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Senate candidate Kelleher faces mostly empty roomPosted on June 23
Bob Kelleher, the Republican party’s U.S. Senate nominee, speaks to a small group of people at the state Republican convention in Missoula on Friday.TOM BAUER/Missoulian

Denied a chance to speak at the Montana Republican convention, the party's U.S. Senate nominee - Bob Kelleher - fielded questions Friday from reporters and a Ron Paul supporter in an otherwise empty side room.

State Republican Chairman Erik Iverson decided not to allow Kelleher to speak during one of the meals at the convention, as other statewide candidates were allowed to do. Iverson said it appeared that the only plank of the Republican platform Kelleher agrees with was his opposition to abortion.

"We have limited time," Iverson said earlier this week. "We are reserving it for our other statewide candidates."

Kelleher is an 85-year-old Butte lawyer and perennial candidate who's mostly run on the Democratic ticket for nearly a half-century, but on the Green and Republican tickets in recent years. He was the GOP's surprise Senate nominee in a six-candidate primary earlier this month, winning 26,789 votes.

Now Kelleher is the Republican longshot challenger to Democratic incumbent Sen. Max Baucus, who is seeking his sixth consecutive six-year term.

Before he went to the side room, Kelleher admitted to one Republican: "It would be a lot better if I lost. I didn't plan on winning."

Nonetheless, Kelleher lived up this end of the bargain. He set up in the side room, making available copies of the speech he had been prepared to deliver and a paper outlining his support for replacing the U.S. form of government with the parliamentary system used by a number of countries, such as Great Britain. Under a parliament, a country's prime minister is chosen from the legislative branch, as are the Cabinet members.

He put up a sign in the room that said: "Outlaw lobbyists. Vote Kelleher U.S. Parliament!"

Kelleher also laid out some newly minted, union-paid red, white and blue buttons for supporters.

Kelleher said some people have asked how he could be a Republican after being a Democrat most of his life.

His answer: "Because of people like Jeannette Rankin and (Theodore) Roosevelt."

Before long, a total of about half-dozen print and broadcast reporters and photographers had entered the room.

Dane Clark, a Paul supporter from Kalispell, asked Kelleher why he favored the parliamentary system.

Kelleher said all 26 countries that had better standards of living than the United States all had parliamentary systems of government.

Clark asked if that could be attributed to the parliamentary system.

"All I can do is state facts," Kelleher said.

He said he was opposed to abortion, comparing fetuses to "slave babies."

"I would like to emancipate those slave babies now," Kelleher said.

Kelleher said he would ban handguns but favored no restrictions for Americans' ownership of rifles and shotguns.

Asked if he believed he could defeat Baucus in November, Kelleher said, "I think 26,000 people said we could."

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