News articles in Montana over the course of the last week have repeatedly pointed out a central theme of this year’s Republican primary; the so-called ‘Conservative Solutions Caucus’ were the big losers. Using their willingness to run in Republican primaries despite voting with Democrats, the group run by Llew Jones faced a comeuppance on Tuesday among their constituents and several of Jones’ key liberal lieutenants lost by large margins.
The Gazette covered the ‘Solutions Caucus’ losses in the article, Montana Sends Liberal Republicans Packing with Crushing Defeats in Primary and the piece by Matthew Monforton, The Rino Morgue Overfloweth. The Gazette also published the op-ed from Randy Pinocci and Brad Tschida, Conservative Comeback in Montana. But we weren’t the only ones to notice that the defeats last Tuesday were fairly one-sided. Even the liberal Helena Independent had to begrudgingly point out the obvious, as well as numerous other liberal newspapers.
In no uncertain terms, last Tuesday was a bad night for RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) in the Big Sky State. As the Montana Free Press wrote on May 20, “For Solutions Caucus, the proof is in the primaries.”
Eric Dietrich, the author of that Montana Free Press article, is quite right. The proof is in the primaries. And the Solutions Caucus lost big.
Llew Jones lost two of his top knee-breakers, Nancy Ballance and Eric Moore (both lost to candidates heavily endorsed by the Montana Daily Gazette). He also lost a number of other incumbent compatriots to first-time challengers. In total, Jones lost about a half-dozen Solutions Caucus members and the opposing group of conservatives – the so-called “.38 Special” – only lost two.
But numbers alone don’t plumb the depths of Jones’ loss. Ballance and Moore both had one thing in common, besides being in the Solution’s Caucus. They were both – at one time – conservatives. Ballance and Moore were conservative leaders in the legislature until one day they shook hands with the devil and sold their soul to Llew Jones. Jones and his Solutions Caucus allies are experts at dangling carrots and displaying sticks to legislators in reward or punishment of their votes. Should candidates go along with Jones and his Democrat-swing voters, they are promised financial support in their campaigns from the various PACs (like Montana Business PAC and Farm Bureau) who have a vested interest in bigger government. And if they go against Jones, they’re told that candidates will be recruited to challenge them in the primary.
With Jones proving himself incapable of saving his closest and most important allies from campaign losses, the capacity of the Solutions Caucus to intimidate or entice freshmen legislators to join his motley crew will be even tougher. Regardless of how the numbers break down, the losses of Ballance and Moore are devastating for Jones’ grip on power.
The newly rebranded “Conservative Solutions Caucus” formed a Facebook page at the beginning of the primary season with their chameleon-like name change. The page published a post entitled A Reality Check on the 2020 Primary Election after nearly a week of licking their wounds from Tuesday’s primary bloodbath. The post, whose author remains anonymous, attempts to spin the election results as ‘breaking even’ for the Solutions Caucus.
The article begins with rhetoric familiar to those who read their anonymous attack blog, the Extremist Chronicles (which is likely written by a Democrat named Don Pogreba). They write, “The 2020 primary election is over and now the far-right extremists in the Republican Party are claiming victory over the Conservative Solutions Caucus (CSC). The CSC performed well in the 2020 primary election, retaining its role as a power player in the Montana Legislature.”
Of course, if Montana’s Republicans voted for “far-right extremists” over the Solutions Caucus, it would appear that they’re characterizing the majority of Montana’s Republicans as “extreme” (and, of course, they are). They seem oblivious to the fact that their characterization of Montana’s conservatives as “extremists” helped lose them their primary races.
Claiming the Solutions Caucus still “maintains control” of the legislature, the post says, “There are ten Solutions Caucus members in the Senate, and at least sixteen in the House not counting new freshmen. These totals are more than enough to control the outcome of all floor votes and most committee votes.”
Montana’s Republican voters need to be reminded that Llew Jones is not interested in “working across the aisle” to benefit Montana and prevent gridlock. With full confession, the used car salesman wants “control” of the legislature. Republicans also need to be reminded that Llew Jones obtains this “control” by caucusing with Democrats rather than Republicans.
However, the post from the Solutions Caucus overlooks several important details. First (mentioned above), after losing their primary races it’s doubtful that even the current Solutions Caucus members in Jones’ count will so easily be corralled against conservatives. Even those who previously caucused with Jones will likely take a second thought considering the recent conservative ouster of their colleagues. We should not be surprised if some Solutions Caucus members became born-again conservatives after Tuesday’s vote.
Secondly, if Greg Gianforte wins election, there will not be a substantial need for the Solutions Caucus at all. The changed dynamic with a Republican governor means that the days in which the legislature could be held hostage by the opposition party are over. What Republicans need to be conscious of at this point is any lackluster support or undermining of Greg Gianforte’s campaign on the part of Jones or his Solutions Caucus. The only way for them to retain their significance is if a Democrat takes the governorship, and conservatives can’t take for granted that these leftist-Republicans genuinely support a Republican gubernatorial candidate.
Perhaps the funniest aspect of the Solutions Caucus’ sore-losership is their hot-potatoing of Rep. Rodney Garcia. Garcia is an interesting human, no doubt. His statement at the 2020 GOP Winter Kick-Off that the constitution requires the death penalty for socialists earned him no small rebuke from party leaders. Garcia, who often has shown firey conservative rhetoric, votes with the Solutions Caucus. In fact, Garcia has an F-rating from Legistats in party loyalty. By his voting record, Garcia is Llew Jones’ comrade.
Nonetheless, the RINOs wrote on Facebook, “The CSC challenged four incumbents: Skees, Noland, DeVries, and Dunn. We won two of those races and held 4th-year incumbents Skees and Noland to victories of less than 56%. In addition, Rodney Garcia, another member of the far-right group, lost his primary election.”
When did Garcia, who voted with Llew Jones against Republicans a whopping 204 times, become a member of the “far-right group”? Their anonymous trash-blog, Extremist Chronicles, made the same delusionary argument, saying, “However, so did the extremists, with their chosen antivaxxer incumbents Greg DeVries, Rodney Garcia, and David Dunn losing.”
Poor Rodney Garcia earned his right to be in the Solutions Caucus by casting ballots 204 times with Llew Jones but has been thrown under the bus with his ‘dear leader’ as soon as he lost election. It appears that neither side would claim Garcia, even though only the Solutions Caucus had a right to.
As the Solutions Caucus tries to anonymously rewrite history in social media and poorly-executed garbage-blogs, the rest of Montana – including its various media sources – seems to have properly characterized last week’s election as a day of reckoning for Republicans who vote with Democrats. If the Solutions Caucus doesn’t learn from history they’re doomed to repeat it; and that’s okay with conservatives.