One of the great things about Montana politics is you don’t have to be a politician—all well-heeled, even smiles and polished platitudes—to play.
That’s not to say that money and connections don’t inform (and win) political races around here, or that the candidates with flashy TV spots and fund-raisers aplenty aren’t the ones most people recognize. But Montana, with its modest population and even more modest incomes, offers at least a glimmer of light for political hopefuls with just the right blend of disgruntlement and gumption, not to mention the requisite filing fee. Most long shots shoot for in-state offices, but the lure of the federal spotlight has drawn more than a few unexpected contenders into the running for Sen. Conrad Burns’ United States Senate seat and Rep. Denny Rehberg’s position in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Likely you’ve already heard and read more than you care to about Burns since last August, when Montana became the first state in the nation to feature a barrage of TV ads for a hotly contested U.S. Senate race. And you’ve no doubt learned about the bids of Montana Senate President Jon Tester, State Auditor John Morrison and state Senate Minority Leader Bob Keenan, all trying to unseat Burns. And while the race for the U.S. House hasn’t heated up like the Senate race has, you’re also probably aware that Rehberg has competition from state Rep. Monica Lindeen.
Odds are, though, you don’t know much about the six other candidates in these races. Though they share a common status as political dark horses with the potential—if not the promise—to impact the front-runners, their similarities mainly stop there. On one end of the spectrum, you’ll find Paul Richards, an experienced progressive with thoughtful positions who’s running a legitimate grassroots campaign; on the other end waits Kenneth Marcure, a self-described Don Quixote who insists from campaign headquarters in his longtime home of Kyoto, Japan, that his candidacy is “not about winning.”
What all six of the dark horses on the following pages do share is a frustration with politics as usual with which most Montanans can at least sympathize, and an earnest willingness to take on the big guns, which is more than most of us can say.
You already know the big-gun candidates who are out to get your vote in the June 6 primary election. Here’s an introduction to some others who want your vote but, for various reasons, may not have had much of a chance to tell you why.
Bob Candee for United States Senate
Bio: Candee has lived in Richland County—on the eastern end of the state—for all his 64 years. He raises cattle and grows wheat, and has three grown children.
Political Experience: Candee ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002.
Why He’s Running: Farmers and ranchers in the state need more help addressing their issues, which include mandatory labeling of meat to reflect its origin and increasing farmed acreage statewide.
Soundbite: “If you want to do a little experimenting, put a cup of flour in a box and shake it up and put a match in there and poof, you’ll see it light up,” Candee says, explaining how his patented invention, which apparently turns grain flour into power, works.
Best Idea: Candee wants to rein in the pharmaceutical industry by allowing basic medications like penicillin to be sold over the counter, as they are in other countries. As things stand now, Candee says, the Federal Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies work in tandem to rip off average Americans who need medications.
Worst Idea: Violent movies and video games ought to be closely examined for their negative effects on youth, Candee says, and we should consider banning them. “They’re almost like pornography or something,” he says. Hello, Taliban…
Strategy: Candee has posted information about himself and his platform on his website and has spoken at candidate forums in the eastern part of the state. He’s also been spreading the word with his neighbors, but finds that duties at his cattle ranch make it difficult to find time to campaign.
On the issues:
Universal Health Care: While Candee thinks everyone should have insurance, he would like to see it implemented through a state program rather than through a federal program.
Iraq/War on Terror: The United States shouldn’t have invaded Iraq, Candee says, and now that the country has held elections and is forming its own government, he would support pulling American troops out altogether.
Energy Independence: Candee supports increased exploration of alternative energy sources like wind and ethanol to reduce American dependence on oil. He also thinks his patented grain flour fuel engine, which can run on any kind of grain, has a lot of potential.
Global Warming: The United States needs to set an example by heading up worldwide efforts to reduce pollution and energy consumption, Candee says.
Lobbying Reform: Elected officials and others who work for the federal government should open their financial books for public examination, Candee says. Also, he thinks there should be more stringent limitations on campaign contributions, because it’s not right that candidates have to raise so much money to have a chance at gaining office.
Vote For Him If: You think the Senate could use a dose of sheer goodwill and community support, like that displayed by Candee’s long-running offer of college scholarships to each and every high school graduate in his hometown of Richey.
Eric Jon Gunderson for United States House of Representatives
Bio: Gunderson, 38, was born in Vallejo, Calif., and moved to Montana when he was 11. A graduate of UM and father of five kids (with one stepson), he and his wife opened a gas station in Ravalli in 1997 but “eight years of investment went down the tubes” when the mortgage was bought out in 2005. Now, Gunderson says, “I deliver body parts…oh, that’s auto body parts.”
Website: www.gunderson4congress.com is a surreal cornucopia of weirdness. Example: a portrait of Gunderson on the main page shows the candidate holding an animated guitar-player under a blooming tree in the palm of his hand. “Both my wife and I were art students,” Gunderson explains.
Political Experience: Not so much. “I refer to my experience as being in daily societal politics,” he says.
Why He’s Running: To bring his common-sense experience as a small-business owner pumping gas and selling Twinkies to Washington, D.C. He says, “I feel a calling to be a part of the process. I’ve always waited for an average person to step up to the plate and no one has.”
Soundbite: “Laws are just too complicated for the Average to understand.” [He capitalized “Average.”]
Best Idea: Free college classes for senior citizens. “Just because they’re old and retired doesn’t mean they don’t still have the hunger to learn. Plus, it’s an opportunity to help teach our youth by pairing them with their elders.”
Worst Idea: Using a Chuck Norris video clip from The Bible Network to promote his idea of making Bible History an elective course in high-school curriculums. We know Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer, but we’re not sure how his religious views poll in Montana.
Budget: None. “I’m not actively seeking donations,” Gunderson says. But his website does offer supporters the chance to purchase computer printouts of dentist office-style paintings such as “Helping Paws!” and “Winning is Better!” for $10 apiece.
Strategy: Gunderson learned the value of hanging flyers during his time in the one-time Missoula band Black Leather Rose. He’s also posting what he calls “mini-me signs”—6-foot cutouts of the 6-foot-2-inch candidate. But most of all, Gunderson is relying on the power of the Internet. His campaign website includes a games section, family video, blog, surveys (including your chance to help name the next baby Gunderson—Lilly, Crystal, Angel, Joy, you decide!), a soothing soundtrack and a few pages outlining his stances on the issues.
On the issues:
Universal Health Care: Gunderson wants to put the money already spent on federal medical plans to work as subsidies for universal health care. He points to Rep. Jim McDermott’s (D-Wash.) bill, HR-1200, which has been stuck in committee for a year, as a model.
Iraq/War on Terror: Gunderson says he understands the reasons the country went to war, but believes once those reasons were proven unfounded our forces should have been pulled out. He adds: “But before we ever stepped foot out of our country, we should have secured our borders.”
Energy Independence: Gunderson’s most interested in investing in hydrogen engines because “they already exist.” He also thinks we should address energy issues by buying cheaper oil from Venezuela rather than the Middle East.
Global Warming: “I don’t know a lot about global warming,” he first admits, but later Gunderson suggests a greater reliance on nuclear energy, which he views as cleaner and safer. “Everyone points to Three Mile Island, but that was fully contained. It wasn’t a problem.”
Lobbying Reform: “It’s simple,” he says. “No money should ever change hands. Period. That’s what I would work for.”
Vote For Him If: You think goofy websites are groovy and that more average dudes should abide in the House of Representatives, or you just really loathe incumbent Denny Rehberg and want to show it by voting for his polar opposite.
Daniel Lloyd Neste Huffman for United States Senate
Bio: Huffman, born and raised in Big Timber, is a 48-year-old car salesman and bingo caller from Carter. He has a wife, Sandy, and a daughter, Angela, 14.
Party: Republican on the ballot, but a former Reform Party member with a strong liberal bent. He says he’s running as a Republican because he holds down two jobs and didn’t have time to collect the 10,405 signatures required to get on the ballot as a Reform Party candidate, adding, “I am totally against partisan politics, but unfortunately that’s the system we’ve got.”
Political Experience: Three failed bids for Cascade County offices as a Reform Party candidate.
Why He’s Running: Because he’s mad, dammit, and he’s not going to take it anymore: “Just like everybody else, I’m fed up with the way the country is going, so I decided to see what I could do about it.”
Soundbite: “I think if everybody is like me, and I think most people are, I should win.”
Best Idea: A toss-up between doubling the minimum wage “so every American can earn a living wage” and rewarding whistle-blowers who ferret out price-gouging schemes by Big Industry.
Worst Idea: Giving government loans to individual households to install wind turbines. “It wouldn’t be long and you’d have your own power paid for and then you could sell the rest on the open market.” Won’t anybody please think of the songbirds?
Budget: Zip. Huffman says he doesn’t feel right taking donations unless and until he beats Burns in the primary.
Strategy: He’s running a semi-stealth campaign that involves showing up at candidate debates and forums and attending Republican Party dinners.
On the issues:
Universal Health Care: Wants to put a cap on health-care charges, but doesn’t have a clear plan for how that might be done. “I can see making a fair profit, but they shouldn’t be building new hospitals on our medical bills.”
Iraq/War on Terror: Huffman says the Iraq war was a mistake, as are all wars, but now that we’re in Iraq we have to save face with the rest of the world. “The people of America need to demand that we withdraw from Iraq, and we have to demand an apology from the administration to other countries and promise never to do it again.”
Energy Independence: Huffman favors investment in alternative fuels, and biofuels in particular. He also supports requiring vehicle manufacturers to build cars that get at least 45 miles per gallon and trucks and SUVs that get at least 30 miles per gallon.
Global Warming: See windmills-for-everyone plan above.
Lobbying Reform: Favors strict lobbying guidelines requiring full disclosure by elected officials of all gifts and contributions. “As long as there’s a thing called greed you’re going to have problems,” Huffman says. “We need to get people in there that have ethics and that can actually work for the people.”
Vote For Him If: You’re an angry independent who makes less than $10 an hour and can hardly afford to fill up your gas tank.
Bob Kelleher for United States Senate
Bio: Born in Illinois, Kelleher is an 83-year-old longtime Butte resident who holds down law practices in both Butte and Billings. A widower, Kelleher has seven children.
Website: www.onewest.net/kelleher/ public_html/
Party: Republican this time around, since he’s fed up with the Dems and because “parties mean nothing.”
Political Experience: Frequent candidate Kelleher ran for governor in 2004 and U.S. Senate in 2002 as a Green Party candidate. He was a Democratic candidate in presidential primaries in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Georgia in 1976. He was also a delegate at Montana’s constitutional convention in 1972, and ran his first Montana race in the 1960s.
Why He’s Running: To change the United States’ form of government from a congressional system to a parliamentary system, a shift he’s attempted to enact on both the state and federal levels for decades. Politicians would be held accountable to their political platforms, cabinet heads would be elected, and the executive would be prevented from running amok, Kelleher says, which would solve many of America’s political woes. All countries with higher standards of living than the United States are run on parliamentary systems, he says.
Soundbite: “For the last 30 years, I’ve been trying to bring about a nonviolent revolution, and because of my age, this is the last chance.”
Best Idea: Kelleher wants to create MontCare, a statewide universal health care system, since the likelihood of a similar system being implemented nationwide is slight.
Worst Idea: Strategy-wise, gun control. Kelleher wants to prevent accidental and unnecessary deaths, though he knows it’s an unpopular stance with Republicans and Democrats alike in Montana. “These cowboys have all got to have their damn guns,” he laments.
Budget: Self-financed, and below the contribution filing requirement threshold of $5,000. “Naturally I don’t attract any lobbyist money,” he says, referring to his Missoula billboard that reads, “Kelleher’s U.S. Parliament Will Outlaw Lobbyists.”
Strategy: Kelleher’s hoping to win votes from American Indians dissatisfied with Burns, and consequently he’s running radio ads on reservations. He’s also hitting as many candidate forums as possible to spread his views.
On the issues:
Universal Health Care: Kelleher’s definitely a supporter, but he says it will be impossible to achieve without implementing a parliamentary system and outlawing lobbyists, since insurance companies wield such influence.
Iraq/War on Terror: Kelleher wants to cut off all funding for the war and immediately pull troops out. He would support the creation of a new country in northern Iraq for the Kurds, and then “give the Shiites and the Sunnis six weeks to figure it out.”
Energy Independence: Besides supporting windmills and other forms of alternative energy, Kelleher also proposes to create MontRail, a high-speed state-owned passenger rail service for the state that would rejuvenate small towns and cut down on automobile usage.
Global Warming: Supporting renewable energy and cutting pollution through the use of hybrid cars and a mass-transit rail system are keys to getting a handle on the issue, Kelleher says.
Lobbying Reform: Hopeless. Lobbying reform, Kelleher says, “is like teaching a Montana wolf to lose his taste for Montana lamb.”
Vote For Him If: You respect your elders and can’t help but believe that Kelleher, born before the Great Depression and clearly a history buff, has figured a few things out along the way.
Kenneth Marcure for United States Senate
Bio: Marcure, a self-describedly “forlorn candidate,” is a Missoula native, raised in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and graduated from the University of Montana. Marcure says he’s got family in Frenchtown, Charlo and Whitefish. Though he hasn’t provided his age, Marcure says he traveled to Kyoto, Japan, on a local Rotary Club scholarship in 1970. He’s still there (though apparently still registered to vote in Missoula), having married a woman of Austrian birth sometime in the interim. When he’s not running long-distance for a seat in the United States Senate—“doing a Don Quixote,” he calls it—he teaches English at several Japanese universities.
Campaign Website: We couldn’t find one.
Political Experience: No known.
Why He’s Running: Why not?
Soundbite: “This is absolutely a one man show; there is nobody helping me; most people I know think I have lost my mind; sometimes, I do also.”
Best Idea: “Should we this year ponder a statement of the Founding Fathers: ‘It will not be denied that Power is of an encroaching nature and should be effectively restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.’” Yes, we probably should.
Worst Idea: Wasting the $1,652 filing fee.
Budget: Probably not
Strategy: Long, rambling, barely coherent e-mails to newspapers. Early in the race Marcure indicated he’d return to Montana to campaign, but so far no one seems to have seen him.
On the issues:
Universal Health Care: No stated position, but according to his correspondence, Marcure has asthma and treats it with regular swimming. Also possibly relevant, from an unpublished letter to the editor: “If we are a great country, why cannot we take care of our people[?]”
Iraq/War on Terror: Thinks “the Abu Ghraib scandal needs to be explored and the master-slave relationship of those at the end of the sexual spectrum can help us understand what is going on—on a deeper level.”
Energy Independence: No policy proposals, but Marcure notes in other contexts that “The Bible and Jesus do not at all like hypocrisy.”
Global Warming: Probably against it, but more interested in his theory that “The Economist magazine that I read regularly has given me over the last several years, tantalizing hints as to what is going on, but, they, like the intelligence agencies will not connect their dots. Should I be able to force them to respond to me, by filing for the senate, because they do have articles about Montana, and senate races, I may be able to force them to answer my question or questions.”
Lobbying Reform: “If one asked me about money politics, I would have answered that it cannot happen to me. Why? I do not golf…Do you not understand why I shall never be a statesman?”
Vote For Him If: Your vote’s so cheap you’ll trade it for a giggle. Marcure doesn’t even seem to want to win. For him, the race is “about giving back [an unspecified] moral debt.” Mostly he just seems to want someone to talk to, and he picked you.
Paul Richards for United States Senate
Bio: A former journalist, teacher, musician and longtime political hand, Richards lives in the Boulder valley south of Helena, where he owns and operates a public-interest media consulting firm with a primarily nonprofit clientele.
Website: www.richards2006.us presents Richards’ positions on renewable energy (he’d fund innovation and conservation), Montana’s nuclear arsenal (let them go, and redirect the workforce to build windmills), American Indians (settle their long-running trust suit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs for $176 billion), education (reform schools and revalue teachers), wildland and roadless protections (more, please), sustainable agriculture (to be encouraged), cultural diversity (celebrate it) and women (he’s pro-equal rights amendment). There’s even a collection of how-to tips on speaking up at meetings and other forms of public engagement.
Political Experience: Almost four decades of Montana politicking, going back to Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential campaign. Before that he was a Kennedy kid. Afterward, he was elected to the state house in 1975 and has been a founder, director or board member of more than a dozen activist foundations and coalitions and committees since then.
Why He’s Running: First and foremost to stop the war in Iraq, now.
Soundbite: “We’ve got to see beyond pork.”
Best Idea: Hard to pick from a lot of good ones (seriously, spend a minute on his website), but probably his suggestion that it’s part of the Senate’s job to rein in the executive branch when it goes spinning out of control. Also says he’d be the only senator with the cojones to sponsor federal legislation allowing Yellowstone’s bison to migrate naturally.
Worst Idea: Promising, if elected, to go on a hunger strike in the Senate cafeteria, refusing to eat until the United States starts pulling troops out of Iraq. Like Montana needs another clown in Washington.
Budget: $20,000 for the primary. He hopes to raise $100,000 for a general election campaign.
Strategy: The website, a blog, debates, ads in weekly newspapers and lots of bumper stickers, “Fire Burns” being among the most pointed.
On the issues:
Universal Health Care: Promises to introduce a Senate version of representative John Conyers’ (D—Mich.) House Resolution 676, providing for comprehensive health insurance coverage and free health care for all United States residents.
Iraq/War on Terror: “Support our troops—Bring them Home!” Richards doesn’t want U.S. forces fighting to secure oil, and the answer as he sees it lies in…
Energy Independence: Aggressively pro-renewables as part of a strategy to lessen reliance on the politically iffy Middle East. Would introduce an Apollo Alliance initiative to diversify energy sources and invest in energy efficiency to wean America off oil.
Global Warming: Duh. See above.
Lobbying Reform: Richards hasn’t made it an issue, but on a related note, he supports public financing of political campaigns as a means of allowing candidates to run on issues, not money.
Vote For Him If: You like his ideas best, and think it’s about damn time Montanans elected another truly progressive candidate.