Monday, March 10, 2008

At Large

I figured it was time to educate myself on the state of the MT-AL House race, a seat held for the past 4 terms by mediocre Republican Denny Rehberg, whose most recent legislative accomplishment according to the Library of Congress was introducing a resolution to recognize the 125th birthday of Billings. It was referred to committee nearly a year ago.

More about Rehberg as a Very Serious Person, in a Daily Kos diary I’d previously missed, here. What an ass.

Montana, besides having a popular Democratic governor, is also (since the election of Jon Tester in 2006) represented by two Democratic U.S. senators. Sen. Max Baucus (often mentioned here, due to his degree of influence in agricultural policy) should coast to an easy reelection. The time is right to focus on targeting Rehberg this November.

As of February 12, we have a declared Democratic opponent for Rehberg: consumer and personal injury attorney Jim Hunt of Helena.

Hunt is a fourth-generation Montanan and retired lieutenant colonel in the Montana National Guard. The Missoula Independent explained why he’s likely immune to some traditional stereotypes that work against Democrats:

Born on the Hi-line in Chester, Hunt doesn’t need to do any phony acting to come across as a genuine Montanan. He’s a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, an avid sportsman, a true conservationist, and a Chancellor for the Episcopal Diocese of Montana. Taken together, that background deflects about 90 percent of what Republicans have traditionally shot at their Democrat challengers. No, Hunt isn’t going to take your guns away, and yes, he does know how to use them—and he won’t be posing like John Kerry if he shows up in goose-hunting gear. Moreover, he realizes the value of maintaining a clean and healthy environment—just like our state promises—and not just for hunting and fishing, but for all the myriad reasons the drafters found it necessary to include such a groundbreaking provision in our 1972 Montana Constitution.

A little on his law practice:

We represent clients all types of personal injury, wrongful death, and related accident cases including Auto and Truck Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Brain Injuries, Slip & Fall Accidents, Construction Site Accidents, Work-Related Accidents, Semi-Truck Accidents, Dog Bites & Animal Attacks, Dangerous & Defective Products, Motorcycle Accidents, Premises Liability, Nursing Home Negligence & Elder Abuse. We do not represent businesses, corporations or insurance companies in Montana. We represent real people with real physical, emotional and financial problems caused by an injury or death.

Spokesmen for Rehberg distance him from the damaged Republican party, saying that he “votes for Montana's interests, regardless of whether a proposal is supported by the president, Republicans or Democrats.” However, in the 110th Congress, Rehberg voted with his party 92% of the time, putting him well above average for party loyalty among Republicans, and characterizes him as a “rank-and-file Republican.” Hunt could get some real traction with civil liberties issues: Montanans have a strongly libertarian streak, and Rehberg’s alignment with Bush administration surveillance priorities could hurt him. From yesterday’s Great Falls Tribune:

Hunt also criticized Rehberg's support of a bill that would grant retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies that aided the Bush administration in spying on Americans with warrantless wire taps.

"He and I dramatically split on that," Hunt said. "Montanans don't want people tapping into their phone records, getting into their medical records, getting into their gun records. Montanans are private people."

Hunt is also critical of Rehberg’s support of the Administration on Iraq.

"Rehberg has voted with Bush ... right down the line on the war to the point where he said, 'it's not my job to second-guess the president on the Iraq War,'" Hunt said. "It is absolutely the job of Congress to second guess the executive branch on those types of issues. He's dead wrong on that approach."

Jim Hunt’s issues page.

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