Greg Gianforte has basically been running for governor since 2015.
Yes, he ran for Congress and won in 2018, but it was never the end goal. The hugely successful tech entrepreneur has been pushing to get the chance to apply his conservative values and business acumen to the job of running the state of Montana.
We believe it’s time to let him have his chance.
We do not believe Steve Bullock has done a bad job of running the state. We do not believe his Democratic would-be successor, Mike Cooney, would do a bad job either. He has experience, empathy and the ability to work both sides of the Legislature. But the force of will that Gianforte brings to this race cannot be denied.
Legislators on the right wing of the state Republican Party, hugely frustrated by the defection of the moderates who worked with Bullock to get things done in this past legislative session, have been champing at the bit for a governor who wouldn’t use both jawbone and veto power to thwart their ambitions.
Now, it will get harder. If Gianforte is in charge, he and the Republican majority in the Legislature will be squarely accountable for what they do with the power the state’s voters have seen fit to hand them. We will see if the promise of a small-government version of Montana will lift the economy, with benefits actually trickling down to the state’s less fortunate, or whether the rich simply get richer and the poor poorer. We will see if the great promise of “running the government like a business” proves up.
While we don’t agree with Gianforte that Mike Cooney “hasn’t had a real job” over the past 40 years, it is nonetheless important to recognize the difference in perspective that comes from being in the rough-and-tumble business arena, forming companies, managing employees, products, competitors, and, yes, taxes and regulations, versus being in public service.
We have admiration, in the abstract, for Cooney and his service. We have high hopes, in the specific, for Gianforte and his business sense.
We also have reservations. Gianforte’s assault of a news reporter still rankles. He has been hostile and difficult with media on other occasions. We hope he has grown through all of that as much as he has grown as a candidate since he first hit the road around the state five years ago, and was hard-pressed to speak about any issue other than his foundational concern of providing good jobs for our children here in Montana.
He is a better candidate now. He can speak fluidly and intelligently on a variety of issues. Being in Congress has helped. We hope his temperament is better as well. He needs to be able to take the heat as governor and respond professionally, because it’s a certainty that not only will the press annoy him as governor, but so will many other things. Like Democrats.
If Montana hands the keys to the car to Gianforte, the ride will doubtless be bumpy. But he will have a chance to steer the state in new directions.
We fervently hope that this experiment will not end as it has in Kansas and Oklahoma, where unfettered right-wing Legislatures and governors have impoverished public education, slashed social safety nets and eliminated environmental regulations. We also hope that putting a businessman in charge works better on the state level than it has on the national level. We believe it will; it depends, after all, on the person.
The fact is that Montana is not a deep-red state. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had a Democratic senator since 2006 and two Democratic governors over the same period. So if the Republican administration goes off course, we’ll be watching and so will the electorate.
With that said, let’s give Greg Gianforte the opportunity to show that he and the Republican Party can govern a state efficiently, compassionately and inclusively.
And let’s make sure our children have good jobs to come home to.
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