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During the 2013 Montana Legislative session, a Flathead County Republican state senator, Bruce Tutvedt, led a small but significant number of like-minded Republican legislators over to Gov. Steve Bullock and his big-spending Democrats. By so doing, Tutvedt and his liberal fence-jumpers robbed the Montana electorate of the “Republican” legislative majority they voted for.

Between legislative sessions the good senator has been busy: He started a political action committee that spent over $80,000 attacking conservative Republican office-holders and candidates for public office across the state, including some in Flathead County like Sen. Mark Blasdel. In an apparent “dark money" scheme with a liberal PAC in Helena, “Montana BASE,” he tried to cover his significant personal financial involvement in these attacks on Republicans; he accepted $22,000 from the local Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal council to lobby for the passage of Bullock’s water and water rights giveaway to the tribes in Northwest Montana known as the “Water Compact,” even though we are told the compact has yet to be finalized; and we now find that Tutvedt has been approaching liberal Republican legislators to encourage them to “caucus” with the Democrats in 2015, abandoning any pretense of representing their “Republican” constituents.

Upset at Tutvedt’s obvious loyalty to Bullock and his Democrat Party at the expense of Montana Republicans, the Flathead County Republican Party recently took the extraordinary measure of censuring the senator. The censure went so far as to ask the Montana state Senate leadership to deny any Republican leadership position to Tutvedt during the 2015 legislative session.

So how did the Senate Republican leadership respond? Tutvedt explained: “they failed, because I’m chair of taxation.” Yes, as incredulous as it sounds, the senator will be the next “Republican” chairman of the powerful state Senate Finance Committee.

This leaves a question that begs an answer: Under the umbrella of the Republican Party, will it still be possible for those of us who believe in the once traditional conservative values of life, liberty and property, fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government, to enjoy political representation that will stand for those values, or in the future, need we look elsewhere? I suspect the 2015 Montana legislative session is about to answer that question. 

Russell Crowder of Marion is a former Flathead County Republican Party central committeeman for Precinct 26.

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