By Jim Shockley, Victor
As Scott Boulanger said, he lost the Republican primary for the State Senate because the Democrats crossed over and voted in our primary. Scott was associated with Valerie Stamey (Treasurer of Ravalli County), the Republican Central Committee, and the three County Commissioners whose seats were up this election cycle: Suzy Foss, Ron Stoltz and Jeff Burrows. The Committee recommended Boulanger to the Commission to replace Senator Bob Lake, overlooking several experienced legislators, or former legislators, who had applied. Foss, Stoltz and Boulanger and their spouses were on the Central Committee, as is Stamey. The County Commission appointed him to his Senate seat; signs saying that the primary was for his re-election were not accurate.
Stamey is the Treasurer of Ravalli County, paid but not working, having been put into that status by the Commission for her failure to do her job. She had been nominated by the Committee to fill the vacant Treasurer’s position and appointed by the vote of Commissioners Foss, Stoltz and Burrows. Burrows distanced himself from Stamey and made it through the primary. Boulanger supported the lady, voted for her when the Committee nominated her, and supported her when she was removed from office with full pay. His support of Stamey hurt him with the voters; Stamey only got 4% of the vote in the primary.
Boulanger had been very candid about never compromising with anyone; i.e., the more “moderate” Republicans, or the Democrats. However, that “my way or the highway” politics is falling out of favor with the people. Combined with his support of Stamey, if Democrats crossed over they would not likely vote for Boulanger.
The Democrats understand that the Republican primary is the ball game, so in order to make sure the incumbent Commissioners did not win they crossed over. The bottom line – Boulanger was a politician put in his seat by the Central Committee and the losing Commissioners. His friends made him, and his friends unmade him.
Now, Boulanger wants a closed primary which means that all voters must register with a party affiliation and are restricted to voting in their own primary. Independents, or the members of any other party, would not be allowed to vote in the primary if they do not have a candidate. The last time I saw this proposed, the Democrats controlled the State Senate and important Democrats wanted it. We managed to kill the bill; most Montanans are “independent” people and do not like to be told for whom they can vote. What the Republican Party tried to get on the ballot in 2014 was the “jungle primary” – all candidates of whatever stripe run in one primary and the top two candidates go to the general election. The Democrats brought suit to keep it off the ballot and won at the Supreme Court.
A closed primary would make the Republican Central Committee more influential. The Committee is out of touch with the people; four members ran for office in the primary and all four lost by a landslide, except Boulanger who almost won.