By Michael Howell
Democratic Central Committee members are questioning the motivation of several people who filed for Democratic Precinct Captain positions on the last day of election registration. They don’t believe that the seven candidates who filed are really Democrats.
Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg said that a new law was passed that now allows her to leave uncontested precinct races off the ballot. She said that she decided to ask each of the committees what they wanted to do. She said the Republican Central Committee was notified and they decided not to have their precinct races on the ballot. Plettenberg was pleased due to the inordinate number of gubernatorial candidates already filling up the ballot.
“But when I called the Democrats they were surprised to learn that anyone had registered,” said Plettenberg. She said a copy of the names of the seven candidates was sent to DCC Chairman John Meakin and surprise turned into concern as he did not recognize any of the names.
John Meakin said that the Democratic Party did not usually elect precinct captains by ballot. Instead, for as long as anyone can remember, the committee simply held a meeting, asked for volunteers and appointed them.
Meakin said that he was concerned that the people who did file are not really Democrats. “Look at Jan Wisniewski, for example,” he said. “He is the Planning Board Chairman who invited the speaker on Agenda 21. We found his name on the petition being circulated to recall Max Baucus by the Liberty and Tea Party movements.” He said no one involved with the party knows the individuals who have registered and he doesn’t believe they will really represent Democratic values. He said that most of the candidates, from what information he could gather, were well connected with the extreme right.
“They are up to mischief,” he said. “It appears at the very least that they are trying to disrupt and distract our political committee.” Meakin said that the committee decided to place the candidates on the ballot and try to muster a write-in campaign against them.
Wisniewski has filed as a Democrat in the race for the House District 87 seat in the legislature. He said that he was indeed a Democrat, although he was not on the extreme left like a lot of Democrats. He said that he was hoping to bring more balance to the party. Wisniewski said that he made his decision on his own and did not know anything about the other candidates who had filed for precinct positions nor could he say what motivated them.
Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg called it “a unique situation” and said that write-in candidates could register until April 27 at 5 p.m. Registration forms are available at the Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
The names of the candidates that will be on the ballot include Lyle Goracke, Jan Wisniewski, Donna Gibney, Pamela Nearpass, Catherine Lieberth, Wayne Dunkin and David Erickson.