The U.S. Senate race in Montana could be crucial in determining whether Republicans keep the majority and maintain their hold on judicial confirmations and committee chairmanships for the next two years.
When Gov. Steve Bullock, failed presidential candidate, decided to seek the Democrat nomination for Senate against incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines, it changed the dynamic and turned the race from a safe Republican seat to a toss-up. Prior to the June primary, polls showed Bullock up by as much as 7 points. That declined to a two point lead by July, and then a shift toward Daines. In the latest survey, released on August 3, Daines was up by 6 points in the highly reliable Emerson College poll.
So what has changed? After all, for inexplicable reasons, Bullock has easily won election as attorney general and then governor (twice) in the heartland state of Montana. People apparently have bought his fake moderate pose for years. Bullock did have to come out from behind his moderate mask for a few months while he was running his disastrous campaign for president. He came out for gun control and other radical left policies that are not popular in Montana, but it may be another kind of mask that will prove to be Bullock’s undoing — the coronavirus mask.
That’s because Bullock’s heavy-handed far-left tactics in response to the China virus pandemic have played right into the hands of Sen. Daines and those who support restoring American life to normal as quickly as possible.
Nothing has symbolized that more than Bullock’s hijacking of policy on school reopenings as parents get ready to send their kids back to school this fall. Montana has an elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, who is in charge of coordinating statewide support for local school districts. For the past four years, that has been Republican Elsie Arntzen.
Repeatedly, Bullock has bigfooted Arntzen by shutting her and her staff out of meetings regarding policies and procedures to be used in the state’s schools in response to the pandemic. More often than not, Arntzen has learned about the governor’s directives regarding schools at the same time the general public has. He recently ordered masks to be mandatory in elementary schools without consulting Arntzen.
This may have seemed like a good idea to the Democrat governor at the time, but he didn’t count on Arntzen’s willingness to go public to shame the governor for overstepping his bounds. Arntzen blamed Bullock for creating mass confusion, especially when the governor and the superintendent of public instruction both issued divergent guidelines for school on the same day.
Back in July, she told “KGVO Talk Back“:
“Because of the pandemic, I do believe the governor’s office is using messaging as well as using the deployment of dollars for a benefit that is not for students. This siloing of information, making sure that it isn’t transparent, I believe that some of this us happening in a back room. Let me tell you, that’s not the way we do politics in Montana.”
This week, the feud reached a head when Bullock’s office reportedly was giving conflicting information to different school districts — and again keeping his policy changes secret from Arntzen. That led Arntzen to send a letter to Bullock to complain in detail about his arbitrary decisions:“It is my understanding that your office has provided additional information to certain school boards and districts regarding your recent unilateral mask mandate, but not to others. Although I have not received any of this from you or your office, much of the information provided seems to conflict with your initial directive, which only creates more confusion and uncertainty as we begin to safely reopen schools next week.
“Your education policy advisor has informed others that students seated at desks and socially distanced will not be required to wear masks. In addition, your office let a select group know that teachers in front of the classroom who are at least six feet away also are not required to wear masks. These are significant changes that need to be widely communicated to all Montanans instead of quietly decided in the Governor’s office and disseminated only to a few individuals.
“While I am encouraged that you seem to be somewhat heeding my requests for local control in this decision-making, much of the ill-timed guidance coming from your office is contradictory and inconsistent at best. Now is not the time for conflicting information as our teachers and students safely return to school. …
“As a fellow statewide officeholder and the official elected to lead our Montana public education system, I reiterate my desire to collaborate with you to best serve our schools. However, I am unable to do so when my office is unaware of the last-minute changes you are making to your statewide mask mandate.”
To a large extent, the governor’s office has ignored previous pleas from Arntzen, and I don’t expect this one to be much different. But I don’t think the people of Montana enjoy the idea of their governor overstepping his bounds, failing to communicate with his fellow officeholders and essentially playing politics with a national and statewide crisis. That’s why I am optimistic that Arntzen’s continued vocal opposition to the governor’s tactics will educate the state’s voters that Democrats don’t know “how to play well with others,” something the rest of us learned in kindergarten.
If Montana keeps Steve Daines in the U.S. Senate, then it is much harder for Democrats to achieve their goal of making radical Sen. Chuck Schumer the new majority leader. Let’s hope Arntzen’s “education campaign” succeeds.