Non-Partisan Elections? Not a Chance!

By Joe O’Rourke

I was at Republican Central Committee recently where the following question was asked (and I paraphrase) “Republicans control the Executive branch of state government and the legislative branch. Why does it seem that the Democrats still control the state?” I think that part of the answer to that question is that many local and state-wide elections that are labeled and conducted as “Non-Partisan“ contests. Doesn’t that sound good? It gives the impression that coarse, petty political motives and tactics have been removed from the election process so that only public-minded candidates with superior intellect, a pertinent skill set, pure hearts and unselfish motives will be elected to serve their fellow citizens. What it really means is that clever politicians, most with a profound left-leaning bias, can successfully hide their core beliefs from the voters. Some of the public offices elected under the non-partisan banner are school board trustees, city council men and women and Supreme Court Justices. Even the current Districting and Apportionment Commission, which is now tasked with redrawing Montana’s boundaries for the state’s congressional and legislative districts based on the 2020 census, is presided over by a partisan political activist who has contributed heavily to Democrat political candidates. The Presiding Officer of this commission is meant to be “bipartisan” but, Maylinn Smith who was appointed by the “Non-Partisan” (wink, nod) Montana Supreme Court will certainly give the Democrats a 3-2 majority vote on the Commission. Those who loudly claim to support a “non-partisan” approach claim to think that a disinterested and uninformed public should not be worried about the core beliefs and political leanings of the elected officials and appointees. All the public needs to know is that an official has a pretty résumé which is long on academic achievements, public service positions and peer recommendations. This way the candidate’s core beliefs, political leanings and future decisions will not to be open for public examination or probing questions. If their résumé shows that a candidate possesses the basic experience and skills, no further questions should be asked, and no more information need be revealed. In a non-partisan race the public does not need to know anything else. The ruse of the Non-Partisan candidate has allowed many a left-leaning candidate to be elected in right-leaning, populist Montana. It is a system that has long benefited the left and that they will defend with stubbornness and fury.

Take a long, hard look at our school boards, our Supreme Court Justices and our city council members. Do their decisions and actions reflect the conservative voter base that elected them? Do the “Non-Partisan” politicians work to protect the traditions, the beliefs and the values that a majority of Montanans hold dear? Do these entities generally favor the cause of liberty or the collectivist position of the left? In a perfect world candidates would not be able to hide behind the “Non-Partisan” deceit, but would be open about their political preferences and beliefs. Since that will not happen soon, for now, all “Non-Partisan” candidates should be vetted and asked penetrating questions about their vision and values. As voters and concerned citizens we must ask tough questions and demand honest answers. If candidates choose to hedge their answers or evade the question, know that they are not “Non-Partisan” but undoubtedly non-conservatives and non-traditional Montanans who use the “Non-Partisan” label as a cover to hide their true allegiance. Where possible, publically support another candidate and vote accordingly.

Note: Some candidates may say that they are not allowed to share their views on political or legal issues. However, in their recent July 14th decision to prevent the 2021 state legislature from issuing a subpoena for copies of emails that state judges wrote giving their pre-passage views on the then pending SB 140. The justices referenced a 2002 U.S. Supreme court decision, Republican Party v. White, upholding the right of state judicial candidates to share their thoughts on important legal and political issues. The U.S. Supreme Court decided and the Montana Supreme court agrees that we do not have to accept silence as an answer!