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Monday, April 18, 2005

MT-Gov: Schweitzer's First 100 Days

Posted by Bob Brigham


HELENA - With a red carnation perched on his lapel and sprouting a small banner proclaiming "100 Days," Brian Schweitzer sat casually in his Capitol office and grinned.

And why not? Montana's first Democratic governor in 16 years reached this landmark of his new administration with little to complain about.

While Schweitzer has little to worry about, the same can't be said of the GOP:

They don't like that he wears jeans with his tie and sports jacket [...] GOP leaders complain that Schweitzer bullies contrary lawmakers

Of course, Schweitzer denies he bullies those poor, wittle wepublicans.

But nobody is spending worry about Bob Keenan and game because they are too busy admiring Schweitzer's budding legacy:

Craig Wilson, who heads the political science department at Montana State University-Billings, said Schweitzer has reason for satisfaction.

"He's gotten what he's wanted," he said, attributing the successes to Schweitzer's elaborate preparations for becoming chief executive.

"You've got to have some ideas to start with, some policy proposals to start with," Wilson said. "You have to hit the ground running. He has some ideas to start with. He showed that coming out of the box."

Schweitzer's successes are all the more remarkable in the face of GOP animosity, Wilson said.

"Democrats elected a governor for the first time in 16 years and there were bad political feelings going into the session," Wilson said. "He won and Republicans are angry over reapportionment. They were mad about what happened from the beginning, were loaded up and wanted to take shots at the governor."

Schweitzer readily ticks off his wins _ programs to promote the ethanol and moviemaking industries, provide college scholarships, make prescription drugs more affordable, help businesses insure their employees and give Montana-made food a label declaring its birthright.

So Montanans are happy, anyone else?

While coping with the hectic pace of the Legislature, Schweitzer also has managed to attract national attention.

Schweitzer's election, in the Republican bastion of the intermountain West and in a year of few Democratic victories nationally, raised plenty of eyebrows. He got noticed for his hard-line approach to downstream Missouri River basin states' demand for water. His request that the Pentagon send Montana National Guard troops and water-toting helicopters home in time for the summer fire season made national news.

Schweitzer shrugs off the notoriety, saying it means nothing unless a benefit to the state. Still, he's not shy in explaining his national appeal.

"I'm a straight shooter. I tell it like it is and that is a diminishing commodity among politicians," he said.

Holding his first elected office, Schweitzer admits awe at where he finds himself daily.

"It's hard for us to imagine all the conversations that have occurred in this room in the last 100 years," he said.

"I sometimes early in the morning or late at night sit back and ponder about the magnitude of this office and the difficult decisions that have been made in this office over the last 100 years," he said. "It's a remarkable responsibility and it's not something I take lightly at all."

The first 100 days of the new dawn in Montana are a success.

Posted at 11:18 PM in 2008 President - Democrats, Montana | Technorati