If there were ever a time to try to get as far away as possible from the upcoming special legislative session in Helena, now would be it. But even so, we would never recommend following Missoula Rep. Kevin Furey’s lead. Don’t get us wrong—we’re not questioning the Missoula Democrat’s commitment to public service or his willingness to sacrifice for his country. Hell, this 24-year-old legislator, Army Reservist and Iraq War veteran has done more to serve his country in the last five years than most of us will do in a lifetime.
But imagine slogging through one of the most insufferably partisan, petty and unproductive sessions in the history of the Montana Legislature only to be sent straight off to five months of military training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
We shudder at the thought.
And to top it off, while most legislators were returning to their districts to lick their wounds and relax (or is it reload?) before preparing for the special session, Furey was busy chewing up road to Fort Still. He left immediately by car with his bride of less than five months, Sarah Elliott (Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s press secretary).
“We’re sort of taking our time to get down to Okalahoma,” Furey said from the road on Monday. “It’ll be our last time together for a while.”
Furey is set to begin 144 days of training, after which it’s possible he could be shipped off to Iraq again (though he thinks it’s unlikely). Either way, he won’t get to help settle the state budget or vote on a tax relief package for his constituents.
“It’s pretty frustrating that the House Republicans could not get a budget passed in 90 days,” Furey said.
But Furey remains wholeheartedly committed to both his legislative and military service, even if he is bummed that he won’t get to put his stamp on the final bills of the 60th Legislature.
“That’s part of who I am. This is part of my life,” he said. “That’s part of having citizen legislature. Stuff like this happens. I’m the only person who is in active duty military in the Legislature, but this happens to citizens across Montana all the time.”
As of press time, the Missoula County Democratic Central Committee was preparing a list of nominees to take Furey’s place. Missoula County commissioners will then choose a temporary replacement from that list. Furey asked that the committee consider nominating his dad.
Whomever the county commissioners choose, we hope Furey’s replacement is at least half as committed to finding a solution to this legislative debacle as Furey is to his service to his country.
“It’s a bummer I can’t serve state and federal government at the same time,” Furey said.