Montana Lowdown features in-depth conversations with top newsmakers, journalists, politicians, and experts about significant issues facing America's "last best place."
Veteran award-winning journalist John S. Adams, founder and editor of Montana Free Press and the star of the documentary film "Dark Money," hosts the podcast, shedding light on essential news stories and broadening the debate on the hottest topics.
Listen to Shared State, a new podcast about Montana's 2020 election
While the MT Lowdown is on hiatus, Montana Free Press, Montana Public Radio, and Yellowstone Public Radio have teamed up to bring you a new podcast about the real issues behind the campaign rhetoric.
Equality of opportunity. The blessings of liberty. A clean and healthful environment. These are the values codified in Montana’s constitution, values candidates in the upcoming 2020 election say they’re most prepared to defend. But behind the political promises and rhetoric, there are actual policies up for debate.
What do candidates mean when they stump about “Montana values?” Who is that promise for? And how do those unspoken values shape Montana’s politics?
From what it means to be a “real Montanan,” to voter access, to public land, to rugged individualism, Shared State will bridge history, politics, and the daily reality of Montanans as we approach a landmark election.
This is Shared State.
Uphill Part 2: “This is like dust in the air. We all breathe it.”
Amid instances of animosity and tension, and the broader environment of racial strife in America, organizers are seeking to protect their own mental and emotional health as they work to establish a sustainable movement for racial justice in Montana.
In part 2 of Uphill, reporter Mara Silvers examines how community groups in various towns across Montana are pushing local governments to invest in social programs rather than policing, how organizers are calling on businesses to implement anti-racist policies and practices, and how some are even collecting bail funds for people in county jails and detention centers.
Uphill Part 1: “Does anyone know who’s watching us right now?”
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis, Black Lives Matter protests have surged across the country.
Montana has been no exception, with residents planning rallies and marches in several towns and cities over the last few weeks.
In the first of two special audio reports, Montana Free Press reporter Mara Silvers explores the challenges of organizing protests against police brutality and racism in a state that is roughly 90% white and 1% Black.
2020 primary results, and a preview of the path to November
Last week Montana election officials tallied ballots in the June 2 primary. The fields are now set for November’s general election, and voters are already getting a taste of the nominees’ strategies as they march toward November.
This year’s primary was notable for being the first election in Montana history to be conducted entirely by mail-in ballot — a safety precaution in light of COVID-19. The all-mail balloting set a new state record for voter engagement in a primary election, with 65% of registered voters casting votes. Republicans may be particularly pleased with the turnout, as some 74,000 more people cast ballots in the GOP primary than voted in Democratic races.
But that’s not to say Republican candidates are a lock in the general election. Montana has a long history of ticket-splitting, with voters often choosing general election candidates from both parties.
This week, Montana Free Press published a series of articles profiling the matchups for U.S. Senate and U.S. House, statewide races for governor and attorney general, and the primary results’ implications for the balance of power in the state Legislature between conservative and more moderate Republicans.
MTFP capped off that reporting with a roundtable discussion with reporters Eric Dietrich, Mara Silvers and Alex Sakariassen, with editor-in-chief John S. Adams moderating. The conversation offers insights into how the nominees were able to best their primary challengers, and presents a preview of the general election campaigns to come.
The conversation is featured on the latest installment of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
Republican factions battle for control of the state legislature
“Be aware that anyone who votes for this bill is going to need to answer to the people back home, without a doubt.” So said Republican Brad Tschida, majority leader of the Montana House of Representatives, speaking against fellow Republican Rep. Ed Buttrey’s bill to renew Medicaid expansion in late March of the 2019 legislative session.
Tschida, a leader in the hardline conservative GOP faction that refers to itself as the .38 Special, warned that a political reckoning would come for Republicans who helped pass the bill that gave nearly 100,000 Montanans access to health care coverage.
With the support of a loose group of pragmatic Republican lawmakers who call themselves the Solutions Caucus, Buttrey’s bill ultimately passed and became law. With at least 12 Republican legislators facing contested primaries on Tuesday, June 2, Montana voters will soon know if that reckoning has come.
Last week, Montana Free Press published a four-part series exploring how the campaigns between at-odds Republicans are playing out. The first installment took a data-focused look at which incumbent seats look to be competitive in 2020, and three subsequent articles profiled the higher-profile Republican primary races: the Bitterroot’s Senate District 44 contest between Nancy Ballance and Theresa Manzella; the contest for the Flathead’s House District 35 between incumbent Derek Skees and first-time candidate Dee Kirk-Boon; and eastern Montana’s House District 11, where incumbent Joel Krautter faces a challenge from political newcomer Brandon Ler.
To cap off the reporting, Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams hosted the project’s reporters for a roundtable discussion exploring shared themes from the three races. MTFP staffers Mara Silvers and Eric Dietrich and freelance reporter Alex Sakariassen joined Adams for a special weekend installment of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
Republican candidate for governor Greg Gianforte
“Don’t hold the fact that I’m doing a great job in Congress against me. I mean, for me, this is about, ‘Where can I have the most positive impact, with the skills I’ve been given, for the most folks?’” says Greg Gianforte, he presumptive frontrunner in the Republican primary for governor.
Gianforte’s pursuit of the highest office in Montana rather than a second term in the U.S. House of Representatives has rankled some fellow Montana Republicans, including primary opponents Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski. Fox in particular has indicated he doesn’t think Gianforte can win against the Democratic nominee in November’s general election.
As Montanans confront fears of a recession, Gianforte, an entrepreneur who sold his Bozeman-based tech company RightNow Technologies to Oracle for $1.8 billion in 2011, seeks to convince voters that his business acumen will translate to a strong economic recovery.
“Even before this crisis occurred, we didn’t have the strongest economy, we weren’t providing opportunities that allowed Montanans to stay here,” Gianforte tells Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams. “And that’s got to be the focus of the next governor.”
Gianforte says that, if elected, his immediate recovery plans would include a broad lowering of taxes, a housecleaning of leadership at many state agencies, and a “top-to-bottom regulatory review across all state agencies.”
Both Fox and Olszewski, in separate prior interviews, have chided Gianforte for what they call his lack of conservative credentials. Both criticized his voting record in Congress, with Olszewski pointing to Gianforte’s lifetime score of 70% from the American Conservative Union.
Answering the criticism, Gianforte points to several House bills he’s carried that he says advance the interests of Montanans, and notes that his campaign funding comes from all corners of the state. Gianforte has outraised Fox, his closest fundraising competitor, by more than 4 to 1.
While Gianforte has high name recognition statewide, he’s often associated with an assault he committed on a Guardian reporter on election night in 2017. The incident became a national flashpoint at a time when Americans were watching President Donald Trump launch verbal attacks on the media on a near-daily basis. For some, the wound was reopened when Gianforte stood next to Trump at a 2018 campaign rally.
Asked how he envisions a gubernatorial relationship with the Montana press corps, Gianforte tells Adams, “My administration will certainly make ourselves available to the media, and we’re not going to shy away from hard questions, because I think the people have a right to know.” He adds, “The ultimate goal is to shine a light on government to make sure people have enough knowledge to pick the leaders they want.”
Questioned about his initial statement after the assault, when he indicated that the reporter, not Gianforte, had instigated the assault — an allegation he later walked back — Gianforte says, “Just like everybody else, I’m not perfect … The people of Montana have moved on, and I think you should judge me by my actions since then.”
Gianforte is featured on the latest episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
The Montana Lowdown is one of the best podcasts around . I always listen, no matter the subject, but especially for political interviews because John is always fair.
Great content for MT
This podcast helps put MT’s modern history front & center as told by those who helped to shape it. So informative!
MT Lowdown is the best way to get full, unfiltered, interviews of the many movers and players in Montana politics. Absolutely fantastic way to keep up to date on what’s happening in Montana.