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HELENA - A fascinating and exciting Montana election has come and gone, with some surprising victories and defeats. Here are a few leftover items from the notebook:

Psst. Don't list it on your resume.

Those candidates running for statewide office who served in the disastrous 2007 Montana legislative session ran into their own disasters in Tuesday's election.

Sitting lawmakers who lost statewide primary races were: former House Majority Leader Michael Lange, R-Billings, for the U.S. Senate; House Minority Leader John Parker, D-Great Falls, for attorney general; Sen. Sam Kitzenberg, D-Glasgow, and Rep. Holly Raser, D-Missoula, who ran for superintendent of public instruction.

Five more incumbent legislators were ousted in primary challenges. They were Reps. John Ward, R-Helena; Carol Lambert, R-Broadus; Bruce Malcolm, R-Emigrant; Bill Thomas, D-Great Falls; and Sen. Frank Smith, D-Poplar.

Two House members lost in bids for the Senate: Reps. Hal Jacobson, D-Helena; and Norma Bixby, D-Lame Deer.

Reprehensible "Red Scare" worked.

Reps. Ward, Lambert and Malcolm were three of the 14 Republican legislators condemned as socialists by one of their ultraconservative colleagues, Rep. Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman. Koopman, who didn't seek re-election, accused them of having "consistently sold out the cause of liberty in the Montana Legislature."

The trio faced challengers from the right and were targeted by nasty campaign mailings in the waning days of their campaigns.

Just what kind of fellow travelers are "socialists" Lambert, Malcolm and Ward?

The Montana Chamber of Commerce, certainly no advocate of the workers owning the means of production, gave Lambert 87 percent, Malcolm a 91 percent and Ward 85 percent in its 2007 legislative scorecard.

Likewise, the conservative Montana Stockgrowers Association and Montana Cattlewomen, representing cattle ranching families not known for singing "The Internationale" after branding, gave each an A-plus grade in 2007.

After the primary, Koopman told the Billings Gazette the defeats of the three Republicans sent a "very powerful message to the Republican Party and to the Legislature that people are watching and they do care and they are going to hold Republican legislators accountable."

Koopman, of course, has every right to campaign for whichever candidates he wishes, but branding people he doesn't agree with as socialists is over the top.

The arrogance of power?

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., seeking his sixth straight six-year Senate term, immediately ruled out debating his surprise Republican opponent, perennial candidate Bob Kelleher.

The day after the primary election, Baucus spokesman Barrett Kaiser explained why to the Lee Newspapers State Bureau: "Max plans on talking to Montanans across the state, and they'll have ample opportunity to ask him questions. But we don't want to subject him to what will be a circus."

In telling the Associated Press why he won't debate, Baucus said: "I am not running against anybody. I am seeking just to renew my six-year contract with Montana voters."

Don't those statements seem a tad bit arrogant, to say the least?

Of course, Baucus is running against someone - Kelleher, whose name will appear on the ballot next to his. Baucus undoubtedly will obliterate Kelleher in November, but Montanans ought to have the right to see them debate at least a couple of times.

Montana politicians have a proud tradition of debating each other. And civic-minded residents have a proud tradition of turning out in force to watch debates or to take in debate broadcasts.

Much to their credit, then-U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and his Democratic challenger and the eventual winner, Jon Tester, debated seven times across the state before huge crowds in 2006.

That was then. This is now.

Six years earlier, it was none other than Baucus who insisted that Kelleher, then running on the Green Party ticket, and Libertarian candidate Stan Jones be included in any Senate debate pitting him against Republican nominee, Mike Taylor.

Some potential debate sponsors, including newspapers, wanted to restrict them to Baucus and Taylor, but Baucus refused to debate unless Kelleher and Jones were invited. Baucus said then that Montanans deserved to hear all the candidates.

Yesterday's democracy apparently is today's circus sideshow.

It's gotta be the 'brows.

The surprise winners Tuesday, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Kelleher and Democratic U.S. House nominee John Driscoll, each have a formidable set of eyebrows.

Kelleher's eyebrows have long been the stuff of legend in Montana politics. Years ago, former Billings Gazette reporter Roger Clawson compared Kelleher's eyebrows to "dueling blackbirds," although they're since turned gray.

In 2002, "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central did a hilarious piece on the Montana Senate primary, featuring Kelleher, Jones, Taylor and Baucus. At one point, the segment turned Kelleher's wild eyebrows into lines on a graph.

No sooner did Kelleher win than people begin sending Internet links to watch the segment again.

Links to the segments are available at:

&title=shame-and-a-haircut and www.thedailyshow.


It's hard to imagine Jon Stewart not sending out another reporter and TV crew out to Montana this year.

The non-endorsement endorsement that didn't help.

It is extremely rare for statewide elected officials to endorse candidates in a contested primary. But that's exactly what it seemed like U.S. Sen. Tester was doing for Mike Wheat in the Democratic primary race for attorney general.

Wheat's TV ads and mailers all had a highly flattering comment from Tester about his former state Senate colleague.

Tester probably owed Wheat one. In 2006, Wheat broke with fellow trial lawyers to endorse Tester against John Morrison, a former trial lawyer, in the Democratic Senate primary.

Tester's folks insisted it wasn't an endorsement, but it certainly sounded like one.

In any event, it wasn't enough for Wheat to win. Helena lawyer Steve Bullock out-campaigned him to win for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

Johnson is chief of the Lee Newspapers State Bureau in Helena. He can be reached at (800) 525-4920 or (406) 443-4920. His e-mail address is

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