Rep. Champ Edmunds, R-Missoula, officially confirmed today probably the worst kept secret in the 2014 electoral cycle so far: He's challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Max Baucus. Edmunds made the announcement before a crowd of about 30 this afternoon at Bitterroot Motors, joking that after 40 years, it's time to welcome Baucus home.
"Though my face isn't perfect, it'll be a new face in Washington," said Edmunds, who's been afflicted with facial palsy since birth.
The announcement didn't come as much of a surprise. Edmunds has had an active campaign donation website for weeks. Earlier this month, he sent out an email criticizing the GOP establishment and declaring himself "an authentic conservative." The email went on to say that Edmunds "would like to be your next U.S. Senator."
Edmunds told the Indy today he'd been mulling a bid against Baucus for years, but finally got serious about it last June. He delayed any real legwork until he completed his 2012 re-election campaign, he said, and timed the announcement for the first day of the Montana Legislature's transmittal break. As for why he chose Bitterroot Motors, the 10-year Navy Submarine Corps veteran explained the dealership's owner, Kathy Ogren, gave him his first job when he moved to Missoula in his early 30s.
Edmunds currently sits on the House Appropriations Committee, an appointment he said qualifies him to tackle balancing the federal budget. He also told the collection of GOP leaders and fellow lawmakers that he intends to rein-in pork barrel spending—a cause that failed miserably in the U.S. Senate in late 2010.
"I want to make the process in Washington, D.C. look more like the process in Montana," Edmunds said.
Edmunds already faces a tough challenge in the 2014 Republican primary; he'll be running against former state senator and 2012 Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stapleton. Public Policy Polling took both senate hopefuls into account last week in its latest 2014 projections. The poll showed Baucus trouncing both.
Edmunds has been the subject of widespread criticism on the left in the 2011 and 2013 legislative sessions. He even has his own tag over at the Montana Cowgirl blog. Edmunds has led the charge against same-day voter registration, and introduced House Bill 197 this session, which would expand the scope of alcohol and drug testing to include all state employees.
Marking an end to a two-year impasse, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Violence Against Women Act, leaving intact a controversial provision that authorizes tribal courts on reservation lands to prosecute non-Native offenders.
First passed by Congress in 1994, VAWA authorized funding to help pay for investigations and prosecutions of cases involving violence against women. In 2011, an attempt to tack on provisions to VAWA that would authorize tribal courts to prosecute non-Native individuals became a major sticking point. Unable to gain consensus between the House and the Senate, the legislation languished.
Prosecutorial authority for such crimes in Indian Country typically falls upon federal prosecutors. However, according to a 2010 Government Accountability report, U.S. attorneys between 2005 and 2009 declined to prosecute 67 percent of sexual abuse allegations brought forward from reservation lands.
Only by granting tribal courts authority to prosecute offenders can they be held accountable, Jessa Rae Growing Thunder of the Save Wiyabi Project told the Indy. “Non-Native offenders, they have the right to go onto tribal territory and abuse, rape—verbally, emotionally abuse,” Growing Thunder says. “They do all of these things and the sad realization about it is most tribal territories don’t even have the authority to protect these women.”
Earlier this month, the Senate in a bipartisan 78-22 vote passed VAWA, expanding the authority of tribal courts to prosecute non-Native offenders. Activists lauded the move but expressed concern that the House would again attempt to remove or water down the provision, as it did in 2011.
On Thursday, an effort by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to weaken the tribal court provision failed, the Washington Post reports. The House in a bipartisan 286-138 vote approved the Senate version of the bill, granting tribal courts the authority to prosecute non-Native offenders. The bill must now be signed by President Barack Obama before it becomes law.
Montana wolf hunt ends Friday, 219 killed so far
The general rifle and trapping seasons for wolves in Montana both end March 1, with 128 wolves shot and 91 trapped, with most of the wolves taken in the 77 districts in western Montana.
Flathead Beacon; Feb. 28
Wyoming Senate slips gun amendment into must-pass bison hunt bill
Wednesday was the last day of Wyoming's legislative session, and House lawmakers were forced to approve a bison hunting bill into which the Senate slipped an amendment that provided $250,000 to fight any federal law that would restrict guns Wyoming law allows to be used to hunt bison.
Casper Star-Tribune; Feb. 28
The Humane Society of Western Montana held its annual spay/neuter clinic inside Alberton's school gymnasium last weekend. The two-day clinic included two veterinarians and a dozen volunteers "fixing" 200 cats and 80 dogs — as well as Indy photographer Cathrine L. Walters capturing their efforts.
Check out the slideshow below for a glimpse of this success program, which helps contribute to the Humane Society's 98 percent adoption rate.
Humane Society Of Western Montana's Spay/Neuter Clinic
The Humane Society of Western Montana holds their annual spay/neuter clinic inside Alberton school's gymnasium Feb. 23. Two veterinarians and a dozen volunteers "fix" 200 cats and 80 dogs over two days. Programs like this benefit animals across Montana and contributes to their successful 98% adoption rate.
Rattlesnake Trading Company shuttered about a week and a half ago, leaving its fans to grapple with the loss. “Now there’s no place for a good espresso at this time in the morning,” says James Quigley of the Kingfisher Fly Shop, which sits a couple doors down from RTC. “It’s pretty sad.”
Over the years, the convenience store has earned a reputation among locals as being the place to go for a quick and quality breakfast or to-go sandwiches for later on the river. RTC’s “breakfast thingy” in particular, a toasted English muffin loaded with egg, bacon or sausage, and other assorted toppings, garnered a devoted following. In 2007, the Indy honored it with a staff pick in its Best of Missoula issue for “Best Reason to Get Out of Bed in the Morning.”
Attempts to contact RTC owner Robert Blomgren were unsuccessful. Missoula real estate agent Mike Marbut, who’s listed the property for sale, says Blomgren put the property on the market nearly a month ago for $175,000.
Marbut says RTC leases its land from Montana Rail Link for $200 a month. In light of the fact that the sale price includes store contents, such as the espresso machine, Marbut thinks it’s a pretty good deal. “The non-perishable inventory is still there,” he says. “It could be whatever a person wants.”
While it remains to be seen if a buyer will come forward and, as many hope, revive the breakfast thingy, it is clear that locals will continue to mourn.
“Almost every day I was over there,” says the Green Hanger’s Gloria Clark. “They were like an old friend.”
Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.
Yellowstone Park superintendent praised for work on winter-use plan
Both snowmobiling and conservation groups said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent's Dan Wenk evenhanded approach helped craft a balanced winter-use plan.
YellowstoneGate.com; Feb. 22
Find Rob Brezsny's "Free Will Astrology" online, every Wednesday, one day before it hits the Indy's printed pages.
ARIES (March 21-April 19): In 1993, Frenchman Emile Leray was on a solo trip through the Sahara Desert. In the middle of nowhere, his car suffered a major breakdown. It was unfixable. But he didn't panic. Instead, he used a few basic tools he had on hand to dismantle the vehicle and convert its parts into a makeshift motorcycle. He was able to ride it back to civilization. I foresee the possibility of a metaphorically similar development in your future, Aries. You will get the opportunity to be very resourceful as you turn an apparent setback into a successful twist of fate.
Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.
Former Montana governor, hedge fund seek control of Stillwater Mining
Brian Schweitzer and the Clinton Group, a New York City-based hedge fund, served notice on Billings-based Stillwater Mining Co., which operates the nation's only platinum and palladium mines in the nation, that they intend to oust the board of the Montana company, and put another board that will include the former governor of the Big Sky State, in power.
Flathead Beacon (AP); Feb. 26
Effects of U.S. drought cascades through feedlots, meatpacking plants
The nation's financial crisis shuttered some feedlots in the United States, and the drought that forced ranchers to sell their herds has kept those closed and others are closing, and with a lack of cattle to process, meatpacking plants are shutting down as well.
Edmonton Journal (AP); Feb. 25
Wyoming Senate leader says gun group's behavior torpedoed legislation
Senate Majority Floor Leader Sen. Phil Nicholas said he killed legislation that sought to exempt Wyoming from future assault weapons bans after the Wyoming Gun Owners Association targeted lawmakers that tried to amend or opposed the legislation, with Nicholas saying he took the action to make a point about what he viewed was outrageous behavior.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); Feb. 23
Curses, Foiled Again
Convicted bank robber Kenneth Conley managed to escape from Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center but was caught 17 days later living at an apartment building in Palos Hills, Ill., that’s located, according to reports, “just steps from Palos Hills police headquarters.” (NBC News)
After police arrested Aleasha Haines in Peoria, Ariz., she complained of back pain and nausea and was taken to the hospital, where she asked to use the restroom. Five minutes later, the police report said, “a large crashing noise was heard,” and the officer guarding Haines ordered her to unlock the door. “The ceiling tiles above the toilet had been pulled down and broken,” the report stated. “Aleasha exited the bathroom and was covered with a white chalk substance consistent with the ceiling tile material.” Police said the sink also broke under Haines’s weight, as did the steel support beams holding the ceiling in place, “showing force had been used to pull the ceiling down.” Damage from Haines’s escape attempt was estimated at $1,500. (Phoenix’s The Arizona Republic)
"Engstrom did not attend the press conference." Profiles in Courage Award for the captain of…
What happened to the driver and passengers of the other vehicle?