Jeff Essmann

Recent Posts

Special election could be good test of voter-turnout findings


The confirmation of Ryan Zinke as secretary of the Department of the Interior has created an exceptional event in Montana: the need for a special election to determine his replacement in Congress. According to the secretary of state’s website, a special election has not been held to fill a congressional seat since at least 1912. How this special election, scheduled for May 25, will be conducted is proving to be controversial. Senate Bill 305, which would give county election officials the discretion to run the election entirely by mail, passed the state Senate only after the Republican caucus split on the question, with the Democratic members voting uniformly in favor of the bill. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Prairie Lights: Op-ed defense of Daines aims low, falls flat


I know my colleague David Crisp has already written about Sen. Steve Daines’ role in silencing Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the floor of the Senate, but David’s piece was published on Wednesday. That same day, state Rep. Jeff Essmann of Billings, chairman of the Montana Republican Party, also wrote about the Daines-Warren incident in an op-ed for the Billings Gazette. Essmann’s piece was so crowded with misstatements and misleading information that it demands a response. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Spencer may seek Zinke’s House seat

Richard Spencer, Montana’s most visible white nationalist, is considering a run for the U.S. House seat now held by U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., the Huffington Post reports. Zinke has been nominated for secretary of the Interior in the Trump administration. If he is confirmed for the job, a special election to replace him probably would be held early next year. Spencer is from Texas and spends a lot of time in Virginia, but he claims Whitefish as his home. He said he would run only if he thinks he could win, but he noted that his entering the race would draw national attention to him and his movement. Continue Reading →

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June 7 primary gives state GOP a chance to matter


Editor’s Note: This is the first of two stories looking at the 2016 primary race ahead of Montana’s June 7 primary election. On Tuesday we’ll look at the Democratic race.)

In 2008, with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton nearly deadlocked in their race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Montana voters headed to the polls on June 3 not knowing who the party’s nominee would be. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Montana Viewpoint: Closed minds, closed primaries


How Republican Party Chair Jeff Essmann keeps a straight face arguing for his party’s right to keep Democrats from voting in a Republican primary, when he knows that Republican county officers have been getting themselves elected to Democratic Party offices, is beyond me. (more…) Continue Reading →

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On open caucus question, ‘efficiency’ argument falls short

Editor’s note: Longtime AP reporter Bob Anez sent me an email responding to my Sunday column, and when someone with Bob’s experience has something to say, you listen. I liked what he said so much—while realizing how ill-thought-out my own position had been—that I asked if I could print his email. He said yes:

I have met few journalists I respect more than you, but I disagree with a few comments in your column regarding the secret GOP caucus last week. (more…) Continue Reading →

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GOP caucus definitely dumb, likely illegal


For the record, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to prohibit Montana legislators from caucusing in private. I’m all for the public’s right to know, for making public documents available to the public, for making sure public bodies conduct their business in public. But caucuses? Traditionally those have been strategy-setting sessions involving members of a political party. Making caucuses public is like allowing the defense to sit in on the offense’s huddle. Continue Reading →

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