We grew giddy this week when we learned that recently ousted Missoula City Council member Lyn Hellegaard is polishing up her six-shooter to go gunning for Democrat Ellie Hill.
We couldn't have dreamed up a better political grudge match.
Hellegaard, a Republican, aims to unseat Hill in House District 94 this November. Both politicians are lightning rods, prone to controversy. They also use inflammatory and, at times, polarizing language. While on council, the fiscally conservative Hellegaard periodically lambasted Missoula budget crunchers. ("Crap" is among the adjectives she used to describe the city's budget process). Similarly, Hill drew media attention last year when she took aim at Havre's Republican legislator Kris Hansen: After Hansen introduced a bill that aimed to overturn Missoula's anti-discrimination ordinance, Hill took to Facebook vowing to unseat her, saying, "Your days are numbered, Rep. Hansen."
Cue the theme song of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
We caught up with Hill less than 24 hours after she learned that Hellegaard had tossed her 10-gallon hat into the race. The incumbent was chomping at the bit to further brand herself a social progressive.
Hill eagerly pointed out that Hellegaard was only one of two city councilors to vote against Missoula's anti-discrimination ordinance. It's not a coincidence, Hill said, that Hellegaard lost her Ward 4 seat to gay rights activist Caitlin Copple.
That skirmish over social policies foreshadows others to come when the Montana Legislature convenes next year. There's little doubt that reproductive rights will again be on the agenda, as will questions of LGBT equality.
Hellegaard didn't return calls from the Indy seeking comment. She's running as the only Republican in the House District 94 race, meaning she's already in it for the long haul, past primary season and into November.
Hill must win a June primary against two other Democratic challengers, Pete Burridge and former Missoula Councilwoman Lou Ann Crowley.
Crowley served on the Missoula City Council between 1996 and 2005. While there, she earned a reputation as a moderate able to work across party lines. She ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2005. In 2010, she lost a race in HD 94 to Hill. But now, should Hill and Hellegaard blow one another to smithereens, Crowley will no doubt be ready to saddle up and head to Helena in 2013.