- Category: Montana News
In the deep red eastern district, Rosendale still favorite from analysts, dollars
Four candidates running in the Montana’s newly drawn Second Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale is predicted to have little trouble winning re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives, and recent developments in the race appear to only have buoyed the Republican’s bid for a second term.
In early August, Montana’s largest union backed the Independent candidate running in the state’s newly drawn eastern Congressional district, a move that wasn’t unprecedented but was out of character for an organization known for backing Democrats.
The Montana Federation of Public Employees endorsed Independent Gary Buchanan, the Iowa-born investment advisory firm founder with a long history of public service in the Treasure State.
MFPE is an affiliate of the Montana AFL-CIO, which represents 38 unions in the state, and last week, the AFL-CIO also endorsed Buchanan.
In an interview with the Daily Montanan, MFPE downplayed its endorsement of the Independent over the Democrat. But the district is red, and it’s a four-way race, with Libertarian Sam Rankin on the ballot.
Independent Buchanan might be the Democrats’ best shot at ousting Rosendale, even if it’s unlikely in the deep red eastern district, according to one political analyst.
Nonetheless, the head of the Democratic party said they’re bullish on Penny Ronning, and they’re not stepping aside. Ronning, a former city councilor from Billings, said she’s also the union candidate, and the labor endorsement of Buchanan was “a gut punch.”
“This is a guy who has worked his entire career to benefit the wealthy and corporate management,” she said.
A media representative for the Buchanan campaign did not respond to two calls for comment from the Daily Montanan before publication.
Jeremy Johnson, a political scientist who teaches at Carroll College in Helena, said that Buchanan has to do the work to sell himself to the district, but he also does not have the Democratic label, which might turn off some Republican voters.
Political forecaster FiveThirtyEight predicts a Rosendale win 99 of 100 election scenarios.
“The underlying partisan dynamics are heavily Republican in the eastern district,” Johnson said. “Strategically, it could be argued that an Independent has a better chance than a Democrat to win in this district.”
He also said the state’s largest union doesn’t endorse Democrats in every case. MFPE endorsed 26 Republican candidates for the Montana Legislature in 2020 and Republican Tim Fox for Attorney General in 2016.
Generally, Johnson said Democrats have struggled statewide in Montana for a few decades.
“It kind of requires a whole lot to go right for a Democrat,” he said.
Johnson said for Buchanan to win, the question is: Can he consolidate most of the Democratic vote behind him?
“It’s hard to win as an Independent, but it’s by no means impossible. People have done it before,” he said.
Professor of History and Political Science at Rocky Mountain College in Billings Tim Lehman said he thinks Buchanan offers voters an interesting moderate choice at a time when people see a lot of extremes.
“I think that’s the kind of choice that’s healthy for Montana and our democracy. Someone who can pull us together rather than push us apart,” Lehman said. “And I think he’s running a campaign that way and is exactly that kind of candidate.”
Johnson said with the number of candidates, four total, and the polarized political climate, there’s no good precedent for this race.
Plus, the 2022 midterms are shaping up to be less of a referendum on the Biden administration and more focused on issues, especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. vs. Wade, he said.
“There’s no doubt that’s a galvanizing force for Democratic voters across the country,” Johnson said.
In interviews with the Daily Montanan and in statements, the unions defended their endorsements of Buchanan and, despite typically going with blue candidates, argued against towing party lines.
“We represent a very diverse membership, with members spanning from the hardest right to the furthest left,” said MFPE President Amanda Curtis in a interview with the Daily Montanan. “Our members liked the idea of an Independent who wasn’t beholden to a party, and could perhaps bring folks from each side of the aisle into the middle to actually get something done.”
Representatives from 10 MFPE regions formed a 25-person board that interviewed candidates and ultimately decided on Buchanan, Curtis said.
When asked if there was anything in Buchanan’s record in the private sector that aligned with MFPE’s goals, like collective bargaining, Curtis said no, not that she was aware of.
“I think that we came away from our interview with him with a strong assurance that he would support working families,” Curtis said.
In statements, the Montana AFL-CIO said Buchanan “opposes ‘Right-to-Work’ legislation, believes in the power of collective bargaining to elevate local economies, and understands that speaking one on one with Montana’s work force is the only way to truly represent Eastern Montana in Washington.”
“Montanans are independent thinkers who don’t tow party or ideological lines – we just want to get things done,” said Montana AFL-CIO Executive Secretary James Holbrook in a news release.
In an emailed response to questions from the Daily Montanan, Chairman of Montana AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education, which made the endorsement recommendation, Quint Nyman said that Buchanan brings a depth of public and private experience that better represents Montanans in comparison to Rosendale.
“Buchanan’s grassroots and volunteer-driven campaign to run as an Independent is commendable, and demonstrates his commitment to providing voters with a clear alternative to Rosendale, regardless of their political affiliation,” he said. “Rosendale has shown that he doesn’t take the job seriously and has been historically ineffective as a voice for Montana in Washington. It’s time for someone who will advocate for Montanans for a change.”
Neither release, nor the responses, made mention of Ronning.
Ronning, Dems firm
But Ronning took note of the union decisions. She said that before the interview process even started, the AFL-CIO reached out to her to say they were already most likely going to go with Buchanan.
“I’ve always been more concerned about the union members voting for me, than I am an endorsement by their leadership,” Ronning said. “I’m for the union worker.”
Nyman said via email that no decisions on candidates are made before the committee meets to discuss the candidates.
Ronning said she was in part surprised by the endorsement because of Buchanan’s history in business, and in contrast with both him and Rosendale, she’s a non-millionaire.
Ronning, though, doesn’t agree the eastern district is more red, calling the characterization a “false narrative” and pointing to central Montana as more of a battleground in the district.
In Yellowstone County, where Ronning grew up working at her father’s diner, she earned less than 10,000 votes to Rosendale’s over 21,000 in the June primary.
Rosendale earned more votes in the primary in both Cascade and Lewis and Clark counties, two other populous counties in the district, by significant margins, and Ronning earned less than one third of the votes Rosendale did across the board. However, primary elections tend to have less voter turnout than the general election.
Ronning points to the fact that she earned more votes in comparison to Buchanan’s signatures, where she brought home nearly 22,000 votes in the second district to Buchanan’s 13,090 signatures, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Buchanan needed 8,722 signatures to get on the ballot.
Notably, a month before the primary, Democratic candidate and legislator Mark Sweeney died; His name still appeared on the June ballot, and he received just more than 8,500 votes.
Ronning outlines rights to abortion access as one of the key issues in her campaign on her website and pointed to the fact that Montana was the first state to send a woman to Congress.
“In the history of our country, the female voice has yet to even gain 50 percent representation,” she said.
None of the candidates comes close to raising anywhere near the $1.7 million Rosendale has in his war chest. But Ronning has taken in just over $63,000 in total contributions, just half of the total $127,000 Buchanan raised, including a $25,000 loan he made to himself.
Regardless, Ronning said she’s not backing down now, and Democrats in the state are sticking by their candidate.
“Penny is running a strong, grassroots campaign,” executive director for the Montana Democratic Party Sheila Hogan said in a statement. “The more Montanans she talks to, the more Montanans know that she is the right choice for the Eastern district.
“Montanans want a representative who will listen to their constituents, fight to defend their reproductive freedom, and be an advocate for Montana families – Penny Ronning is that candidate.”
- Category: Montana News
Sneak preview of “We Won’t Sleep,” a new musical about Jeannette
Rankin’s life and legacy by internationally renowned creators.
Montana Repertory Theatre partners with The Jeannette Rankin Foundation to workshop a
Jeannette Rankin musical, followed by a one-night public event to showcase their work.
MISSOULA, Mont. -- In partnership with The Jeanette Rankin Foundation, the national
foundation created at the bequest of America’s first congresswoman and Montana native,
Jeannette Rankin, The Montana Repertory Theatre will host a sneak peek of the new musical,
We Won’t Sleep, about Jeannette Rankin’s life and legacy in The Masquer Theater-University of
Montana on September 8th, 2022, at 7:00 PM.
This one-night-only event is an opportunity for the public to witness the creative work that goes
into producing a major musical. For one week prior to the event, four artists from the production
team of We Won’t Sleep will workshop the script on the University of Montana campus and
immerse themselves in the scenic landscape of Jeannette Rankin’s youth. To showcase their
work, Ari Afsar (Hamilton's Eliza, Chicago cast) will perform musical selections from the
musical, and the creative team will answer audiences' questions about the show.
“We Won’t Sleep is not just the story of Jeannette Rankin,” said the musical’s producer, Tory Roman.
“It’s the story of how we tell history, how history affects us and how we can use stories from history
as a call to action to change the world and make the world a better place for everyone around us.”
We Won’t Sleep, Book by award-winning playwright Lauren Gunderson (You and I) and Jordan
Ealey. Composition and lyrics by Ari Afsar, Musical Direction by Sheela Ramesh, and
Co-directed by Erin Ortman and Yusha-Marie Sorzano.
- Category: Montana News
SCL-Intermountain Health merger helps make new building possible
The entrance to St. Vincent Healthcare’s hospital along North 30th Street in Billings, Montana (Photo by Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan).
Its cost hasn’t even been calculated because the design is just beginning.
However, for the next five years, St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, which was part of SCL Health, will be constructing a new hospital to replace the current one in the downtown medical corridor of Montana’s largest city. SCL recently merged with Intermountain Health Care to become the largest medical organization in the state and region, with strongholds in Denver and Salt Lake City.
As the merger passed just the 90-day mark, Billings’ oldest hospital announced plans to construct a new hospital facility downtown, on the same campus it’s occupied for more than a century. The healthcare company had considered locating somewhere else in town – on the west end where it owns land near Shiloh Crossing, or possibly in Billings Heights.
However, when all the options were laid out, St. Vincent will remain where it’s been, and it will build a new hospital where a large parking lot sits along North 27th Street, a busy corridor that connects with Interstate 90, Billings Heights and the airport.
The hospital’s historical footprint, coupled with the convenient location, means that the new hospital site won’t necessarily change, but the campus will as health officials plan for the growing urban center as well as providing regional support for the state’s frontier healthcare landscape.
The construction of the facility will take at least five years, said Krikor Jansezian, the chief operating officer of St. Vincent Healthcare. During that time, the current hospital, which covers the better half of an entire city block, will continue to operate while new construction is underway. Sometime, probably in 2028, the new building and hospital will come online. Jansezian said the transfer of patients will likely happen in less than a day, and only after staff feels comfortable with a new system and space.
That’s part of the reason why the plans will take at least five years before they’re complete. Consultants and architects who specialize in medical construction said that supply-chain shortages and a tight labor market mean ordering products years in advance. Jansezian said that while labor may be able to build faster, it’s not really feasible to push the timeline faster given volatility in construction.
The process for the building is years in the making, said St.Vincent Chief Operating Officer Jen Alderfer. It began with a larger question: Should St. Vincent build in its current location or look elsewhere?
However, leadership decided that the central location, close to the city’s expanding medical corridor, plus its proximity to Montana State University-Billings, makes it essential to stay put, much to the delight of Billings city leaders.
The decision also allows St. Vincent to use the rest of the campus, which includes Marillac Hall, to have support services. Currently, the campus has three distinct parts, Marillac, which houses different support functions, like human resources; the Yellowstone Medical Arts Building, which is a collection of outpatient doctors and other services; and finally, the hospital portion of the campus, which is what most people are familiar with.
What becomes of the hospital space once a new hospital goes online is still yet to be determined, but the new hospital puts patients and care-providers in a much different setting. For example, Jansezian said that many of the current hospital floors have long hallways, with supply and other support services a long distance for some patients. Designing a new hospital will allow staff to give input about set-up and placement. One of the key concepts is to reduce the space between the care providers and the patients.
In the new hospital, every room will have the ability to be converted into an intensive care unit. This was a problem that confronted some hospitals, including St. Vincent, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospital ran out of ICU beds, converting other rooms and parts of the hospital for more ICU beds.
“We’re building for the next 40 to 50 years. We have to grow it. We can’t build the hospital we need for today because it won’t be adequate when it opens,” Jasezian said.
That’s why St. Vincent is taking input from a variety of users, from patients to care providers.
The current hospital has a capacity of 253 beds. The new hospital calls for 295. The growth is, in part, a response to demographics, which show the county will grow 18%, or 32,000 people, in the next five years.
“Since we’ve come together with the like-minded IHC, they were aware of this project (before the merger), and it’s been strengthened by adding a different level of resources,” Alderfer said.
St. Vincent is going through the study and design process. For example, current the healthcare organization is looking at parking, and the layout of the campus could change depending on what the results of the study yield.
“We don’t want our associates having to park all day long with the caregivers in neighborhoods or at MSUB,” Alderfer said.
Healing is also an important aspect to consider in the new building, and Alderfer said that every patient room will have a view of the city, Rims or even mountains in the distance.
“We know the healing power of the right space,” Alderfer said.
Not all rooms in the current hospital have that view, or some look at another building.
Space is also being designed to accommodate more room for family members who want to spend the night with a loved one. And more space will be dedicated for family and caregivers in common areas where they can relax or spend time outdoors.
The new hospital will also be designed to optimize patient care and flow. That includes putting departments that are now spread out closer together.
For example, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit will likely remain closer to labor-and-delivery as well as children’s units.
The new emergency department will boast a covered indoor drive-through for ambulance and other transportation that can be cooled in the summer and warmed in the winter.
“This is such an opportunity to welcome people to a state-of-the-art building and state-of-the-art medical care,” Alderfer said.
- Category: Montana News
August 21, 2022
Story and Photo courtesy of Yellowstone Bluegrass Association
(Billings) Bluegrass band Special Consensus appears Thursday Aug 25 at Cisel Hall at MSU-B in Billings at 7 pm. Admission is $25 at the door.
The acclaimed group has received two Grammy nominations.
The band has achieved a contemporary sound in their four decades of performing, making their music a modern classic. Band leader and founder Greg Cahill is a recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and was inducted into the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) Hall of Greats. Special Consensus has released 20 band recordings and received six awards from the IBMA and two Grammy nominations.
Special Consensus’ sound is grounded in a deep appreciation and understanding of bluegrass music; the infectious band sound reminds people of the past while utilizing the innovations of today. With the foundation of Greg’s unique banjo playing style, Greg Blake (guitar), Dan Eubanks (bass) and Michael Prewitt (mandolin) effortlessly support each other and consistently maintain their bluegrass center whether they’re playing a jazz-tinged instrumental or a song from any of their award-winning recordings. These four talented vocalists and instrumentalists follow their creative desires without straying too far from their roots.
Rivers and Roads, the band’s 19th recording, was nominated for a 2018 Grammy, received five 2018 IBMA nominations and was awarded Album of the Year. The tune “Squirrel Hunters” from that recording received the Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year award.
International tours have brought the band to Australia, Canada, Europe, South America, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The band has also appeared on National Public Radio, The Nashville Network, the Grand Ole Opry at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, and in concert with symphony orchestras nationwide.
Dedicated to preserving their craft as well as keeping it fresh, in 1984 Special Consensus initiated the Traditional American Music (TAM) Program to introduce bluegrass music to students in schools across the country and in several foreign lands.
The band records for Compass Records and proudly celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2020 with the release of Chicago Barn Dance. This recording also celebrates the long-standing connection of country and bluegrass music with Chicago from the time of the WLS “National Barn Dance” that was a precursor to the Grand Ole Opry. The songs on this recording either relate to Chicago and/or are written by artists who once lived in Chicago. The album received five 2020 IBMA nominations and the title song “Chicago Barn Dance” received the 2020 IBMA Song of the Year Award.
Special C’s continued success is a testament to their adaptability and contemporary appeal.
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