The newly-formed Montana Green Party held its first official statewide meeting this past weekend. The delegates gathered on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman to discuss principles and long-term plans and also to endorse candidates for this year’s election cycle.
The biggest split came over whether to endorse Bob Kelleher for U.S. Senate. Kelleher, a 78-year-old Butte lawyer who has been an unsuccessful candidate for numerous offices over the years, is Montana’s only Green candidate for the Senate. A lifelong Democrat, Kelleher joined the Green Party last year and threw his hat in the ring to challenge incumbent Sen. Max Baucus (D–Mont.). Kelleher’s eccentricities, though, as well as his pro-life stance, have made him a tough pill for some Greens to swallow. In the end he was not endorsed by the party.
“It was a split straight down the middle, an even vote,” says state party head Scott Proctor of the vote on whether to endorse Kelleher. While some thought Kelleher should be allowed to run with the party’s blessing, others were equally concerned about him personally and about hurting Baucus’ chances at re-election, Proctor says.
The Greens did, however, endorse Steve Kelly for the U.S. House of Representatives. Kelly, an artist from Bozeman, is running as a Democrat, and thus far is the only person to file for office besides incumbent Dennis Rehberg (R–Mont.). Kelly ran for congress as an Independent in 1994 and for Gallatin County commissioner as a Republican in 1996.
“Believe it or not, his stance on being a Republican is really more because he’s a fiscal conservative,” Proctor says. “But when it comes to environmental issues and progressive social issues and things like that, he really is in line with what the Greens think.”
Green candidates are running in a handful of state legislative races as well. The Green Party endorsed Greg Gordon, who is running in House District 50 in Cascade County, and Christine Frazier, who is running in House District 13 in Billings. Proctor is also running for the Legislature from Billings in District 14.
The Greens agreed to back Voter Initiative 145, a plan for the state to purchase former Montana Power Company hydroelectric facilities, also known as the “Dam Cheap Power” initiative. The Green Party will be coordinating the campaign for the initiative in several counties across the state.
Eighteen delegates gathered from the five Green Party chapters across Montana. The Green Party achieved ballot status in Montana when 2000 presidential candidate Ralph Nader took six percent of the state vote in 2000. The state party met for the first time in December to draft its by-laws, but the meeting last weekend was the first time Montana Greens have endorsed any candidates.