The Republican Party will see debate nationally over its future direction, along with a battle in Montana over its leadership in the upcoming legislative session, GOP state Sen. Dave Lewis said Thursday.
“Nationally, we are becoming the party of older white men — which is nice, because I’m an older white man,” he said to laughs at the weekly Home Town Helena coffee gathering. “But we’re going to die. The Republican Party has got to broaden nationally, there’s no question about that.”
The party isn’t doing well with women, Latinos or African-Americans, said Lewis, who has worked for governors of both parties.
But the Republican party is also losing votes on the “far, extreme right,” he said. He blamed Libertarian candidates for the losses Tuesday of Rick Hill, running for governor, and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, running for U.S. Senate.
Lewis’ comments came during a discussion with newly re-elected state Reps. Chuck Hunter, a Democrat, and Liz Bangerter, a Republican.
Lewis said he hoped the Legislature would have a better relationship with Gov.-elect Steve Bullock than with Brian Schweitzer, who vetoed about 80 bills — although he acknowledged some of the bills probably deserved it.
“We didn’t have much of a relationship with the governor for the past eight years, to say the least,” he said.
Hunter, who faced no primary opponent, did not start campaigning door-to-door in earnest until mid-summer. And by that time, people were tired of the negativity they had already seen.
People were generally friendly, but this time around, they didn’t want to talk politics and resisted tak-ing printed materials
“Yeah, hi, how do you do, but I’ve had enough,” he said, summing up a typical reaction. “People really want government to work together. They’ve been saying that for a long time, but right now there’s a level of frustration about what’s happening not only in Congress, but perhaps here in the state as well.”
Bangerter said she met plenty of unfriendly people in her campaign.
“People curse at me at the door all the time,” she said.
And in the “dog days” of summer, she witnessed plenty of strange behavior.
“I had more naked people come to the door than I’ve ever seen,” she said.
Lewis didn’t have an election in this cycle.
“I’ve haven’t had anybody come naked to the door, but I’ve had people carrying guns to the door,” he said.