me who is. It would be nice if the state’s Republican voters would choose an actual “moderate” to run against Lewis this fall, but someone fitting that description is becoming scarce as hen’s teeth these days.

If nothing else, the situation shows the voting public how contentious party politics can be and that, under that inclusive “big tent” imagery the two major parties try to project, there’s a serious lack of camaraderie.

Sometimes it seems more like a circus tent.

Ego trip

Former Gov. Marc Racicot recently opined that the prosecution’s case against Barry Beach shouldn’t be reopened. Beach is the guy who allegedly killed a teenage girl near Poplar back in 1979. He has served 30 years of a 100-year sentence and recently went before the Board of Pardons and Parole to ask for clemency.

Racicot prosecuted that murder case back in 1984 and has been asserting Beach’s guilt ever since despite questions about Beach’s confession and the quality of investigative work done at the state crime lab. Gov. Steve Bullock recently wrote a letter to the parole board asking it to consider whether Beach has served sufficient time in prison.

I’m not a lawyer, but I know from history that errors can be made between the commission of a crime and the eventual judicial outcome, so it’s wise to take a second or even third look at the evidence, especially when someone’s life is at stake. Prosecutors almost never want to reexamine a case no matter what may have come to light because, at bottom, they don’t want their decisions second-guessed.

There are yellow signs around Helena that proclaim in big letters: “Free Barry Beach.” A growing number of folks believe he’s innocent and that it’s a major miscarriage of justice he’s still in prison. While most of us don’t know the truth of the situation, ideally any serious case should be reexamined in light of new and/or renewed evidence, and egos should not be allowed to stand in the way.

Hitting Hillary

Hillary Clinton is a lot of things — smart, driven, polarizing, to name a few — and there aren’t many people who don’t have some kind of opinion about her. The national Republican Party is afraid she may be the next Democratic nominee for president and are therefore pulling out all the stops to keep her from moving back into the White House.

The Sept. 11, 2012, attack on our Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi, Libya, during which the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three others were killed, became highly controversial in part because Clinton was secretary of state at the time and the Obama administration has been perceived as mischaracterizing the attack and generally not providing adequate information about what happened.

As a result, GOP members of Congress have charged the administration with a “cover-up” regarding Benghazi and recently launched a committee to further investigate the attack. According to a May 10 analysis in the Washington Post, Benghazi has become the latest GOP buzzword, replacing “Obamacare,” which was pretty well-worn.

If Clinton’s opponents can’t get enough traction against her presidential ambitions by invoking Benghazi, they can be relied upon to start talking about her early support for universal healthcare coverage and maybe her widely publicized comment about choosing a professional career rather than staying home and baking cookies and having teas. And, should those strategies fail, there’s always Monica Lewinsky.

Global strike

Thousands of fast-food workers on six continents plan to walk off the job this Thursday, May 15, in a global protest against the low wages and poor (or no) benefits common in the industry. They reportedly chose the 15th of the month because they also want $15 per hour, which is twice what some of them make now.

The strike will target McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King outlets both here and in other countries. McDonald’s will hold an annual shareholder meeting May 22 in Illinois, and the pay and benefits issue could land on the agenda, depending on how effective the Thursday strike turns out to be.

Changing views

A few high-profile politicians have been taking a surprising tack on the minimum wage lately. Exhibit A is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who recently said that he doesn’t agree with “many of the conservatives in my party” on the issue. “I think we ought to raise [the minimum wage], he said recently. “Because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay.”

Well, call me cynical, but my guess is this trend is either because such folks want to be seen doing something positive for the “little guy” since he/she will be voting this year, or they want to see an improvement in the sluggish economy and the level of individual disposable income is a huge piece of that, or both.

Quote of the week

“Let’s not make this argument that we’re for the blue-collar guy but we’re against any minimum-wage hike ever. It just makes no sense.”

– Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., May 5, on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd.”

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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