Montana Democratic Party executive director Monica Lindeen set the tone early at Saturday’s 41st annual Mansfield-Metcalf Dinner with a simple question.
“What are you gonna do in 2019 to make sure that we win in 2020?” Lindeen asked of a packed crowd at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds.
The urgency of action taken this year remained firmly on the minds and lips of Lindeen, Gov. Steve Bullock, Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Arizona U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema as they called for victory in 2020 at every level from the White House down to the state Land Board. But after their rallying words, speakers quickly reminded the crowd that a considerable task lies ahead for the party in the coming year.
Democrats have held the Montana governorship since 2005 but have not held a majority in either chamber of the state Legislature in a decade. Last November, Republicans missed out on their first sweep of the state’s Congressional delegation in over a century when Tester defeated state Auditor Matt Rosendale despite a record four visits to the state by President Donald Trump.
Bullock mentioned early in his speech that he planned to watch his daughter Caroline, a junior forward for Helena High, compete for the state AA girls’ basketball title in Butte that same night. He received a standing ovation when he told the crowd of his son Cameron’s experience spending the first month of his life in intensive care.
“Every child in Montana, every person in Montana, deserves access to that kind of quality health care,” Bullock said.
Bullock will reach his term limit in January 2021 and has been mentioned as a potential candidate next fall for both the presidency and the Senate seat held by Sen. Steve Daines. He has not been forthcoming on the prospect of running for either seat, saying in a January news conference that his focus remained on the state legislative session.
Bullock did not mention Saturday an itinerary for 2020, but encouraged the crowd to seek “real progress in D.C.” under Tester’s signature flat-top and praised the three-term incumbent for not “(hiding) behind telephone town halls or Twitter accounts.”
Sinema, elected to the seat held by retiring Republican Jeff Flake in 2018, called the Montana party “my kind of Democrats” and lightheartedly described the Big Sky as “a lot like Arizona without the snow.”
“It’s our job to show Americans that we are fighting for them … and that we’re helping them build better lives for themselves and their families,” Sinema said. “That — that old-fashioned hard work — that’s how we repair Americans’ confidence in our party and in our politics and it’s how we will continue expand opportunity for future generations.”
Tester pointed to recent events in Washington to illustrate the need for a blue victory in 2020. He minced no words on the Trump administration, even referring to the president’s son as “little Donald Trump Jr.”
“The Supreme Court’s taken away voting rights, letting billionaires buy elections, the White House doesn’t believe in climate change, the administration’s fighting to take health care away from millions, we’ve got two distinguished representatives in Washington from Montana who are rubber stamps,” Tester said. “So I don’t know about you, but I think we ought to win in 2020, OK?”
House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner assured the crowd state Democrats would fight “like hell” for reauthorization of Medicaid expansion and infrastructure. Schreiner also boasted about the party’s diversity — four of seven party leadership roles are held by women in both houses and there are more Native American representatives than ever before, all but one a Democrat.