Have you decided who to support in the next race for governor? It seems early but the primary election is six months away and it’s less than a year to the general election.
Mike Cooney is the best choice for governor. Most of us know who Cooney is and some of the things he has done for our state. Most people know he is currently Steve Bullock’s lieutenant governor. Others recall that he was our secretary of state for two terms. A smaller number remember that he was president of the Montana Senate. A few may even remember that he was the youngest person ever elected to the state Legislature way back in 1977.
Cooney has a long and consistent record in Montana. In 2007, when he was president of the Montana Senate, he received 100% ratings from Montana Conservation Voters, Montana AFL-CIO and the Montana Human Rights Network. At that time, Cooney also supported LGBT equality legislation and confronted opponents of gay rights, writing a statewide opinion saying the time for equality had come.
As secretary of state, he proved to be a competent and effective administrator as well as a strong advocate for voting rights. As a member of the state Land Board, Cooney was a consistent promoter and protector of outdoor recreation in Montana. No need to wonder about where Cooney stands on issues. Just look at his record.
The presumptive nominee for the Republicans, U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, is from the right flank of the Republican Party. From slugging a reporter, to funding a “creation science” museum, to refusing to meet with constituents, Gianforte has proven to be arrogant, inaccessible and volatile. Unfortunately, thanks to his personal wealth, Gianforte can afford to buy this election.
There is a Democratic primary in the governor’s race. Mike Cooney and Whitney Williams are the strongest contenders. Williams is currently introducing herself to the public on social media and traveling across the state because she hasn’t been in Montana long. Her consulting career in Seattle and Washington, D.C., has connected her to political people with power and money. She may have more money than Cooney in the primary, but she will have less than Gianforte in the general election.
Williams also has a big problem. She has worked extensively with Hillary Clinton for years. Thanks mostly to years of right-wing attacks, Clinton is deeply unpopular in Montana. She lost the popular primary vote to Bernie Sanders in 2016 and went on to get crushed by Donald Trump in our general election. There is no doubt the Republican attack machine is gleefully gathering photos, videos and press clips featuring Williams and Clinton.
Williams may have access to major national funders, but she can’t win the dark money demolition derby this race will become. Cooney can beat Gianforte, not because he can raise buckets of money, but because so many voters already know him, like him and trust him.
Democrats will not win by raising money, hiring consultants and buying TV ads. A Democrat only wins this race with personal, retail politics — the kind of politics Cooney has been doing his whole life. He has local connections and a history of consistent service. People know him and like him. Cooney is the only candidate with that kind of depth in Montana.
There is a lot at stake in the next election for governor. Mike Cooney is the best candidate to win the general election.
Ken Toole served on the Montana Public Service Commission and was elected twice to the Montana Senate. He has held numerous elected positions within the Montana Democratic Party. He lives on a small farm outside Cascade.