HELENA - John Driscoll pulled off a huge upset by winning the Democratic U.S. House primary on Tuesday and did it without spending a dime campaigning n and says he'll follow the same principle against U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., in the general election.
"I'm not going to raise any money and I'm not going to spend any money," Driscoll said in an interview at his Helena home.
Driscoll, 61, a former state legislator and public service commissioner, also said he's not really running against Rehberg and doesn't plan to criticize the four-term congressman.
Instead, he'll merely point voters to his stands on the Web site www.votesmart.org and campaign when it fits in with his family's summer and fall travel plans.
"If I wasn't going to be (where a campaign event occurred) normally, I'm not going to go," he said. "We'll take whatever political events there are and overlay them with our plans."
Driscoll's unconventional approach to the campaign is as unlikely as his Tuesday victory, which shocked the state Democratic Party and just about anyone who follows politics in Montana.
Driscoll was one of three candidates in the Democratic primary, along with Helena attorney Jim Hunt and Richey farmer Bob Candee.
Hunt had clearly been the party's preference as the challenger for Rehberg, having raised more than $200,000 in campaign funds. Hunt already was on the attack against Rehberg and looking ahead to the general election. Libertarian Mike Fellows is in the race, too.
But when vote tallies started coming in Tuesday evening, Driscoll staked out an early lead and never relinquished it. He ended up winning 49 percent of the vote, defeating Hunt by more than 10,000 votes.
In a statement Wednesday, Hunt congratulated Driscoll and said he'll be "a part of moving Montana priorities and values in the right direction."
Driscoll said he'd been thinking about the race for a year, but that a deciding element n and strategy piece n was the huge interest generated by the Democratic presidential primary in Montana.
Driscoll said he figured that presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would launch sizeable campaigns in Montana, thus locking up available advertising time and making it hard for Hunt to get on the air.
With Hunt largely unknown, "I thought it was at least a 50 percent chance that a person (like me) could win.
"And for the general election, I thought the turnout would be so great that there's just a remote possibility that a Democrat could actually beat an incumbent Republican who is connected with President Bush."
Driscoll, a retired colonel in the Montana Army National Guard, believes his criticism of the money in politics also played a role in his victory.
Craig Wilson, a political science professor at Montana State University-Billings, said that Driscoll benefited from the huge turnout in the Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday.
Many Independents and Republicans were attracted to the Democratic primary because of the presidential race, and most probably had no idea that Hunt was the party's preferred candidate in the House race, Wilson said. Instead, they chose a name they recognized, he said.
"Despite the fact that (Driscoll) had been out of politics for a while, he still had name ID on a statewide basis," Wilson said.
Driscoll was a state legislator from Hamilton from 1973-1979, and a public service commissioner from 1981-1993.
Driscoll, who lives in a solar-powered home in south Helena, said he'll be talking about revamping the nation's energy and transportation policy, with an emphasis on renewable energy and electric rail traffic.
He also plans to talk about remodeling the nation's education system, to combine "skill-based" training on practical skills with more theoretical, "knowledge-based" learning that people see in college.
While Driscoll doesn't plan to knock Rehberg, the state Democratic Party will be more than willing to play that role, says party spokesman Kevin O'Brien.
"People are growing weary of the business-as-usual ways of Washington, and Rehberg has been very much a part of that," O'Brien says.
As for Rehberg, his campaign on Wednesday welcomed Driscoll to the race and said Rehberg "looks forward to continuing to work hard traveling across Montana, discussing his plan for good-paying jobs, affordable health care and Montana-made energy production."