Had enough of election politics? Well, that’s true for most of us here in Montana. But then came the news that Montana’s former Secretary of State – turned mediocre country western singer – Corey Stapleton is running for president. Stapleton obviously has no lack of ego and a certain attraction to delusional thinking, that’s for sure. So let’s take a quick look at his illustrious political career just to see what kind of president he might be.
Is he a political hack?
In 2020, a court ordered Stapleton to remove the Green Party from the ballot following revelations that the Montana Republican party spent $100,000 to qualify the Green Party for a slot on the ballot. It was an obvious underhanded attempt to siphon votes from Democratic candidates. As Secretary of State, Stapleton not only supported this kind of game, he appealed the court decision to the US Supreme Court . . .twice. His petition was denied both times.
Is he ethically challenged?
In August of 2020 the Billings Gazette wrote an editorial with the following title: “Stapleton Shows Why He is Unfit for Any Office.” The editorial says it better than we possibly could: “There was the issue of the nonexistent voter fraud that Stapleton referred to in public, then blamed the media for reporting. There was the problem with the unauthorized expense to the state for a personal ‘big truck’ he used to commute to work. There was the attempt to declare a bill vetoed by the governor as the law of the land, a move a judge found to be ‘without constitutional or statutory support.’ There was the botched voter guide and rush-job $265,000 correction, commissioned from a political ally’s print shop without bid. And there was the fine for using resources from the Secretary of State’s Office to announce his campaign for governor — a campaign he later abandoned to run instead for Montana’s House seat when that position looked more easily attainable.” Thank you, Billings Gazette.
Is he an ambitious politician?
In 2000, he was elected to the Montana Senate where he sat for two terms. In 2012, he ran for governor and lost the Republican primary to Rick Hill. In 2013, he announced he was running for the U.S. Senate but withdrew when Steve Daines also announced. Instead, he ran for Congress, losing in the 2014 Republican primary to Ryan Zinke. In 2016, he ran for Secretary of State and won – going on to prove his arrogance and incompetence in public office as summarized by the Billings Gazette above. In 2019, he again announced his intention to run for governor but withdrew and ran for Congress, losing in the 2020 Republican primary to Matt Rosendale. And now he is running for President of the United States.
Wait! We almost forgot. . .now he is a country western singer. He just released his second album. So is he a good country singer? Um. . . meh. Check it out for yourself. https://ffm.to/westernson
Well, there we have it. Now Corey is running for president. Who on earth would vote for an ethically challenged hack with a record of failure and mismanagement? Maybe country music fans? Of course he won’t win. . .will he? Well, most of us thought the same about Donald Trump. Stay tuned.
It’s been a couple weeks since the 2022 general election and What the Funk is here to talk you through the shitshow facing Montana. In Cascade County, with a 59% voter turnout, in every contested race, the Democrat lost. Republicans flipped two senate seats and retained all of their house seats. And yes, that means Republicans now have a supermajority in the state legislature and the governorship. They’re already introducing constitutional amendments left and right. We were worried this would happen if voters gave Montana Republicans a supermajority. You can read our full blog post about it here, with an overview excerpt below:
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 supermajority 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.
What other impacts can we expect from this election?
Beyond the changes to the legislature due to the election, the Cascade County Commission is now a completely Republican board. Rina Fontana Moore is also out as Clerk and Recorder (pending the results of a recount in a race with only a thirty vote lead by her opponent). Republican County Commissioner Joe Briggs has stated that he plans to propose an ordinance change to move elections under the county commission.
Things look pretty bleak, but we did see a few glimmers of hope from our statewide elections. The State Supreme Court Justices Gustafson and Rice handily retained their seats. Gustafson was especially impressive – withstanding a full court press of Republican endorsements and campaigning for her opponent. A strong judicial branch is still part of Montana’s government!And LR-131, the truly shitty bill that attempted to interject the government into grieving families’ healthcare decisions for their dying infants, was voted down with a statewide vote of 53% Against to 47% For.Montana voters realized how shitty that bill was!
What fresh hell can we expect in the upcoming 2023 legislative session?
As mentioned above, the Republicans are already proposing numerous constitutional amendments. On the abortion rights front, Republican Representative Jennifer Carlson out of Manhattan has already requested a draft bill “to establish an infant born alive is a person.” Wait a minute, that is some loaded-ass language. Where have we seen that misleading wording before?…….THAT IS FUCKING RESURRECTED, ZOMBIE LR-131!!! A draft of the bill isn’t available yet, but that working title has the exact phrasing that was in LR-131. Did Montana voters not send a loud enough message to Republicans on what we think of LR-131???
We have to keep calling out this bullshit and informing the public when these elected officials hurt Montanans. What the Funk is keeping an eye on other poisonous draft bills requested for the 2023 legislative session. We will keep you posted as these hateful attacks on our rights wind their way through the legislative process.
Election deniers- the stupidest of the right-wing MAGA stupid. The folks that WON Republican victories in Cascade County in 2020 and now 2022. These people, who have won for two terms, continue to claim that our free and fair elections are a lie. And their extremism is getting way out of hand.
On Friday, election deniers attempted to intimidate staff of the Clerk and Recorder’s office. They surrounded the building, took pictures of staff cars and license plates, and made every effort to make election workers feel unsafe. Read about their disturbing anti-democratic tactics here: https://dailymontanan.com/2022/11/12/absolutely-insane-cascade-county-election-official-says-cops-called-after-skeptics-escalate/
Today in the Exhibition Hall at the fairgrounds, election workers publicly tallied the remaining ballots. Despite widespread Republican wins in Cascade County, dozens of election deniers showed up, many in their finest army-man cosplay, to continue their intimidation attempts. It all seemed rather over done when looking at the election workers themselves. The small group of folks tallying elections were almost entirely senior citizens, one of them an older gentleman with his Vietnam veteran hat on. Personally, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a large assembly of folks acting like they’re hell bent on beating up someone’s grandma. And yet, here we are.
One man watched carefully through binoculars, a rather amusing sight as he was just a few feet away from where the tally was openly happening in front of all of us. A woman in head-to-toe camo and combat boots stood behind me. She made an accusation that the ballot box wasn’t actually sealed. (It was.) She got angry that I was taking pictures. She made several comments about election fraud and claimed she’d seen extra, illegal ballots being delivered the prior week. This was allegedly the same woman who had been taking pictures of staff’s cars on Friday. Like most bullies, she was utterly infuriated when faced with even the slightest pushback. Still, her litany of conspiracy theories continued.
And then? Her candidate won. The officials handed the results to candidates. A Republican woman tried to lead a cheer to spell out SANDRA. The group got lost somewhere around the “D” which is fine; spelling is hard.
With the Republican wins official, I asked the group of election deniers if they still believed the election was rigged. Unsurprisingly, they wouldn’t provide a straight answer. One woman claimed they were simply there to watch the process, yet had no comment when I mentioned the camo-clad woman next to her had spent all of Friday harassing election workers.
And here we approach the cognitive dissonance that belies the entirety of the far-right. Election deniers claim that our election system is broken. They cry foul and accuse election staff of fraud. Even with today’s results, none of them would admit that the election had been won freely and fairly. So, which is it, Cascade County?
Did Rina Fontana Moore run a free and fair election?
Are the results of the 2022 election not to be trusted?
These are “Yes” or “No” questions. The answer cannot be both. You cannot be simultaneously claiming victory in the election while claiming that the election is fraudulent. I mean, you can, but if you do you’re an idiot.
As disappointing as the election results are, we accept those results. That’s what rational people do when confronted with challenging concepts like “addition.” We don’t create a complex web of conspiracies when things don’t go our way. Nor do we dress up like soldiers (which is likely really insulting to actual soldiers, btw) and go harass folks who are trying to do their jobs.
But these election deniers have likely done themselves a real favor electing Sandra Merchant. Merchant now has a full time job that she is neither qualified for nor even understands. May these election deniers band together in their stupidity. Cascade County has elected Merchant, and we’re about to get exactly what we deserve by doing so- a goddamn mess.
With the elections being openly counted mere feet away, we can only assume this man was looking for Sandra Merchant’s qualifications.
“Well, haters gonna hate. I and others are on our way to legislate. Your toxic hate and resentment filled way has literally destroyed the Dem party in Cascade County and taken good and decent folks down with it. I’ll let you folks get back uninterrupted here to being the mirror-image of Jordan Hall and the soft delusion that you’re not effectively the same thing he is in a dress.”
We at WTF have covered a myriad of topics that folks care about. From the housing crisis to our right to privacy, we’ve discussed the disturbing voting records and often outrageous antics of the far-right in Great Falls. Sharing accurate information isn’t hateful or indicative of resentment. Quite contrary, it’s how we keep our community informed. It appears George can’t spot the difference between participating in hate speech and speaking out against it. Thus, we’ve put his latest statement about myself and Helena to the test. Let’s see if George’s claim stands up to scrutiny.
We do give George one half of a check mark, as Jasmine does indeed wear dresses fairly regularly. However, Helena wears them less frequently. Further, we have no knowledge of Hall’s preferred clothing; therefore, we’re not sure how apt the comparison is. Regardless, an attempt was made. We’d like to congratulate George on his victory! A breakdown of the math shows us that it cost George a mere $39.27 per vote!
with Rev. Dawn Skerritt and First United Methodist Church:
As members of the clergy, we know that words have power. Power to heal or to harm, to build up or to tear down. We know that for those in positions of leadership, that power is magnified, and thus should not be taken lightly. Carelessness with words—particularly from those who have been vested with authority and charged with responsibility—is dangerous, even in the absence of any malice.
We do not know if Sheriff Jesse Slaughter has malice in his heart. That is known to him and to God alone. All we have are his words and actions.
These we condemn in the strongest possible terms.
In a radio interview on October 27th, Sheriff Jesse Slaughter used his words and social capital to make misleading, and even cruel, statements against the Rev. Dawn Skerritt, the First United Methodist Church, and the local unhoused population. A few days prior, an unhoused woman died on the property of First United Methodist Church. Her name was Dianna, and she had endured a lifetime of violence and neglect, and like so many people rich and poor, she suffered from the disease of alcoholism. Dianna died, according to the report released by Sheriff Slaughter in his role as coroner, from “natural causes” related to chronic alcoholism. Dianna had sought local resources and had tried to find a way to move forward in her life. However, the resources available and the care she needed were difficult for her to obtain. The two-fold struggles of alcoholism and homelessness can be insurmountable for many individuals. In Great Falls, the local Rocky Mountain Rehab program can cost in excess of $23,000. Psychiatric care is difficult to access, and providers are often scheduled out several months, even for critical cases and for folks who have good insurance.
In the interview, Slaughter blamed Rev. Dawn Skerritt and the First United Methodist Church for Dianna’s death, saying, “People are paying for it with their lives.” He was referring to the outreach at the church even though his own report made clear that Dianna’s death, while tragic, was the result of natural causes related to chronic alcoholism.
Sheriff Slaughter spoke in a demeaning way about Rev. Dawn Skerritt several times, but more than that, he belittled her title, authority, and education. Referring to Rev. Skerritt as “preacher or whatever,” Sheriff Slaughter with his words undermined seven years of post-secondary education, an arduous process to serve in the capacity of minister within the United Methodist Church, and the many years of service she has dedicated to the church.
This is an irresponsible, reprehensible use of the platform he has been given. Whether the words were spoken in outright malice, carelessness, or dangerous ignorance, Sheriff Slaughter’s comments are baseless and unbecoming of a public official.
If the community at FUMC did not exist and Dianna had never been there, would she not have still died from the disease of alcoholism? Maybe not. It’s possible that without a community of care, her life would have been claimed sooner by the violence she regularly experienced. Or else she might have frozen to death elsewhere due to lack of shelter.
In late March of this year, the remains of another unsheltered person—who remains unidentified—were found on the First Presbyterian Church property, having lain there through the winter. That church has not been blamed for the person’s death. If one church is culpable for the death of a person on their property, are all churches responsible in the same manner? How much more is a city or county culpable for the neglect and lack of care that allows such things to happen and be summarily forgotten? Sheriff Slaughter offers no such diatribe like the one he leveled at a person and a group of people attempting to solve the problem of unsheltered people in Great Falls that so many would prefer to ignore—or rather, to displace and forget.
No one is claiming that the work of First United Methodist Church, now led by Rev. Skerritt, is an ideal solution. But an ideal solution does not exist, and as long as there are people in need, the Church will continue to try to meet those needs in spite of petty bullying by elected officials.
In this interview, Sheriff Slaughter claims that the church is not inviting folks inside and caring for them, but FUMC is still providing warm clothing and food, and has even opened their building up as a warm space to spend the cold winter hours of evening when no other shelter is available. The exact solution that Sherriff Slaughter himself mentioned is what FUMC is doing, and trying to gain partners in trying to keep all of our community members safe and alive this winter.
Sheriff Slaughter has a choice to make: a choice between embracing a spirit of collaboration in fighting the ever-worsening crisis of homelessness in our community or living into a narrative of fear and bigotry. We pray that as a servant of the people he will choose the former, rescinding his hateful comments and pledging to work with those he has a duty to serve, whether they are housed or not.
But until that time, we stand in solidarity and love with Rev. Skerritt, First United Methodist Church, and all who are victimized by a culture of neglect and fear.
Signed, the clergy of the Great Falls Ministerial Association.
Rev. Tammy Bull, New Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Jessica Crane-Munoz, Sunrise Presbyterian Church
Rev. Barbara Gwynn, retired ELCA clergy
Rev. Scott Hedegaard, Redeemer Lutheran Church
Rev. Marcia Lauzon, Episcopal Diocese of Montana
Rev. Jessica Obrecht, Bethel Lutheran Church
Debra Oldfield, S.A.M., St. John’s Lutheran Church
Rev. John Ritchie, PCUSA clergy at-large
Rev. Lynne Spencer-Smith, First Congregational United Church of Christ
Rev. Stephen Underwood, Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)