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Hamilton man 'runs' for office

Hamilton man 'runs' for office

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Racing toward victory?

HAMILTON - Hamilton businessman and state legislative candidate Mike McKee is hoping to gain visibility in his bid for House District 60 by literally running for the office currently held by two-term incumbent Allan Walters, R-Hamilton.

The marathon relay runner laces up his sneakers and pounds about five miles of pavement daily through his district, with his dark green pickup truck - decorated in colorful campaign signs - trailing slowly behind him.

"If someone invites me to come in, I probably couldn't talk to them very much because I'll be panting," McKee said with a grin.

But anyone who wants to fall in step (he averages 8 1/2-minute miles) for a morning run is welcome, he said. They can call and get his schedule the previous night. He's had one person join him so far. Others just honk their horns and wave, he said.

House District 60 is a large district spanning Hamilton, Corvallis and Pinesdale. It makes it difficult to visit individual houses and ring doorbells, McKee said. The 55-year-old Republican also is running to demonstrate he has the energy to do the job and to get in shape for the Montana Governor's Cup 26-mile relay marathon on June 3.

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus gained recognition walking about 600 miles from Gardiner to Yaak as part of his 1974 congressional campaign. He repeated a similar campaign tactic in 1996, hoofing across about 800 miles of highways.

What about a candidate jogging or running?

"I think it's relatively unique," said Matt Denny, Montana Republican Party chairman. "The closest thing in Montana to something like this was Max Baucus walking."

Denny recalled a U.S. congressional candidate from Long Beach, Calif., Dana Rohraabacher, who worked surfing into his 1992 campaign.

Montana democratic gubernatorial candidate Dorothy Bradley, who rode her horse, Jackson, across much of Montana to kick off her campaign in 1992, was featured in People magazine with five other candidates for what the publication called "highly unusual electioneering."

Some interesting races are brewing in the Bitterroot Valley this election, Denny said. He pointed to the husband-wife candidates of incumbent Allan Walters, in House District 60, and his wife, Carol, who is running for House District 59, a post formerly held by Cliff Trexler who decided not to seek re-election last year.

Walters, who'll face McKee in the June 6 primary, said he plans to walk door-to-door in Hamilton, where the bulk of population in House District 60 is concentrated. He'll hand out a sample ballot so people can look it over in advance. He also distributes a campaign kitchen magnet that displays the dates of the primary and general election.

Voters can use his kitchen magnet to hang up the sample ballot on their refrigerator, Walters said.

McKee started running in 1979 to keep in shape to officiate high-school football. In 1993, he and some of his former Great Falls High School classmates got together at their 30th class reunion and hatched the idea of entering a relay once they reached 50. In 1995, they formed a marathon relay team for the Montana Governor's Cup and since have taken three first-place trophies and one runner-up prize.

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