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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

John Morrison vs. John Tester

From the Havre Daily News:

Ex-employees support former boss' opponent

As former employees of the state Auditor's Office, we worked with Jon Tester when he served in the Montana Senate. We also worked closely with John Morrison as members of his appointed staff.

When deciding whom to support in the U.S. Senate race, to us, the choice is clear. Jon Tester is a true public servant with respect for the average Montanan. Jon Tester is motivated by a desire to make sure future generations of Montanans can enjoy making a living and raising their families in this state. Jon Tester is the one candidate who can defeat Conrad Burns and make all Montanans proud of their senators again.

Jon Tester is our choice and we hope he will be yours too. Please support Jon Tester on June 6 (or when you vote early at your courthouse).

Jill Gerdrum, former deputy state auditor, Missoula
Betsy Griffing, former chief legal counsel to state auditor, Missoula
Wendy Raney, former state auditor public information officer, Wolf Creek

Morrison's former Chief Legal Counsel, Deputy, and flack are all voting for Tester. That says a lot about John Morrison. Meanwhile, his campaign is so out of touch they are claiming the scandal isn't an issue. From today's Congressional Quarterly Politics:

Tester spokesman Bill Lombardi said his candidate "has a proven track record and, as he's said over and over to voters here, he's the best Democratic candidate to go toe to toe with Conrad Burns on Conrad's ethical problems."

Lombardi's remark was an oblique reference to a controversy that has dogged Morrison -- an allegation that he gave special treatment in an investigation of securities fraud to the husband of a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair.

Tylynn Gordon, Morrison's campaign manager, rejected this as a factor in the primary contest, pointing to the Gazette poll in which 66 percent of respondents said the controversy would not have any effect on their voting.

Well that is great, only one third of the state thinks Morrison is a corrupt womanizer. But every last vote counts against an incumbent U.S. Senator. In fact, John Morrison became Montana State Auditor with 50.18% of the vote after outspending his opponent 46:1.

Today's USA Today explains what will happen if Morrison wins:

"Burns is about as vulnerable as incumbents get," said Jennifer Duffy, who handicaps Senate races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report. [...]

Once the primary is over, "count on rough," she said, especially if Morrison is the Democratic nominee. "Burns can't win a pretty race."

And Burns will have plenty to work with if Morrison is the nominee. For one thing, it looks Morrison may have violated both sections of Montana code that covers ethics disclosure. For another thing, Morrison cheated on his wife just after she co-wrote the book that launched his political career.

Also today, the Hotline changed their assessment of the race:

We've been tempted to move this race up for months, but the state's overall GOP tendencies have held us back. But not anymore, not when one of the more respected polls we've seen from the state (Mason-Dixon) shows both Democrats topping Burns. We used to be in the camp that said Morrison was Burns' toughest foe. But we're no longer so sure of that, as Tester has shown surprising strength and put to rest rumors questioning his campaign trail discipline.
While Tylynn Gordon may lie to the press about how the scandal is impacting the race, everyone else disagrees. Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia Center for Politics said, "But it's hard to believe the Democrats would nominate him now. ... He's blown it." And, "Burns has got to be pleased. There were not many national analysts who didn't say Burns was cooked. Morrison may have just pulled Burns out of the oven."

And Craig Wilson of Montana State University-Billings said, "If Morrison gets through the primary, it's going to be tremendously difficult to use ethics against Conrad and get any tread on it."

The Cook Report's managing editor Jennifer Duffy said Morrison will lose female voters:

"They're angry at him for putting her there," she said.

Morrison's wife of 15 years, Catherine Wright, accompanied him to the Bar Association lunch at the Montana Club on Thursday.

After the lunch, she stood silently beside her husband as he instructed waiting television reporters to make sure his wife was in the camera shot with him.

This ethics scandal will only get worse. John Morrison didn't treat Tacke typically and people want to know why Morrison didn't recuse himself.

Most of all, Morrison needed to stop evading questions of impropriety and answer the questions raised, but he didn't and now he needs to lose or Democrats will lose in November.

For up-to-the-minute race coverage, go to Left in the West.

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