Fellow Missoulians:

As the news of the attack mailers that were recently sent out in the City Council race spread across social media and newspapers, many in our community were shocked at the negative tone and deceptive tactics aimed at influencing our local election. The bulk mailers had a carbon-copy format, misspelled names and even contained unedited “Jane Doe” text.

It is disturbing that a group of local wealthy business owners attacked respectable members of our community with a deliberate distortion of facts in a mailer paid by and organized through a political action committee (PAC) with out-of-town ties. The mailers not only misrepresented the positions of our candidates, they did so behind a dark cloak of this PAC’s secrecy. As publicly reported, the Helena treasurer is a recognized Republican, but the organizers of the PAC remain anonymous. PACs can legally donate unlimited dollars to candidates; more than an individual donor and without transparency.

The problem with this mailer, so far, is not its legality but that City Councilman Jesse Ramos (who recruited the six City Council candidates he dubbed “Team Liberty”), preaches transparency yet reportedly encouraged at least one of the local business owners to donate to a less-than-transparent PAC to help his “Team Liberty.” While his candidates are not responsible for the dishonest mailers, they have not publicly denounced them. In fact, a second round of fliers has gone out despite the public outcry.

As Democrats, we stand for facts, transparency and a fair contest of ideas and values. Policy debates and differences of opinion are healthy. Lies, secrecy and distortion are not. We are calling this out here and now. Missoula deserves better than this. This race is about the community we are proud to live, work and raise our families in. Our candidates have consistently shown up to all forums, interviews and events fully prepared and unafraid to answer questions and discuss and debate the tough issues facing Missoula.

The Missoula County Democrats are invested in assuring our city continues a progressive path. This includes supporting candidates who have plans to address the increasing cost of housing, support a culturally rich living environment, have plans to assure Missoula continues to lead the state in job growth, and believe in conserving our surroundings to hold on to our Montana way of life. We are proud to work hard for our candidates who share Missoula’s values and are each focused on helping Missoulians from all walks of life. Their seats and votes can never be bought.

The Missoula County Democrats condemn the deceptive tactics used by this secret PAC. We encourage Missoulians to say no to this unwelcome and divisive intrusion into our municipal election by voting for our endorsed candidates who have constructive messages and have run positive campaigns. If you are interested in helping elect candidates who share Missoula’s values and have been endorsed by the Missoula Central Labor Council, Montana Conservation Voters and the Missoula County Democrats, please contact chair@missoulacountydemocrats.org to sign up to knock doors or make calls with us on our last days of action.

Don’t forget to turn in your ballot by Nov. 5 for our outstanding, positive and solution-based candidates: Heidi West, Amber Sherrill, Mirtha Beccera, Gwen Jones, Alex Fregerio or Nick Shontz!

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Karen Wickersham is chair of Missoula County Democrats.

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