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Sportsmen given credit in Montana's Dem governor win

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Ben Long | Nov 12, 2012 11:05 AM

Although not as highly watched as Montana’s seat in the US Senate, sportsmen are also being given partial credit for tipping the scales toward the Democratic victor, Steve Bullock, over Republican Rick Hill in the 2012 race for Montana Governor.

A Lee newspapers analysis quoted Bullock campaign manager Kevin O’Brien, as he passed around the credit.

“Overall, the constituencies supporting our campaign were motivated, energized and worked harder than I’ve ever seen groups work on the ground to turn out supporters, to communicate with undecided voters about the important issues in the race,” he said. “I think that’s what pushed us over the top.”

Montana governor-elect Steve BullockO’Brien went on to say that hunting, fishing and conservation groups helped because of Bullock’s clear support for access to public lands, streams and rivers.  

In Montana, hunting and fishing are deeply woven into the social fabric. Both candidates knew that, and worked hard to court the “hook and bullet” vote. 

Rick Hill tried to harness the negative energy stirring in some hunting camps around wolves and predators. He lambasted the state’s Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and called for increasing efforts to kill off predators. 

Bullock, on the other hand, pointed to his track record working to defend Montana’s open stream access laws, which are some of the strongest in the country and the constant target of private landowners who want more privacy (and more profit) from streams that run across their land. 

At least by O’Brien’s calculus, Montanans’ love of freedom outweighs their fear of predators. 

By my analysis, it’s a good thing that neither political party can take the hunter/angler vote for granted in Montana. 

Image. Steve Bullock poses with a shotgun and an orange hat during his campaign. No wait. Those are law books. 

Ben Long is an outdoorsman, author and conservationist in Kalispell, Mont. He is senior program director for Resource Media.

Marc Oliver
Marc Oliver Subscriber
Nov 12, 2012 08:04 PM
Sportsmen will continue to Be an increasing force in envionmental policy.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Nov 13, 2012 09:17 PM
As I asked about your similar post on Tester, where is the data supporting your contention? Exit polls show Tester and Bullock won the urban, female and Native American vote, while substantially losing the rural vote. The rural vote has the highest percentage of hunters and anglers.

In the absence of data, I don't see a good reason to make the leap you do.
Heather Hansen
Heather Hansen
Nov 14, 2012 08:57 AM
Kieran – the demographics of hunters and anglers in the West and, specifically, Montana may defy a rural/urban stereotype. Over this past year I interviewed many avid hunters & anglers and of those in Montana 7/10 live in urban areas (an 8th lives in Lolo which isn’t exactly the sticks). This is purely anecdotal but perhaps indicative of a condition since I did not specifically seek out urban hunters.

An interesting study done by the National Shooting Sports Foundation seems to back this up—it shows that in the West (which in the study included only Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Montana) the distribution of resident hunters is: 48 percent rural, 28 percent suburban and 24 percent urban. This shows that 52 percent of avid hunters & anglers (defined by the study as those sportspeople who buy hunting licenses year after year) live in or just outside of cities in the West.

It would be great to know for sure but, at this moment, it’s premature to indict Mr. Long on this point. It seems highly feasible that the urban population of hunters & anglers could have put Tester over the top.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Nov 14, 2012 02:17 PM
I don't mean to indict Mr. Long. I just to point out that his strong assertions are not backed up any polling data. So it's not a matter of "knowing for sure," but of knowing at all.

Like so much of the punditry we saw leading up the election, it may be true, it may be not, but it certainly doesn't warrant strong affirmation. One can't help but suspect that the desire for it to be true reflects certain political commitments and communications strategies. It is fine to have those. But we need some data on the back end to know what the outcome was.

I'm actually surprised to see that the number of suburban and urban hunters and anglers in the West is just 52%. I would have thought more them resided there despite the per capita percent being higher in rural areas.

At any rate, what we know so far about Tester and Bullock voters tells us nothing about hunters and anglers broke for him in any statistically meaningful way. It is an important question to answer since considerable money was spent trying to make them break for Tester.

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