Skip to comments.Decision by Martz awaited (Montana)
Posted on 05/18/2003 10:58:02 PM PDT by LdSentinal
HELENA - Many Montana politicians are eyeing the 2004 governor's race, but many Republicans are waiting to see whether Gov. Judy Martz decides to run for re-election before announcing their plans.
So far, only two major party candidates have declared: Democrat Brian Schweitzer of Whitefish, who lost a close race to U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns in 2000, and Republican Tom Keating, a former long-time Billings legislator who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2000.
Also, Robert Kelle-her, a Butte lawyer, Constitutional Convention delegate and frequent candidate, has announced that he will run, but he hasn't disclosed on which political party ticket.
The major question looming is Martz.
So far, Martz hasn't announced her plans. A statement released by her office said she "is giving serious thought to her political future and whether she will seek re-election to a second term." Martz is expected to announce her decision at about the time of the state Republican Party convention, June 27-29 in Missoula.
If she declares for re-election, Martz may well see some additional Republican challengers. If she doesn't, a wild scramble is expected in the Republican primary.
Despite rumors to the contrary, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, who already has four statewide races under his belt, made it clear he isn't running for governor next year.
"I'm not interested," he said. "I really, really enjoy the job that I have and hope that I'm doing the job well enough that people will want me to remain in this position. I've got committee assignments that I think can help Montanans, the most vulnerable Montanans."
On the Democratic side, State Auditor John Morrison said he has said repeatedly that he's not running for governor and would likely seek re-election. Morrison, however, added that he never rules out anything.
Senate Minority Leader Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, said he'd be interested, but the timing isn't right for him. Tester, a farmer, added: "It takes a lot of money. It just doesn't fit right now for me."
Here's a closer look, by party, at the announced candidates or those who haven't ruled a race out, based on State Bureau interviews:
Bob Brown: Brown represented the Whitefish area in the Montana House and Senate for 26 years and was Senate president in 1995. The former teacher won a tough race over Hal Harper, a Helena Democrat who served as House speaker, to capture the secretary of state's race in 2000. Brown has been a highly visible secretary of state.
Roy Brown: The Billings businessman and House majority leader in the 2003 session said he's waiting to see what Martz decides. He said he has some interest in the job but hasn't made up his mind yet.
Rick Hill: A former two-term U.S. representative and former GOP state chairman, Hill has shown in the past that he is a tough and aggressive campaigner, winning the open seat that had been held by Democrat Pat Williams, who retired. Hill said he's about two-third finished with the law school classes he is taking over the Internet and is scheduled to graduate one month before the election.
Bob Keenan: After serving in the House for two terms, Keenan has been in the Senate since 1999 and was elected as its president for the 2003 session. He and his wife own the Bigfork Inn restaurant. Keenan said he wants to see what Martz decides.
Tom Keating: The petroleum landman and longtime Billings lawmaker announced in November that he would be a candidate for governor in 2004 on a platform that calls on Montana to return to its basic natural resources industries because they create high-paying jobs. Keating served in the Senate from 1981 until he was term-limited in 2001 and was appointed to the House last summer to fill a vacancy. He ran for lieutenant governor as Natelson's running mate in 2000.
Judy Martz: Martz isn't talking publicly about her plans, but her office issued the statement saying she is seriously considering her political future. It said Martz has had many speaking e ngagements and interviews with reporters around the state, not just in Helena. Martz is a former field staff representative for U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns in Butte and was picked by Racicot to be his running mate as lieutenant governor in 2000. She won a contested Republican primary in 2000 and defeated O'Keefe in the general election despite being outspent 3-to-1.
Ken Miller: The state Republican Party chairman since 2001, Miller served in the Senate from 1995 until 2003. The roofing contractor and businessman has said he may run for governor instead of re-election as party chairman,. He would only run for governor if Martz decides not to run.
Doug Mood: A businessman who formerly was a top executive in Pyramid Mountain Lumber Co. in Seeley Lake, Mood capped off his four terms in the House by being elected as its speaker in the 2003 session.
Rob Natelson: The University of Montana law professor has been a political activist in Montana since the early 1990s, founding Montanans for Better Government and Montana Conservatives and leading several referendum and initiative campaigns. Natelson lost Republican primary campaigns for governor to Marc Racicot in 1996 and Martz in 2000.
Karl Ohs: He has been lieutenant governor under Martz since 2001 and at one time expressed disappointment in his not getting more substantive assignments. Ohs is a rancher and former three-term representative and majority whip from Harrison. He said he's waiting to see what Martz does.
Mike Taylor: Taylor, a Rollins businessman who has served in the state Senate for eight years, was handily defeated by Democratic incumbent Max Baucus in the 2002 U.S. Senate race but may still have other political plans. Taylor said he has a lot of respect for Martz and awaits her decision.
Fred Thomas: A long-time legislator, Thomas has been Senate majority leader the past two sessions. He is in the insurance business and has a construction bonding business. Thomas served in the House from 1985-93 and in the Senate since 1997.
Bill Kennedy: The commissioner from state's most populous county, Yellowstone County, said he's interested in running, and will wait until the end of the summer to decide. Kennedy said he's traveling around the state to talk to Montanans about whether he should run. He believes that Montanans needs a governor with proven leadership and a connection to local government.
Joe Mazurek: A lawyer in private practice after serving as Montana's attorney general for eight years, Mazurek served in the Montana Senate from 1981 until 1993. He was Senate president in 1991. Mazurek placed second in the three-way Democratic primary for governor in 2000.
Mike McGrath: After serving as Lewis and Clark County attorney for 18 years, McGrath was elected Montana's attorney general in 2000. He previously lost for attorney general in 1988 and placed second in a three-way Democratic primary for governor in 1992.
Mark O'Keefe: He served in four years in the state House and eight years as state auditor before winning a three-way Democratic primary for governor in 2000. O'Keefe lost to Martz in the general election by 51 to 47 percent. He now runs a consulting business. He said entering a race early doesn't necessarily hurt candidates but doesn't help them as much as some people believe.
Brian Schweitzer: After giving U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns a close race in 2000, Schweitzer has never really stopped running. The Whitefish farmer has spoken at Democratic gatherings, large and small, all over the state. He is running for governor. Schweitzer has raised a record $254,903 as of March 31 for his 2004 race.
I don't know, but he'll be 72 at the start of that term and I'm wondering if he might not be considering retirement by then. Only 2 sitting Senators have run for reelection at that age or older in MT, and only 1 (James Murray) was successful in winning. When Murray finally retired in 1961 at the age of 84, he went home and died 2 months later.