In politics, they say if you’re going to knock somebody down, make sure they can’t get back up again.
Incumbent John Sinrud, R-Bozeman, said Thursday he finally couldn’t get back up after receiving what he called a political hit from Gov. Brian Schweitzer and the Montana Board of Architects. Sinrud, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, withdrew from the legislative race, vacating his seat to look for other work. “If candidates can’t put food on the table, you can’t expect them to be too competitive,” Sinrud says.
In October, the State Board of Architecture issued a cease-and desist-order against Sinrud’s architectural design company, JJKG & Associates, for practicing without a license. The order put a halt to Sinrud’s primary source of income. (Sinrud says the type of design work he was doing does not require a license.)
According to Sinrud, his unusual last-minute withdrawal from the race was prompted by retaliation from Schweitzer, who wasn’t pleased when Sinrud led the effort to kill the Governor’s 2007 budget bill–setting the stage for the Legislature’s rare and embarrassing failure to pass its own budget. That, together with an attack Sinrud made on a Board of Architects bill introduced into his committee, made for a volatile time in the House.
“The Architectural Board was doing things to hurt him, so he got a little emotional about it,” recalls committee member William Glaser, R-Huntley. “They eventually forced him out of business.” And, eventually, out
of the Housealtogether.
Schweitzer denies Sinrud’s claims that any coordinated political hit occurred, and the Board of Architecture stands behind its order. Sinrud, the board reiterates, is not a licensed architect and shouldn’t be practicing.
Others say this was an unfortunate but natural manifestation of an unusually brutal budget battle.
“That committee was different from anything I’d experienced before in the Legislature. It was a very emotional experience,” Glaser says. “There were people who were prepared to and intended to harm and damage other people. The whole process at one point turned upside-down.”
“It’s too hard on me and my family,” Sinrud says, explaining why he doesn’t intend to re-enter politics. “I’m tired of getting beat up on for doing the right thing.”
“Both sides lost,” Glaser laments. “The governor, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party. We all lost in that battle.”