Politics 2010: Tea Party could be influential in Montana

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International  |  June 6, 2010 at 7:25 AM
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Tea Party organizers say the grassroots confederation could be a chance for candidates supporting the movement to make waves in Montana and nationwide.

In Montana, for instance, Tea Party organizers say coalitions are cropping up across the state as more people get involved in the movement, which espouses smaller government.

While not an official political party, organizers told KRTV, Granite Falls, people are interested in the movement because the national debt is reaching $12 trillion.

"If that debt continues to grow, which it will," Jack Lien, a Great Falls Tea Party co-organizer, said, "there's no way for us to pay it back. We need to rein in the government, we need to demand that they stop and get things under control, otherwise we're going to be a third-world nation."

Ole Stimac Jr., Cascade County Democratic Central Committee chairman, offers a different take on federal spending.

"I look around and I travel the state and I see a lot of road construction being done with stimulus money," Stimac told KRTV. "That's tax money that's being used to improve our infrastructure, our roads, our water systems. You know, I just see a lot of positive things going on in Montana."

Montana State University political science Professor David Parker told the television station he wasn't surprised at the Tea Party movement's popularity in Big Sky country, which he said is a pretty purple state, despite a national viewpoint that it is conservative.

"Montana's at the forefront of a lot of the changing demographics that are happening across the country," Parker said.

A population that's trending more liberal "is automatically going (to) cause turmoil in an area and that leads to resentment and anger," he said. "So, to some extent, the Tea Party movement is a voice of that frustration."

In Montana's only congressional race, challenging incumbent Denny Rehberg on the Republican ticket are Mark T. French and A.J. Otjen.

Hoping to challenge Otjen in the fall are Democrats state Democratic chairman Dennis McDonald, Tyler Gernant and Melinda Gopher. On the Libertarian ticket is Mike Fellows, the party's state chairman.

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