Representative Joel Krautter (R) from House District 35 in Eastern Montana’s Richland County recently left local Republicans at their annual Lincoln-Reagan Day celebration in the lurch in order to attend a Washington D.C. trip unassociated with official business in the state legislature where he is finishing up his first term.
Lincoln-Reagan Day, initially called simply Lincoln Day, has been the main Republican celebration used to raise funds for the Grand Old Party since 1866. Reagan’s name was changed nationwide after Reagan’s death in 2004. The event is used by local Republican central committees to raise funds, hear from candidates, and coalesce a stronger party presence at the grass-roots level.
Krautter, who has an F-ranking from the impartial Legistats organization, which uses an automated algorithm to determine party loyalty based upon votes on partisan bills, is listed near the bottom of Republicans in spot 47. According to conservative foes in the Montana House who largely distrust Krautter, he wore a lapel pin emblazoned with the letter “F” to brag about his party loyalty score along with other more-liberal members of the so-called Solutions Caucus, a group of Republicans mostly from Western Montana who regularly side with Democrats on controversial bills.
Reports indicate that the majority of Richland County Republican precinct leaders personally oppose Krautter’s candidacy in his second term and favor instead his challenger, the former Richland County Republican Central Committee chairman and current vice-chairman, Brandon Ler. Krautter recently resigned from his position as a precinct captain on the county’s Central Committee and hasn’t made the last several Republican party events. Most notably, besides the Lincoln-Reagan Day absence, Krautter was nowhere to be seen at January 20 town hall meeting organized by the Central Committee to discuss making Richland County a sanctuary county for the unborn and for the Second Amendment. All Republican officials were requested to attend by the committee, and most attended, including neighboring state senator, Steve Hinebaugh, and neighboring representative, Rhonda Knudsen, both of whom spoke favorably of the gathering in social media. Also proud to attend was Attorney General candidate, Austin Knudsen.
By all intents and purposes, it seems that Krautter is distancing himself from the Republican Party locally, which already something he became accustomed to doing while serving in Helena.
Ler, who makes his living in agriculture, seems to be challenging Krautter from the right, claiming in his widely talked-about candidacy speech at the February 6 Lincoln-Reagan event that voters “would know who he would caucus with” most of the time.
Krautter made waves after the below photo surfaced of him raising funds in Helena among Democrats, who are eager to have a cross-over voter from Eastern Montana. The numbers reflect the identification of Democrat party officials.
Krautter claimed in the local Round Up newspaper that he had important events to attend in Washington D.C., although he was there in an unofficial capacity and it’s unclear why the event would take precedence over local voters.
Krautter went on the tour with the Bozeman based Real Montana Leader Program. The program is a two-year cycle of classes, tours, networking opportunities, and travel designed to “heighten knowledge and enhance skills of emerging leaders.” The group met with various officials who made time for the group of Montana sight-seers.
Sounding as though he returned from a class field trip, Krautter explained, “While it was unfortunate to miss our local Republican Lincoln-Reagan dinner, those Washington meetings were very informative and it was good to continue to build better relationships with people in the various organizations.”
Meanwhile, local Republicans haven’t heard from Krautter in quite some time.