Big Sky Shenanigans as Tea Party Candidates File as Democrats in State Races

Image Credit: The Raw Story
Image Credit: The Raw Story

Montanans have become accustomed to a certain level of lunacy in state political races. The state has a history of bizarre and colorful fringe candidates stepping into the limelight to run for office. Not only figuratively colorful, but sometimes literally colorful candidates. Montana is home to Stan Jones, a blue-skinned Libertarian, who frequently crawls his way onto?the state-wide ballot. Jones, turned blue from drinking excess amounts of a homemade colloidal silver concoction. He ingested the silver in preparation for the Y2K computer crash that he envisioned would take place at the start of 2000 and then lead to a shortage of antibiotics.

Right-wing extremists often run fringe party candidacies in Montana. However, increasingly, tea party radicals are also vying for dominance in the state’s Republican Party.?The strife between the mainstream conservative wing and the far-right wing of the Republican Party has become increasingly combative in the state legislature. The battle between those competing factions has spilled over into Republican state legislative primaries as well.

At the congressional level, a white supremacist who wants to launch “operation wetback” to?round-up and deport all illegal aliens and their American-born children, has received push back from Yellowstone County Republicans who say his racism is unwelcome. However, while that candidate is unwelcome, the Yellowstone County Republicans still welcome Ryan Zinke. Zinke is the ex-Navy seal who called Hillary Clinton the “anti-Christ” before passing out bullets at one of his campaign events.

Conspiratorial right-wing extremism is not unusual in Montana politics, but now the tea party madness is infiltrating and infecting the Democratic primaries. The Montana Cowgirl blog broke the news earlier this week that a number of tea party members?have filed as candidates in the Democratic primaries to wrestle control away from real Democrats, and replace them with right-wing extremists. At least nine far right?candidates?have filed to run in Democratic primaries to defeat real Democrats vying for the party nomination. Their names are?David Brownell, Dane Peeples, Laura Springer, Harry Pennington, Terry Caldwell, Kathy Hollenback, Mike Comstock, Michael Comstock, and Gerald Cullivier.

Although the state Republican Party denies involvement?in the scheme to run fake Democrats, one of the candidates, Gerald Cullivier, was elected as Vice Chair of the Republican Central Committee in Sanders County in 2011. Another candidate, Mike Comstock, is a Gallatin County Republican who ran as a GOP candidate in 2010. The investigative reporting of the Montana Cowgirl blog and other local sources have uncovered social media posts illustrating that all nine of the candidates listed above support views consistent with extremist tea party ideology. Comstock is a believer in “one world government” conspiracy theories. Peebles and Springer are affiliated with a “Patriot” militia group. Harry Pennington calls for impeaching Barack Obama and prosecuting Hillary Clinton.

Montana is an open primary state. The state Democratic Party has no legal way to prevent fake Democrats from filing to run for seats in the Democratic primaries (except if some of the candidates violated residency or perjury laws in filing their candidacies). However, the party can and should educate voters in the districts where these candidates have decided to run, about who the real Democrat in the race is.

Voters should not yield to cynicism and let the confusion caused by these tea party shenanigans dampen their enthusiasm for supporting real Democratic candidates throughout the state. Voters simply need to take a little time to find out who the candidates are and what they stand for, so that they can cast an informed ballot. Also, if the?far right is using this strategy in Montana, it is likely that tea party folks are?hatching a similar strategy?in other states as well. Voters need?to research the primary candidates in their area, and to cast an informed ballot. Doing so can put an end to tea party mischief whenever?and wherever it rears its ugly head.

Edited/Published by: SB

Keith Brekhus is a progressive sociologist who resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. Keith is a former Green Party candidate for US Congress (2002 in Missouri's 9th District). He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus.