Little Trent, Tommy and Ellie are counting on voters in Kalispell’s Ward 2 to vote for Bob Herron. The insurance salesman handed out a picture of himself with the kids during a recent press conference in front of Kalispell City Hall. There, Herron told a small gathering that he doesn’t want little Trent, Tommy and Ellie to grow up and find themselves “changing bed sheets for the super-rich.” And that’s what he says is going to happen if the Kalispell City Council keeps interfering with free enterprise.
Herron, a first-time candidate, is running against one-term incumbent Fred Leistiko. The race may become the most expensive city council contest Kalispell has ever seen. Leistiko raised $7,625 as of the Oct. 23 reporting deadline, while Herron had collected $9,913.
“You aren’t going to make a big deal out of that are you?” asks Herron, who is politically savvy enough to know that voters aren’t charmed by money-driven campaigns.
Candidates in Kalispell’s other two contested races are expected to spend between $0 and $1,500, so the Herron v. Leistiko matchup is clearly where the stakes are highest. Herron predicts that at least 800 voters will show up on election day in Ward 2. With the combined spending of both candidates totaling more than $17,500, it looks like they could shell out almost $22 per vote.
What does this have to do with little Trent, Tommy and Ellie? Herron says this race “is about our children’s future.” But behind the kid-friendly rhetoric and campaign newspaper ad featuring Herron’s grandson on his knee lies a fierce battle between the candidate and those who want to kill the proposed Glacier Mall project.
Many of Leistiko’s supporters fear the new mall—with its chain stores and chain restaurants—will tank the community’s effort to revive downtown Kalispell. To dispel those fears, Herron is pushing a plan to redevelop the existing mall downtown by adding a “new performing arts center,” a “new ice arena,” a “new Olive Garden” and a “new Red Lobster.”