top of page

Montana Was Once A Swing State-- Can Tom Winter Help Turn It Back In That Direction: Redistricting

From the early 1900s until the 1990 census, Montana had 2 congressional districts, In 1992, the state elected a single at-large member of Congress, Democrat Pat Williams. It's been all Republicans after Williams, most of whom have been right-wing kooks like Ryan Zinke, Greg Gianforte and Matt Rosendale, the current sociopath, each of whom won because of heavy turnout in nut-country (eastern Montana). After last year's census, Montana was awarded a second congressional seat again and two districts had to be drawn by a bipartisan commission with a Nov. 14 deadline. There is no doubt that there will be an eastern district that will be prohibitively red. What the commission is trying to work through is how red the western district will be. Blue America has a stake in this because we are trying to persuade progressive populist state Rep. Tom Winter to run in the western district.

State Supreme Court-appointed Commission Chair Maylinn Smith is going to have to break the tie between the 2 Dems and 2 Republicans on the commission and she is currently soliciting more voter input. The Democratic plan creates a competitive district that includes Helena, Missoula and Bozeman and puts backward, Trumpist Kalispell (Flathead County) in the eastern district, even though its in the northwest part of the state. The Republican proposal puts Helena in the eastern district, where the Democratic voters will be swamped and irrelevant.

But there's a serious problem with the Democratic proposal. It gives the shitty end of the stick to Native Americans and many working class voters and moves towards balkanizing the eastern district into a bunch of wealthy white enclaves. Winter does not like that at all and has been advocating against it, raising the ire of the state Democratic Party. He told me that "The long term health of the Democratic Party rests in a broad coalition of Montanans, not just the elite donor classes in deeply unequal towns like Bozeman and Missoula... If we pass a map that puts 75% of Native American voters and all but 1 tribal nation into a 65+% GOP district we will cause irreparable harm to native Democratic activism."

In Montana, Democrats win when there is high turnout from Native Americans. When they don't vote, Republicans win. Tom doesn't believe in the attempt by Democrats to imitate Republican gerrymandering and believes that Dems on the commission are using the wrong numbers to determine competitiveness & working backwards from a defeatist mentality and, remember, Tom is an unabashed progressive who won a race in a state house district that Trump carried by 11%. Tom Winter (pictured on the right):

I get that a lot of Democratic candidates here want a Party that orients itself around the wealthy part-time residents and donors of Bozeman & Missoula. But where does that leave the rest of us? Without a Party that cares for the struggle of working Montanans.
We must have confidence in our message we can bring to towns like Columbia Falls, Heart Butte, Libby, Ennis, and Darby. What does it say if we carve them out of Western Montana just because we don’t think they’ll ever vote for us?
Our Party is at a crossroads not just in Montana but nationwide. Either the Party is too afraid to represent working people, rural people, communities of color-- or we’re experiencing donor capture...The maps proposed by the Democratic Party infrastructure perfectly overlay where the richest donors live.
Either way-- retreating to the safety of wealth and/or privileged urban whiteness will permanently relegate the Democratic Party to minority status in Montana. We cannot allow ourselves to do what certain corporate friendly Democrats in Washington DC have done: abandon vast swaths of voters for the relative safety of the rich and connected cities. We owe it to those Montana Democrats who fought for generations to get us what we currently have.

We will be officially endorsing Tom Winter soon-- just finishing up the last of the vetting process-- but if you'd like to contribute to his campaign now, you can do it here, on a special ActBlue page we have for progressive Democrats with a reasonable chance to flip districts that went for Trump in 2020.

Montana has half a dozen counties, out of 56, with a population over 50,000.

  • Yellowstone Co. (pop- 164,731)- 60.6% Trump (2020), 46.5% Tester (2018), 47% fully vaccinated

  • Gallatin Co. (pop- 118,960)- 44.7% Trump (2020), 59.4% Tester (2018), 53% fully vaccinated

  • Missoula Co. (pop- 117,922)- 36.8% Trump (2020), 67.6% Tester (2018), 59% fully vaccinated

  • Flathead Co. (pop- 104,357)- 63.9% Trump (2020), 41.1% Tester (2018), 38% fully vaccinated

  • Cascade Co. (pop- 84,414)- 58.5% Trump (2020), 51.3% Tester (2018), 49% fully vaccinated

  • Lewis and Clark Co. (pop-70,973)- 50.6% Trump (2020), 57.7% Tester (2018), 53% fully vaccinated

And while we're at it, statewide, Montana is 51% fully vaccinated. The half dozen least vaccinated hellholes are all Trumpist bastions of willful ignorance and hostility:

  • McCone Co.- 17% vaccinated (84.7% Trump)

  • Garfield Co.- 18% vaccinated (94.0% Trump)

  • Powder River Co.- 20% vaccinated (85.4% Trump)

  • Wilbaux Co.- 26% vaccinated (86.3% Trump)

  • Chouteau Co.- 28% vaccinated (63.8% Trump)

  • Carter Co.- 28% vaccinated (89.7% Trump)

And the half dozen most vaccinated counties, are mostly counties-- all but one-- that saw through Trump and voted against giving him a second term:

  • Rosebud Co.- 74% vaccinated (65.9% Trump)

  • Big Horn Co.- 73% vaccinated (46.1% Trump)

  • Blaine Co.- 73% vaccinated (47.1% Trump)

  • Glacier Co.- 72% vaccinated (33.5% Trump)

  • Missoula Co.- 59% vaccinated (36.8% Trump)

  • Silver Bow Co.- 57% vaccinated (41.5% Trump)

I wonder if anyone has considered drawing district lines that include the unvaccinated parts of the state in one red horror show and the vaccinated parts in their own district.


bottom of page