Note: This article is a sidebar to a feature story.
When the Montana Legislature last met in 1995 (they meet every other year), the Republican majority weakened many environmental laws, including water quality regulations that protected the state's clear streams and rivers. "They (the Republican legislature) angered every demographic group for one reason or another," says Democratic organizer Fred Sargeson. "They went past what most Montanans think is reasonable." Sargeson says Democrats across the state are poised to use that anger to win back the state legislature.
But in the governor's race, Republican incumbent Marc Racicot appears to be a shoo-in, despite signing the controversial water quality laws. Racicot faces Democrat Chet Blaylock, who supports a ballot initiative limiting the amount of pollution mining companies can pour into the state's water.
"It's our eternal frustration," says Sargeson. "Racicot is seen as a moderate, but he's really not if you look at the stances he takes."
On the ballot: U.S. SENATE: Max Baucus (D-incumb.) vs. Dennis Rehberg (R). U.S. HOUSE: Rick Hill (R) vs. Bill Yellowtail (D). GOVERNOR: Marc Racicot (R-incumb.) vs. Chet Blaylock (D).