The story is developing and facts will have to be repeatedly checked for accuracy, but the Republican rumor mill from Helena is in full swing. Legislators are alleging that Rep. Wylie Galt made a devil’s bargain with Llew Jones in an anticipated run for U.S. Senate against Jon Tester.
The scene is one of a dystopian nightmare. Holding the GOP majority hostage since he first created the liberal ‘Solutions Caucus’ to work with Montana’s Democratic governors, Llew Jones has been the single greatest liberalizing force in the Montana legislature. His willingness to caucus with Democrats on budget-busting bills and repeatedly thwart Republican leadership has neutered the legislature’s capacity to check and balance the power of first Governor Schweitzer and secondly, Governor Bullock. After being resoundingly defeated in the primary by hard-working conservatives on the grassroots level tired of Democrats like Jones running on the Republican ticket, many of Jones’ ‘lieutenants’ were beaten on election night.
Llew Jones was primed to be placed in a two-year time-out corner and should have been rightfully sidelined for his misdeeds against the Republican Party for more than a decade. But as cockroaches are apt to do, it seems that Jones has scurried up from the dark recesses of the Helena swamp and made a shady agreement with Wylie Galt to maintain his power at the capitol.
Reportedly, Jones approached Galt with a simple proposition; if Galt wanted to run for U.S. Senate against Jon Tester, Jones and his deep-pocketed donors he acquired from years of pork-barrel spending (Jones has managed to leverage the big PAC-spending Farm Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, and the Stockgrowers Association against conservatives) would support his bid if only Galt would keep him relevant in his role as Speaker. In exchange for placing Jones at the head of the powerful Appropriations Committee, as well as giving a few key appointments to Jones’ allies, Galt would be their favorite to challenge Montana’s sole Democratic senator.
The background of the deal reportedly began with Brad Tchida’s intention to run for Public Service Commission before being termed out in the Montana House. Reportedly, Tchida (an A+ rated conservative) was talked into remaining in the House and Jennifer Fielder instead ran for the PSC office (and won). In order to talk Tchida into sticking around in the House, he was offered the speakership as though a carrot were dangling on a stick.
When it became clear that Galt wanted to serve as Speaker (a role that Tchida wasn’t necessarily angling for), however, discussions arose that indicated deference would be shown to Galt’s speakership bid in exchange for placing Tchida as head of appropriations. With this backroom deal being widely understood, Galt narrowly beat Matt Regier (another A+ rated conservative) for the position of Speaker. But then, with nightmare savagery and a back-peddling on promises made, the Montana GOP’s Judas Iscariot, Llew Jones, was appointed chairman of the powerful appropriation’s committee.
Adding even more insult to injury, it was widely understood among conservatives voting for Galt that Joshua Kassmier would run the Agriculture Committee. Instead, it is rumored that Galt will appoint RINO liberal, Julie Dooling.
All of this also undescores the absolute toxicity of Jones. Every candidate for statewide office in a contested primary that Jones endorsed this year lost all the Conrad precincts (where Llew Jones serves). Jones seems incapable of getting Repubilcans elected, and whatever politicians gladly accept his endorsement – like Scott Sales – seem to lose their elections. Those wishing to hitch their star to Jones’ wagon – as it is alleged that Galt is attempting to do – will likely repeat history.
While we will have to see how the day plays out, this does not look good for Montana’s conservatives. Neither does it look good for Wylie Galt or the unity of the Montana House of Representatives.