Daily Montanan On the Cascade County Commission Race

Daily Montanan On the Cascade County Commission Race

The online Montana newspaper The Daily Montanan published a really good analysis of the Cascade County Republican primary race between Eric Hinebauch and Rae Grulkowski. Below are excerpts from the article.

“In an interview with the Daily Montanan, Hinebauch described himself as a fiscal conservative but shied away from the label  ‘moderate,’  and so did Great Falls legislator and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fitzpatrick in describing Hinebauch. But others who work closely with him know him as a centrist looking to get things done.” 

“Grulkowski was a leader in the anti-Big Sky National Heritage Area movement, revolving around a conspiracy the federal government was targeting private property in the county, debunked in the New York Times in 2021.”

“In this June’s Republican primary, voters in Cascade County will choose whether to go with the middle-of-the-road conservative or a far-right conspiracist.”

Read the full article here.


Grulkowski has the advantage of far-right base support which provides her with volunteers, funding and energy.  She jumped out of the campaign gates already having signs out all over the county. So far, Hinebauch is ahead in fundraising, reporting $12,085.70 for the reporting period ending March 15. Grulkowski has raised $7,125.00. 

Hinebauch stands to benefit from centrist Republicans who are tired of the drama Grulkowski has brought to county government.  There are also potential Democratic crossover votes in this election. The race for the Eastern District Congressional seat is the only Democratic primary race. And the truth is that a Democrat is highly unlikely to carry the general election in the Eastern District, no matter who wins.  At the same time there are numerous contested Republican primaries, which are bound to attract interest across the ballot.  

WTF!!  Can’t Make This Stuff Up

WTF!! Can’t Make This Stuff Up

In case you missed it, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Award has been canceled this year.  The Dwight D. Opperman Foundation announced the cancellation of the award following the announcement of this year’s recipients creating quite a stir. The award was established in 2019 with the help of Justice Ginsburg. It was intended for “women who exemplify human qualities of empathy and humility.”  The award was originally called the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award. The name of the award was changed last year.

This year’s recipients included Elon Musk, Martha Stewart, Sylvester Stallone, Rupert Murdoch, and Michael Milken. Ironically the least offensive name on the list is probably Sylvester Stalone, who has made his fortune playing macho men in the movies.  The rest are either right-wing  ideologues  or crooks.  Oh, and let’s not forget a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.  Way to go Martha!

Julie Opperman, Chair of the foundation said they did not consider “politics” and focused on people who had “have made significant contributions to society.”  Beam me up Scotty!

Grulkowski Plays Dirty– Did We Really Expect Anything Else?

Grulkowski Plays Dirty– Did We Really Expect Anything Else?

Most of us who were watching the selection process for the new election administrator for Cascade County, Terry Thompson, knew it was a rotten kettle of fish. We suspected that the cause of the putrid smell was Commissioner Rae Grulkowski.  Now we have the proof.

Rae Grulkowski’s biased scoring

Thanks to Ann Brust filing an information request with the county, we can see exactly what the scores of each of the county commissioners in the selection process were. It reveals a rogue county commissioner manipulating a government hiring process to hand the job to a person she worked alongside opposing the Big Sky Country National Heritage Area back in 2020. At that time Terry Thompson was CEO of the Great Falls Realtors Association and Grulkowski was one of the main organizers of the opposition, which was steeped in ridiculous conspiracy theories about people losing their property rights if the Heritage Area was established.

Where’s the oversight?

Perhaps even more disconcerting, the county entities which should be acting to curb the corrupt conduct of a local elected official have been sitting on their hands and even covering up for Grulkowski’s outrageous conduct as a county commissioner. We are referring to the county attorney’s office and the county human resource office. Even though they were both engaged in the selection process, they allowed Grulkowski to ignore the law and standard government personnel practices by manipulating her scores to guarantee that the most qualified applicant, former election administrator Democrat Rina Moore, was denied the position and gave it to her former, less qualified, political ally, Republican Terry Thompson.

We commend Commissioners Briggs and Larson for having the political courage to remove Grulkowski from the chair of the county commission and for passing County Ordinance 23-62, which took the election duties away from Grulkowski’s political crony and incompetent administrator Sandra Merchant. But we are baffled by their failure to enforce the provision of the ordinance which prohibited Grulkowski from participating in any decision dealing with the election office, which obviously included hiring new election administrator Terry Thompson. Larson has told people that the ordinance did not apply to Grulkowski, because she had not filed for re-election.  Maybe he thought that, but he was mistaken. (See the language of the ordinance below.)  

“WHEREAS, appointing an Election Administrator to serve at the direction of the Board of Cascade County Commissioners will eliminate the appearance of impropriety as any single Commissioner whose seat appears on the ballot in a given calendar years shall be required to abstain from all decisions concerning the operation and management of the election office during that calendar year until such time as the election for said office is finalized; and” 

We have to wonder why Deputy County Attorney Carrie Anne Haight and Human Resource Officer Jeff Mora, who sat through numerous commission meetings dealing with this hiring decision including the applicant interviews, did not insist that Grulkowski follow the law.  Perhaps we should not be surprised at the apparent dereliction of duties, since neither Haight nor Mora have raised objections as Sandra Merchant filled vacant positions in the Clerk and Recorder’s office with numerous individuals whose sole qualification appeared to be the fact that they had signed an election denier petition with bizarre demands that mail in balloting be eliminated, doing away with electronic vote counting machines, and requiring every Cascade County voter to come in and reregister to vote. Those who did not actually sign the petition were either in personal relationships with those who had or were family members of far right Republican officials like Randy Pinocci.

So, here we are now looking right at the smoking gun, the scoring of the individuals who applied to be the election administrator. There can be little doubt that Rae Grulkowski used this process to advance her own ally and subvert the competitive hiring process for the county which is  required by state law, professional personnel practices, and the county’s own ordinance. She has done so with impunity and those who should have, and could have, raised objections have apparently remained silent. 

Scoring Matrix for Hiring The Cascade County Election Administrator

Grulkowski was moving an agenda to help Terry Thompson and sink Rina Moore

For those readers who don’t like looking at tables, we point out that commissioners Larson and Briggs both ranked Rina Moore as the most qualified and Grulkowski rated her as the least qualified . . .by a large margin.  On the other hand, Larson and Briggs ranked Thompson third and fourth respectively and Grulkowski rated her number one. . .again by a large margin.  Obviously Grulkowski was moving an agenda which resulted in Terry Thompson getting the job.

But it is election season again!

We want to take this opportunity to remind the voters of Cascade County that it is election season. Former City Commissioner Eric Hinebauch is running against Grulkowski in the Republican primary, and Don Ryan is running on the Democratic ticket in the general election. If we can’t count on county officials to restrain this kind of impunity, we have to turn her out at the ballot box.  

Cascade Legislative Filings-  Republican Infighting Continues

Cascade Legislative Filings- Republican Infighting Continues

Let’s start with a little definition of terms used in this Post.  

Far-Right  Republicans– Republicans who advocate ideas and policies which are coming from extreme groups like the Freedom Caucus and local Pachyderm Club. They are driven by conspiracy theories including rhetoric about the “Deep State” and stolen elections. The Galloways, Public Service Commissioner Randy Pinocci, Sheriff Jesse Slaughter and County Commissioner  Rae Grulkowski are in this group. Also known as Tin Foil Hat Republicans

Corporate Republicans–  Republicans who generally fit into the more traditional frame of Republicanism. They promote privatization of public services and institutions, deregulation of industry, and cutting  taxes. Fitzpatrick, McKamey, Buttrey,  Nikolakos, Commissioners Briggs and Larson, Republican Central Committee Chair Eric Hinebauch are in this group.  Also known as Corporate  Lapdog Republicans.

If you follow local politics in Cascade County, you are probably aware of the feuds within the local Republican Party. We’re not going to go into in much detail here, but we provide this quote from Matthew Monforton, Republican activist, former legislator, and attorney who was representing the Far-Right  Republicans here in a lawsuit over control of the Republican Central Committee in 2019.  “What it comes down to is, there’s a group of fake Republicans in Cascade County that are really Democrats, but they know they can’t get elected to office as Democrats. Their goals are vastly different than those of the Republican Party.” 


A quick look at the filing for this election cycle indicates that the feud is still going. There is a contested Republican primary in every legislative district except one. Equally telling, only one current legislator and Corporate Republican, Steve Fitzpatrick, does not face a primary challenger.  Also interesting that four Libertarians have filed.  

To our readers who are gleefully rubbing their hands together over the discord within the Republican ranks, we have to say, “not so fast.”  The truth is that contested primaries make for stronger candidates in the general election cycle. They have already been raising money, meeting voters, buying materials and garnering media attention, and they bring those assets with them to the general election.  

So, we leave you with a little unverified gossip. Word is that Far-Right Republican  legislator Steven Galloway recruited James Whitaker to challenge incumbent George Nikolakos in House District 22.  Nikolakos was so angry that he got his wife to file against Steven Galloway at the last minute. We don’t know if this is the real story, but we do know that Melissa Nikolakos filed against Galloway on the last day to file at 3:38 p.m.  Hmmm.


HD 19
Jane Weber- D

Hannah Trebas – R

Darren Auger- R


HD 20

Rina Moore – D

Steven Galloway-R 

Melissa Nikolakos-R


HD 21

Lela Graham-D

ED  Buttrey-R 

James Osterman-R

Joshua Rosles-L


HD 22

Ronald Paulick- D

George Nikolakos-R 

James Whitaker- R


HD 23

Sandor Hopkins-D

Pete Anderson- R

John Proud-R 

Josh Denully- R

Kevin Leatherbarrow- L

HD 24

Steve Fitpatrick- R 

Annie Leatherbarrow- L

HD 25

James Rickley- D

Darren Auger- R

Steve Gist- R 

Loui Salinas- L


SD 13

Lola Galloway-R

Joshua Cashmier- R

Russell Rowland Interviews Ken Toole- Check It Out!

Russell Rowland Interviews Ken Toole- Check It Out!

If you are interested in what it was like growing up with Montana Historian K. Ross Toole, the formation of the Montana Human Rights Network, the fight against electric deregulation, the extremism of the Gianforte administration and the Cult of Trump, you might want to check out this podcast with Russell Rowland interviewing Ken Toole.

Episode Eleven – Ken Toole – by Russell Rowland (substack.com)