Jon Ellingson stood smiling in front of 40 supporters on Monday, Sept. 22, in front of the steps of the Missoula Court House. The Senate Minority Whip had already been to Billings and Helena to announce his candidacy for Montana Secretary of State, and now he was home to make one more speech. Most of Ellingson’s rhetoric played as expected—he blasted current Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Bob Brown and talked of how Brown’s office failed to engage potential voters last November—but Ellingson didn’t stop with Brown.
The state senator used his soapbox to address issues well beyond the scope of the Secretary of State’s office. In wide strokes, Ellingson criticized the Republican Party’s work from the local to national levels. Veering from the responsibilities of the Secretary—the state’s top election official—Ellingson went after deregulation, state tax hikes and President Bush’s tax breaks, even touching on the idea that Florida handed Bush the election.
“[Bush’s] presidency was secured by the Florida secretary of state, who bent the rules for partisan purposes,” he told his supporters, to applause.
Ellingson sees nothing odd about using his campaign to do a little all-encompassing Democratic cheerleading. The blunderings of the Republican Party are too large not to mention, he says, even if the topic doesn’t directly relate to the office he’s running for.
“The bankruptcy of the majority party at the national level is as fully transparent as is the bankruptcy of the policies of the party at the state level,” he says. “We aren’t going to have a national shift in policy unless we have a statewide shift.”
Ellingson, a Missoulian, joins a field of candidates that already includes two Republicans—Bozeman business-owner Brad Johnson and Gov. Judy Martz’ aide Todd O’Hair—and Democratic Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy.