BOZEMAN – Montana Republican Party Chairman Will Deschamps of Missoula won a third consecutive term Saturday, defeating two challengers who said they could do a better job of helping GOP candidates win elections.
Deschamps, 67, a semi-retired property manager who’s led the party since 2009, said he’s dedicated to having a party that is unified but that does not pick and choose who should be a Republican.
“Unity is not promoted …. by requiring one’s allegiance by asking for a signed oath,” he said, referring to talk by some of creating a list of principles that would rate Republican office-holders. “We must honor and respect our diversity.”
Deschamps turned away a challenge from Gary Carlson of Victor, a former Reagan appointee and retired U.S. Marine Corps officer, and Don Hart of Bozeman, a retired Air Force officer.
While the party didn’t release the exact vote count, it said Deschamps won the votes of more than 50 percent of the delegates, which were local Republican Party officers and holders of state elected offices.
Saturday’s vote comes in the wake of a 2013 Montana Legislature that saw a cadre of Republicans joining minority Democrats on many key votes on budget and tax issues.
Even on Saturday morning, Republican Senate leaders held a session where they outlined how other Republicans voted with Democrats to, as they said, betray Republican party principles.
However, the chairman candidates have said their contest had little to do with the intra-party disputes during the Legislature.
In speeches Saturday, Hart and Carlson emphasized that they could do a better job leading the party to victory in elections in 2014 and 2016.
Deschamps said it’s time for the party to patch up its differences and get ready to do battle the next election, and have a party that “treats everyone equally.”
“We’ve made great strides in Montana the last four years,” he said. “Let us leave today and redefine the party as one of being united.”