Clash of the Titans

I don’t remember folks paying much attention to Lou Ann Crowley’s decision to run for House District 94. That’s a shame, because I think this Democratic primary race will be quite telling as to the future of the party in Western Montana.

In the race to replace political consultant and potential poster boy for the revolving door of Montana politics, Dave McAlpin, Lou Ann is facing Ellie Hill. And the contrast couldn’t be greater.

Ellie is somewhat of a political newcomer, but has garnered the support of the liberal rump of Missoula politics. This is not surprising given her longstanding commitment to the town’s poor and homeless, and her engagement with a raft of progressive issues. The blogosphere’s jhwygirl blogged about Ellie here and here. Ellie’s a lawyer from Idaho, a part-time business woman (although I don’t know what company she owns), and downtown resident in the Wilma.

Lou Ann, on the other hand, has a long history of local politics. Most of us know her from ten years on City Council, where she earned respect for her patience, genuine care for her constituents, and her fair-mindedness. Look around Missoula and there’s many a community organization (from MUD to the farmers market to Garden City Harvest to Kiwanis to Adventure Cycling to Hospice) that Lou Ann has been a driving part of. She’s more independent than most and while her Democratic credentials are solid, she was occasionally a swing-vote on Council. That Jon Wilkins would endorse her speaks volumes, perhaps reflecting Lou Ann’s ability to listen to and represent the concerns and problems of neighbors of many stripes.

Recently, Lou Ann was up against John Engen in the race for Mayor of Missoula. While John had political consultants, poll-testing, media campaigns, endorsement by the current Mayor and a sizable war-chest, Lou Ann campaigned the hard way – knocking on doors, attending community forums, and taking phone calls directly on her own cell phone. Lou Ann campaigned on the public having open lines of communication with city government. She lost.

Perhaps Lou Ann is running up against the same political machine that defeated her last time? I suspect she will run an honest, somewhat naive campaign – relying on the folks she has gotten to know over the 30 years she have lived and worked in Missoula. I like Lou Ann, much as I respect Ellie. But, I think the battle is not between these two impressive folks. It is, rather, a battle between an independent, grassroots campaign and a little-too-well-organized insider.

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9 Responses

  1. something wrong with organized?

    i like someone who shows me some professionalism before i endorse them. it is quaint to be old fashioned i suppose but these are modern times. i want my rep to be on top of things.

  2. doesn’t surprise me that jon wilkins endorsed lou ann either. who would the republicans rather face in november? ellie or lou anne?

  3. Calling Lou Ann Crowley a grassroots Democrat is laughable. Does anyone remember occupancy standards? What about her opposition to the few conservation issues the council saw?

    Yes, the fact that Wilkins is the loan elected official endorsing Lou Ann, speaks volumes, particilarly compared to the number of current and former leaders backing Ms. Ellie. It seems to me that when the core Democrats won’t endorse Lou Ann, the rest of us should take notice.

    I put all my chips on Ms. Ellie in this one. I have heard her speak, a very smart young woman with a salt to the earth background and I agree that this race is telling: are Missoula Democrats strong progressives like Ms. Ellie or sell out blue dogs like Lou Ann?

  4. Amen S. Brown. I stopped trusting Crowley after her disingenuous performance during the occupancy standards debate.

  5. Although I respect LouAnn as an individual- Ellie Hill has my support and my vote as a representative of the Missoula Community. Ellie will be a champion in Helena.

  6. I know Lou Ann is a nice woman, and while I personally support Ellie, I know that Lou Ann running just makes for a better opportunity for Missoula, the democratic party and even the two candidates.

    Ellie is like Lou Ann a hard working Missoulian who cares greatly about the community she lives in. I’m not sure that because she’s been involved in a lot of progressive issues and is well prepared and organize to run a campaign that we should think less of her. That is the whole point of the trainings that many organizations have put on to help candidates. Many that Ellie has taken, PRIOR to her decision to run. Saying that her campaign isn’t grassroots couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes you can be grassroots and prepared, organized, young and progressive, something that I think we’ll need in Helena this next session.

  7. Jon Wilkins had a Linda Frey sign in his yard in 08. At least he’s supporting someone who’s a Democrat this time.

    Also, someone should probably ask the MUD board of old if they like Lou Ann trading on their name given how her directorship ended.

  8. You say, “… I think this Democratic primary race will be quite telling as to the future of the party in Western Montana.”

    The thing about the Democratic Party in Missoula is its direction is dictated by its members. There has never been any grand strategy for how it operates: get involved, get your friends involved and stay active and you, too, can decide the party’s future.

    Lately, it has been Ellie Hill who has been active in the party … not so much Lou Ann. Does that make Ellie a ” … little-too-well-organized insider.”? And does Lou Ann’s absence in local Democratic politics make her campaign ” … independent, grassroots … “?

    I’m not so sure.

    • Thanks for the comment, Pete. I can’t remember the last time that Dave McAlpin was involved with the Democratic Party in Missoula, but I’ll take your word for it that he was. It is always hard to tell with political consultants.

      I agree that Lou Ann has been conspicuous by her absence in the last few years. I suspect she was working on other projects for the benefit of Missoula and Montana. But, now you would expect her to visit with folks, attend meetings, and generally politic, wouldn’t you?

      Equally, as the comments above tend to indicate, I don’t think the Democratic Party has been too welcoming to centrists (whatever that is). Ellie has her fans, well connected through Facebook and the like. While I understand their passion, I am disappointed by their swift efforts to attack Crowley. I guess the internets are prone to snide and its not a fair reflection of the Party.

      But, me? I rather like a spirited contest, where opponents respect one another and discuss their different visions for good governance. I think the last Mayoral race was like that – three good people to choose from with Engen, Badenoch, and Crowley. Engen not only ran the best financed/organized campaign, but also communicated best where he would take Missoula.

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