I like this Democrat, Jon Tester, who is challenging Conrad Burns, a severely ethically-challenged Republican, having close ties to Jack Abramoff, as well as a penchant for free Super Bowl tickets.
When Jon Tester was 9 years old, he lost the middle three fingers of his left hand in a meat grinder. The only immediate impact of the accident, he says, was that "I couldn't play the saxophone and had to learn the trumpet, and I took a lot of crap from my schoolmates." There was a long-term political benefit, however: Tester, who is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Montana, has the most distinctive hand wave in American politics, a thumb-and-pinkie hook-'em-horns waggle. Indeed, Tester's physical presence--he's a big old farm boy with a flattop crew cut--is a political statement that stands close to the heart of the national Democratic congressional campaign of 2006. It says, I'm not a slick Washington guy. I'm a Montana farmer. After six years of a Bush Administration cozy with business, many Democrats are taking a flyer this year on full-throated populism.I always wanted to be a farmer, and here's a guy who takes such pride in his work that he stops campaigning to plant his fields?
Tester is not your average farmer, of course. He's a former public-school music teacher and a successful politician, the president of the Montana state senate. But in April, in the midst of a hot primary race, Tester took five days off from the campaign to seed his 1,800-acre farm in the eastern Montana flatlands. "Look, I do the things real people do. I plow, I seed, I harvest. I do some of my best thinking on my tractor," Tester told me as he campaigned in Whitefish, Mont., last week.
The U.S. Senate race in Montana promises to be iconic. Tester's opponent is the three-term incumbent, Senator Conrad Burns, who achieved national notoriety as the recipient of $150,000 from associates of the felonious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who later told Vanity Fair, "Every appropriation we wanted [from Burns' committee], we got ..." Burns, who has said he wished Abramoff had never been born, is a Republican in a state that favored George W. Bush over John Kerry by 18 points in 2004. But he knows he's in a very difficult race, and the G.O.P.'s first campaign ad of the general election went straight to the heart of Tester's candidacy: his haircut. It features a barber who says, "Fella comes in for a trim on his flattop because he's running for U.S. Senate. Guess he didn't want anybody to know he opposes a gay-marriage ban. Thinks flag burning is a right. And supports higher taxes. So I told him, 'You're gonna need a lot more than a haircut to cover up all that' ... Didn't leave much of a tip either."
To which the Montana Democratic Party immediately responded with an ad that replayed the "tip" line of the ad and then went on: "Here's a tip. The man attacking Jon Tester is an actor. A fake, sent by Senator Burns' Washington friends to tell lies about Jon Tester ... It's bad enough that Burns took thousands of dollars from sleazy lobbyist Jack Abramoff's associate and then changed his vote ..." And so on.
Jon, you got my vote.....errrrr...if I lived in Montana, that is.