Billings Mayor Ron Tussing said his unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Montana Public Service Commission will be his last foray into electoral politics.
"I'm not going to let myself be talked into running for office again, that's for sure," he said Wednesday.
Tussing, running as a Democrat, lost Tuesday by a wide margin to Brad Molnar, the District 2 Republican incumbent on the PSC. According to unofficial returns, Molnar had 51,966 voters to Tussing's 38,715.
The bitterly disputed race in which accusations and personal attacks flew back and forth was Tussing's first electoral loss. He was elected sheriff of Lancaster County, Neb., in 1986 and 1990 and Billings mayor in 2005, after having served as police chief here from 1998 to 2005.
When his term as mayor expires next year, Tussing said, he's done with seeking office. Tussing, who turns 62 on Saturday, said some politicians, like Gov. Brian Schweitzer, clearly relish campaigning, which made him realize how little he likes it.
"I can force myself to do it, but I don't enjoy it," he said.
And as much as he likes working with residents and trying to get things done in Billings, he said, it has been difficult and frustrating trying to work with the City Council. Tussing successfully ran for mayor after agreeing to resign his police chief job in exchange for a $160,000 settlement.
Some people who are still on the council sided with former City Administrator Kristoff Bauer in his long-running dispute with Tussing, a dispute that led to the resignation of both men.
When he was elected mayor, Tussing said, some members of the council "resented me for joining their club without their permission." Echoes of that resentment linger, he said, most recently manifested in the council's rejection of Tussing's nomination to fill a vacancy on the council.
Tussing nominated Angela Cimmino to replace Joy Stevens, but the council voted 5-4 against his nomination. Cimmino was one of two nominees recommended by a council committee that took applications for the vacancy. The other nominee was Larry Brewster, a former councilman.
Although not everyone who voted against the mayor's recommendation has stated reasons for doing so, most of them clearly favored Brewster for the job.
Tussing said he was still scratching his head over the rejection, especially after Councilman Ed Ulledalen said the mayor ignored the council's advice.
The council committee's job was to nominate two people, and his was to choose one of them, Tussing said, and in the past the council has always backed the mayor's selection.
"It's my call and I made it, and then they say they didn't like it," he said.
As for the PSC election, Tussing said the public's negative reaction to him definitely played a part in his lopsided defeat. He said many people who lived in Billings during his dispute with Bauer clearly sided with him, which is why he was elected mayor, but Molnar was able to emphasize Tussing's supposed unpopularity, swaying new voters and people in the PSC district who don't live in Billings.
If people didn't know the details of his dispute with Bauer, Tussing said, "they might have been influenced by that kind of stuff." But, he added, "It's over, and I respect the results."
"I'm not going to pull a Nixon - 'they won't have me to kick around anymore' - but it's just not fun," he said.