I’ve been having the hardest time writing my piece about Melissa Smith. I think its because I know that our friendship is one way the far-right in GF has tried to demonize her. Folks like our most racist City Commissioner want to make people like Melissa seem extreme. It’s a narrative that has been hugely successful for Republicans in Montana, despite the fact that Rs are the ones that go around beating people with hammers.
So let’s get this elephant in the room out of the way. Melissa Smith and I are friends. When people are fucking with me online or sending me threatening emails, she’s one of the first people I call. I know she has my back. She doesn’t agree with everything I say, but believes in my right to say it. And I know that pressure from hateful old men won’t sway Melissa from her own moral compass. Now that’s out of the way, let’s dig in a little deeper.
Melissa Smith is a problem solver. She’s often working behind the scenes to help Great Falls grow and protect what we hold dear about our city. Conservation of our public lands is one of her top priorities. She’s a member of Citizens for Clean Energy, is an accomplished musician, and has been growing the arts community through her work at Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art. Smith has already talked extensively about her work to protect both public lands and public education.
What I’d like to highlight today is her work with the unhoused community in our city. Whereas many suggest we run these folks out of town or give them a bus ticket if they’re feeling generous, Melissa has been working for years to provide real solutions to the housing crisis. It’s easy to blame unhoused people for their circumstances. To attribute their poverty to crime or addiction, or imply they deserve to be homeless due to their personal failings. Not only is this wildly inaccurate, it provides only blame with no solutions in sight. That’s why Melissa volunteers with Housed Great Falls, a group that’s addressing the housing crisis head on. As rental and housing prices soar, we need people like Melissa that will advocate for the working class, the elderly, those on a fixed income, and those living paycheck to paycheck. We’re all much closer to being homeless than we are to being millionaires, and Smith understands how precarious the housing situation in Great Falls has become.
Extremists here would have you believe that Smith is out of touch with Great Falls. I’d say the folks that are out of touch are the ones who think the homelessness problem will magically disappear. Melissa does indeed take on the biggest and toughest issues our community faces. And she does it with the kind of genuine humanity we need more of in politics. Further disproving this narrative, Smith already has a win under her belt. Earlier this year, she won a primary where many considered her the underdog. Knocking doors and wearing out the soles of her shoes, Smith beat Brad Hamlett.
It appears Republicans are starting to realize their false narratives about Melissa aren’t as convincing as they’d hoped. In fact, her Republican opponent has been scrambling to raise money for a seeming final desperate push to counter Smith’s undeniable popularity. (Read more about that here: https://wtf406.com/2022/10/for-sale-house-district-23/)
Its not often you find a candidate that will stand with you downtown at 2am, holding a candlelight vigil for the unhoused. I’m lucky to count Melissa Smith as a friend. You’re even luckier if you live in HD 23 and get the chance to vote for her. Let’s bring humanity, kindness, and the community spirit back to politics. Let’s send Melissa Smith to Helena.
“Democrat or Republican? First thing. And when I say Democrat, they say ‘Oh you don’t want to talk to me!’ But I do. You may not vote for me but I still want to know what’s on your heart.” Jacob Bachmeier comes across as an introvert. He’s soft spoken, thoughtful, and seems to avoid the spotlight. He admits that he doesn’t love giving speeches but would rather meet voters at their doors, having the one-on-one conversations he believes government is based on.
But don’t let his humility fool you. Bachmeier has already achieved that rare feat even veteran politicians often can’t attain. In 2016, Bachmeier flipped a district. Not just any district. A district that had been held by a Republican for eight years. And he did it at only 18 years old.
In 2019, Jacob co-sponsored HB 726, a bill that helped parents of adult children with disabilities continue to collect child support after the child turns 18. The bill was signed into law, providing much needed support to disabled adults and the parents that continue to care for them.
After taking time away from politics, Bachmeier is running in Cascade County for the first time. And much like before, he’s looking forward to a tough race. Jacob is facing off against Republican Wendy McKamey. McKamey has served in Republican held districts HD 23 and HD 19 and is now seeking a Senate term. However Mckamey’s staunch anti-choice views may prove too extreme for the numerous Republicans and Independents that support our right to privacy.
Luckily for Jacob, speaking with Republicans is a skill he’s already honed. Politics is a family affair for Jacob. He grew up hearing stories about his great-grandpa Rex Manuel (D-Fairfield). A larger-than-life figure who served in the Montana House of Representatives during the golden age of state politics.. With a family evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, Bachmeier navigates both worlds seamlessly. So he does too with his identity as both a devout Christian and a pro-choice Democrat.
As a Queer person, I often feel cautious around folks who describe themselves as “devout Christians” for obvious reasons. (Sometimes they really don’t like LBGTQ+ people. Or women who’ve had an abortion.) I’ve known Jacob a bit for a few years now, and yet I was quite surprised to learn that Jacob is religious. When I asked why I hadn’t known this before, Jacob said simply, “I wouldn’t want someone else‘s religious views governing how I act as an individual. I try to keep my religious views out of government and laws.” Y’all. It’s the separation of church and state for me. That VITAL separation is truly lacking in Bachmeier’s opponent.
Although I didn’t know Jacob’s religious affiliation, I do know how he treats people. How he approaches conversations with his neighbors. And how he cares about others. These qualities are what led Jacob to becoming pro-choice. Even as a Democrat, Bachmeier entered the Legislature still unsure about how he would vote on this issue. So what changed his mind? Listening to his constituents. Bachmeier explains,
“When those bills started coming up, I would get lots of calls from people on both sides of the issue. As I got more calls form people that had abortions and told me their personal stories it became pretty clear to me that people don’t get an abortion because they think its fun. People don’t get an abortion as a common form of birth control. That’s just not how it works clearly. After talking to people there were a lot of complicated heartbreaking situations that were very unique to each individual person, and it became very clear in my mind that we can’t legislate and regulate every single individual and unique reason why someone might feel the need to get an abortion. Ultimately I decided we need to trust the people personally impacted and the medical professionals who perform those procedures.”
A candidate that is willing to learn, grow, and expand his views? Yes, please. What I learned from my conversation with Jacob is that he’s experienced both sides of the political spectrum. Politics for him is an opportunity to help his neighbor. We don’t have to share the same religious views to share the same values. His religion does not come into his politics, which is just as it should be. It does come into who he tries to be as a person.
Jacob sums it up nicely, explaining, “At the end of the day the Bible says to love all People. It even says to love your enemy. It’s very important to me to hear people out and hear what they care about. I want this country, this state, our community to be as good as it can be for everyone.”
When you think of what we need in Montana politics, do you think, “More laws proposed and voted on by multi-millionaires!” If that’s your stance then George Nikolakakas is your guy. George is running for one of Great Falls’ house districts as a political newcomer. As a multi-millionaire, George has self-funded his campaign to the tune of $47,000+. Whew. That’s quite the bucket of money to draw from for a $100 per day legislative pay.
What kind of legislator can we expect if he is elected?
George is a proud conservative with the funds and free-time to plaster his image on bench ads, billboards, and on those political mailers we all know and love. I’ve never met George but I’ve had the pleasure of seeing his diatribes on various Facebook posts. It’s interesting to see politicians claim their priorities are X, Y, and Z as if their other positions won’t impact us just as much. The Montana GOP is just two seats away from a legislative supermajority. And we all know their agenda if they get that supermajority. Re-writing our Montana Constitution that protects our environment and human rights. It’s not a guess what Republicans will do when they are elected in our state. They have told us their priorities in their party platform. You know the one where they say no abortions with no exceptions for rape and incest. What a Pro Mother-Killing stance.
If you elect George, will you get a sycophant to the Republican party platform? We can’t 100% know as he is new to the scene. But we can let him tell us in his own words what he thinks about abortion.
With a stance like that, we can assume that he will vote in line with all the other Republican extremists in our state and continue to remove our healthcare access. Relegating women back to the 1950s, the conservative dream.
But we still have time. Do not vote for “moderates” coming for your rights. We have until November 8th, let’s show up for ourselves and future generations.
Kari Rosenleaf is running for office for our children’s future
Deciding to run for office is a different path for all candidates. When I first met Kari, I knew she was a public education teacher but I didn’t know why she wanted to put her neck out there and make change. We talked and bonded over the importance of public education to provide opportunity. Kari is a special education teacher for Great Falls Public Schools and she talked about the challenges and importance of that role in enriching and improving her students’ future. After our discussion, I knew Kari Rosenleaf was the right person to represent House District 26 in Great Falls. She knows the struggles of working families and she wants to support policies that will lessen those struggles. I’m Kari’s campaign treasurer and I wanted to share why I’m voting for Kari and why I think you should too. Below is a summary of a discussion Kari and I had about her candidacy.
Why did you decide to be a special education teacher?
Public education has always been important to me. I received all of my K-12 public education here in Great Falls. When I moved out of state and was attending college, I saw how much better prepared I was than my peers. That comes from an investment in education. And that’s why it is so important to me. I’ve always had an interest in becoming a teacher. When I was growing up, my brother had a health condition that required special education accommodations. I wanted to be a teacher for students like him.
I’ve been a special education teacher in our school system for a decade, and the great thing about my role is the ability to build relationships with my families and students. I get to have my students for about seven years, unless they switch schools. That consistency and longevity, helps me to more effectively push for their goals.
What made you decide to run for office?
Well, I’m a member of MFPE, the Montana Federation of Public Employees. MFPE is Montana’s largest union and the country’s most diverse union. During the last legislative session, with a Republican governor and a Republican controlled legislature, we saw so many bills that attacked workers’ rights and public education. Our union helped keep its member informed on these bills and it was so frustrating. We were fighting an up-hill battle. I wanted to be the one in the room voting for what helped people rather than having to try to convince legislators to do the right thing and vote against these damaging bills.
If you were elected, why would you be a good legislator?
When the Republican state government turns down federal funding for our schools, that directly hurts our local students. When public employees fully fund their pension plan and the state tries to use that money as a piggy bank, that threatens the stability of that fund.
Everyone is concerned about rising prices and tax increases. While some of those issues have to be addressed at the federal level, we can help at the state level. For one, large companies need to pay their fair share. They benefit from running their businesses there, they need to help support the infrastructure and people that makes that possible.
It probably doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll stand up for worker’s rights in the legislature. Unions protect workers, raise wages and are good for our state.
Why are unions so important?
When I worked as an ambulance driver and EMT in Great Falls, we voted in a union. The company brought in union busters and the union was never able to get a contract in place. But during that struggle, the company fixed numerous issues that had spurred the union fight including addressing safety issues, raising workers’ wages, and stopping wage theft. Unions pressure companies to do the right thing.
It’s called a “Super Majority.” And Republicans are just two legislative seats away from having it. It means that, in addition to the crappy bills they pass in the legislature, they will be able to change the foundation of our government that protects citizen rights. . . the Montana Constitution. And they just can’t wait to do it.
First, they will be able to propose constitutional amendments by referring them to the ballot, if they garner the support of two-thirds of legislators. That means that 100 politicians in Helena can put amendments to our constitution on the ballot. Currently, amendments can only be proposed by gathering enough citizen signatures. It’s hard to do, meaning that lots of amendments are proposed, but few actually make it to the ballot.
Second, a super majority can call for an unlimited constitutional convention by referring a convention call to the ballot. If approved, a convention can propose changes to virtually anything in the constitution by a vote of the delegates. At a time when large swaths of the Republican Party support the January 6th insurrection and believe the hocus pocus dished out by the likes of Donald Trump, it is scary to think about what they would do to our constitution.
We encourage everyone to look at our constitution. It is an amazing document. https://leg.mt.gov/bills/mca_toc/index.htm We thought it would be good to list a few of the rights we stand to lose if the Republicans achieve their super majority in this election.
Section 4. Individual dignity. The dignity of the human being is inviolable. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. Neither the state nor any person, firm, corporation, or institution shall discriminate against any person in the exercise of his civil or political rights on account of race, color, sex, culture, social origin or condition, or political or religious ideas.
Section 8. Right of participation. The public has the right to expect governmental agencies to afford such reasonable opportunity for citizen participation in the operation of the agencies prior to the final decision as may be provided by law.
Section 9. Right to know. No person shall be deprived of the right to examine documents or to observe the deliberations of all public bodies or agencies of state government and its subdivisions, except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.
Section 10. Right of privacy. The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest.
Article IX (1) The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.
Article X, (2) The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity.
Of course these are just words on paper (or pixels on a screen). The constitution comes alive over time and primarily through actions in the court system. Here in Montana and nationally conservative Republicans believe they have lost many of their goals in the courts. One result is that they have made it a priority to replace judges who don’t share their views. This is probably the reason so many evangelicals supported Trump. . .and he delivered for them by appointing three Conservative Supreme Court justices. Here in Montana, Supreme Court candidate Jim Brown is the epitome of a judge with a Republican agenda.
Changing our constitution would be the Holy Grail for the far right in Montana. And they are very close to being able to do it in the Montana Legislature. The stakes in this election are very high. If you care about protecting our constitution, vote for Democrats.