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What to Know About The Growing Montana GOP Primary & Russell Fagg

After a series of stunning recruitment failures, over the weekend Russell Fagg announced his Montana Senate campaign — but even Republicans didn’t want him to run and he enters a divisive and potentially expensive GOP Primary. 

From Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Spokesman, David Bergstein: “Russell Fagg enters the Montana Republican primary already facing ethical questions, including whether he violated federal campaign finance laws by serving as a sitting judge while simultaneously campaigning for office. Fagg is not the establishment Republican’s first choice candidate, nor is he the pick of anti-establishment forces who are wreaking havoc in primaries across the country. Fagg’s entrance into this ever-growing primary is sure to cause Republicans headaches in the months ahead.” 

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE GROWING MONTANA GOP PRIMARY & RUSSELL FAGG

  • Republicans Didn’t Want Fagg To Run, But Attorney General Fox and Congressman Zinke’s refusal “threw a grenade into the GOP’s 2018 planning.” The Washington Post wrote “Montana Republicans lost their top recruit, Ryan Zinke” and “Attorney General Tim Fox (R) also said no thanks.” Politico wrote that Zinke’s refusal “threw a grenade into the GOP’s 2018 planning.” [Washington Post, 6/5/17; Politico Pro, 6/01/17]
    • AP: “Fox was being courted by national and state party leaders to run against Tester after the GOP’s first choice, former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, took a cabinet position with President Donald Trump.” [Associated Press, 6/5/17]
    • The Hill, HEADLINE: “Montana AG Fox dashes GOP hopes, won’t bid for Senate in 2018.[The Hill, 6/02/17]
    • Montana Republican: “Zinke and Fox were the ‘end of our big guns.”  “Zinke and Fox were the ‘end of our big guns,’ one Montana Republican said. That’s given way to a crowded field of little-known candidates, with a handful of lesser-known names eyeing the race, too.” [Roll Call, 7/11/17]
    • MSU political science professor: Fagg isn’t a “quality tier” candidate. [Montana Public Radio, 9/18/17]
  • Fagg said he “cannot ethically campaign for the seat while serving as a judge,” and “he would need to resign from the bench in order to campaign ethically,” —  but he’s already been campaigning in D.C., at a GOP convention and started a campaign website.
    • Billings Gazette Editor Column: “Fagg’s actions recently raise questions about whether he really meant those words.” [Billings Gazette, 10/1/17]
    • “Fagg’s recent actions seem to run contrary to [Montana Judicial Canons], and his words to supporters at a recent Billings event seem indistinguishable from those of a candidate.” [Billings Gazette, 10/1/17]
    • “If we cannot trust what he says while he’s in a job that has a strict canon of ethics and rules, what is going to make Fagg more trustworthy when and if he moves from the bench to the U.S. Senate? Be a judge or be a senatorial candidate. But I am not sure you can be both, your honor.” [Billings Gazette, 10/1/17]
  • The American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint against Fagg for “violat[ing] federal campaign finance laws that including campaigning for the U.S. Senate without filing for the seat.” [Missoula Current, 10/11/17 
  • Fagg left his judgeship with 1,100 active cases and without a replacement in place. [KPAX, 10/11/17]
  • Fagg Already Has Several Primary Opponents, including Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale, Big Sky businessman Troy Downing, State Senator Al Olszewski, and Belgrade business owner Ron Murray. [MTN News, 7/31/17]
    • One opponent, Matt Rosendale, has the backing of the anti-establishment: “Matt Rosendale. Bannon loves him.” [Axios, 9/27/17]
    • Great America Alliance, a pro-Trump, “antiestablishment group,” endorsed Rosendale. [The Hill, 10/11/17]
      • HEADLINE: “Bannon-tied groups kicks off brutal GOP primary season.” [The Hill, 10/11/17]

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