Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer gets a lot of exposure in this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer. I tell you, this guy has the best chance of capturing more states than anyone else in the Democratic Party--if only he can be convinced to run.
Red, Blue - and Purple:To read the entire article, go here.
A closer look at America's political and cultural divide. Where Democrats proudly own guns.
In Montana, less of a partisan issue.
By Paul Nussbaum
Inquirer Staff Writer
Jun. 20, 2006
MISSOULA, Mont. Gov. Brian Schweitzer won't say exactly how many guns he owns, other than it's "more than I need, but less than I want."
An unabashed shooter, hunter and gun-fancier in a state deeply in touch with its Old West heritage, Schweitzer is a member of the National Rifle Association and was happy to receive the NRA's endorsement for governor in 2004.
He is also a Democrat.
Like many Democrats, especially those beyond the nation's big cities and urban coasts, Schweitzer doesn't see gun ownership as a partisan issue.
"Republicans try to make the case that 'Democrats will take your guns away.' I say, 'Yeah, Democrats like Giuliani, Pataki and Schwarzenegger,' " Schweitzer said, naming prominent Republicans from New York and California...
...In a state such as Montana, the gun issue helps color the state red in presidential elections even as voters elect Democrats to state and local offices. In 2004, Montanans voted for President Bush by a ratio of 59 percent to 39 percent, while putting Democrats in control of the governor's mansion and both houses of the Legislature. (In the last 50 years, the only Democratic presidential candidates to carry the state were Bill Clinton in 1992 and Lyndon Johnson in 1964.)
The state's senior U.S. senator, Max Baucus, is a Democrat, and the Republican junior senator, Conrad Burns, is considered vulnerable in his reelection bid this year, partly because of ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. This month, State Senate President Jon Tester won the Democratic nomination to oppose Burns in November.
Montana voters regularly exhibit an independent streak laced with a suspicion of government intrusion. In 2004, they voted to approve a "right to hunt" constitutional amendment (with 81 percent support) at the same time that they approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes (62 percent) and a ban on cyanide in mining (58 percent).
A Democratic presidential candidate with hopes of carrying Montana would have to tap into that independence and speak frankly to the gun issue, Schweitzer said.
"I'd tell him to tell people he respects their Second Amendment rights and maybe talk a little about his own experiences with guns," Schweitzer said. "And it might not be a bad idea to go out to a gravel pit and set up some beer cans and shoot at 'em."
...In the vastness of Montana, 935,000 people are scattered over 147,000 square miles, which means there are only about six people per square mile. Only Alaska and Wyoming are more sparsely settled. (By comparison, New Jersey has 1,134 people per square mile, and Philadelphia has 11,233.)
That can mean fewer gun conflicts than in crowded coastal cities, Schweitzer said.
"People in large urban places have concerns we don't have," the governor said. "In places like Philadelphia, New York, Boston, you have gun issues that are completely alien to us."