Third Party Power Broker


Meet Rick Jore. In the 1990s he was a Republican legislator in Montana's state House. He switched parties and became the Constitution Party's only legislator, but since the party had a healthy majority they didn't sweat it. Until this year, when the state legislature split almost 50-50 and the GOP was faced with a choice: Shut Jore out or sweeten the deal to bring him in?

They chose the latter route, to Jore's surprise.

Republican leaders are giving the House Education Committee chairmanship to the Legislature's only third-party member, a Constitution Party lawmaker who opposes more money for public schools.

The rare appointment of a third-party member to chair a committee—especially in his first session after a six-year hiatus from politics—comes as the GOP courts Rick Jore and his swing vote. Republicans control the chamber by a slim 50-49 margin.

Jore said he never specifically asked for the chairmanship. "Quite frankly, I was surprised," said Jore, a Ronan resident who served as a Republican legislator in the 1990s before switching parties.

Education lobbyists are pulling their hair out, as Jore is miles more "extreme" on the issues than anyone they've dealt with before. They probably don't appreciate the lesson in how a small third party can leverage its effectiveness by blowing off big statewide races and winning crucial legislative seats. But I do.

NEXT: Pagans Proselytize in Public Schools Thanks to Jerry Falwell

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  1. Over/under on how many posts before the same people who call Weigel a closet Democrat start going at him for saying something nice about a Constitution Party member?

  2. Wow. However you found this bit of news, thanks for posting David. That’s some pretty good news there.

  3. Oh, and granted, the Constitution Party is full of people even wackier than the LP, but any time a third-party can leverage their position this way bodes well for the future of the Republic.

  4. I see that David Weigel has found a new 3rd party to shill for.


  5. How much is the Constitution Party paying for this promotional? =P

  6. Not that local politics in one of the nation’s least-populated states isn’t, er…compelling, but this report has a whiff of desperation. Then again, how does third-party politics gain credibility without exposing how insignificant it is?

  7. The only problem is that he was an major party incumbent who switched and continued to be elected. That’s a little different than a third party candidate simply winning a race.

  8. David,

    Actually, you are slightly incorrect about his incumbency. He left politics for 6 years, and then this year came back and won election as a member of the CP. Not quite the same as a Jim Jeffords.

  9. If Jore can bone up on parliamentary procedure, he might be able to make this year very interesting.

    Let’s see him campaign for some other local 3rd party guys, too. This isn’t big news, but it might be the prelude to some big news in 4 or 6 years.

  10. “This isn’t big news, but it might be the prelude to some big news in 4 or 6 years.”

    Big news? As if.

  11. I didn’t know Jimmy Johnson and Mickey Rooney had a love child.

  12. Actually, you are slightly incorrect about his incumbency. He left politics for 6 years, and then this year came back and won election as a member of the CP. Not quite the same as a Jim Jeffords.

    You’re right, my mistake.

    Still, I think that puts him in a slightly different class in terms of being familiar to voters than the typical third party candidate.

  13. The Constitution Party, like the Green Party, serves to remind us that things could be a whole lot worse. I expect his first act as chairman will be to slash the budget for books. Because “there’s only one book anybody ever needs”.

  14. The fact that posters here are willing to admit mistakes, makes this a more enjoyable website than most.

  15. Because “there’s only one book anybody ever needs”.

    The Kama Sutra?

  16. My Pet Goat?

  17. Warren’s probably on to the reason why the GOP did this: so Jore will do something radical that they can rub his nose in when he goes to get re-elected. Giving him enough rope to hang himself???

  18. “there’s only one book anybody ever needs”.

    “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman”?

  19. thoreau,
    may be No Ordinary Genius, but What Do You Care What Other People Think?

  20. Jore doesn’t oppose “more” funding for schools, he opposes “all” funding for schools. That my fly well with you guys, but for someone studying to be a teacher in MT, I’m not terribly keen on it.

    The house leadership’s response on this was essentially, “Well the Education community never votes for us, so why should we do anything to help them?” Savvy.

    My prediction? Deadlock.

  21. To clarify about Rick Jore’s political career.
    He was an incumbent Republican state legislator in 2000 when he switched to the Constitution Party. He lost to a Democrat in 2000 in a 3-way race.

    In 2002 he again lost in a 3-way race, but came in ahead of the Republican. In 2004 the Republican dropped out, but was still on the ballot, and took enough votes to re-elect the Democrat, with Rick Jore coming in second.

    This year, the Republicans did not run a candidate in the district, and Rick Jore was elected over the Democrat.

    He never quit running, but he seems to have taken the Republican voters in his district with him, but only in his race. The other Constitution Party candidates received typical third party votes in Montana this year.

  22. I think everyone expecting Jore to act in an extreme or “wacky” way are in for a surprise. I think he will be a very responsible and principled legislator.

    It will be interesting to see how the public reacts when they finally realize that the world will not end with the election of Jore or other 3rd Party candidates. What happens when the light goes on that they don’t have to vote for Dems and Gops?

  23. People out west seem to grasp these things a little faster than the rest of us.

  24. I looked up the Constitution Party on Wikipedia.

    Apparentley on religious matters they make Jerry Falwell look like Richard Dawkins.

    However, by advocating the abolition of the IRS a Constitution Party led government wouldn’t have much power to tell us anything about how we live our lives.

    They seem good allies.

    Parties that believe in both theocracy and small government must be a uniquely American phenomenon.

  25. The real story here is the growing “Liberty Caucus” within the Montana Legislature.

    At least 4 to 5 hardcore libertarian Republicans currently serve in the MT House and Senate, like Sen. Joe Balyeat of Bozeman who headed up Prop. 154 to repeal Eminent Domain and Protect Property Rights, AND the current State Secretary for the Libertarian Party of Montana Jerry O’Neil who also happens to be a Senator from Kallispell.

    Why Jore is getting all the attention and O’Neil is being ignored baffles me? O’Neil has been elected for 8 years now. And he’s been with the Libertarian Party almost as long.

    O’Neil and many of the other libertarian legislators can be found at the Republican Libety Caucus discuss group for MT.

    For a list of elected libertarian legislators in MT

  26. “there’s only one book anybody ever needs”.

    Atlas Shrugged?

  27. Parties that believe in both theocracy and small government must be a uniquely American phenomenon.

    Depends on how you measure the size of government. If it’s “number of bureaucrats” religious governments are right up there with the rest. If it’s “number of ultimate decision makers” then most religious governments tend to be very small. On the order of one person. See “Divine Right of Kings” and “The Infallible Pope.”

    Jore doesn’t oppose “more” funding for schools, he opposes “all” funding for schools.

    But that would mean that the Montana Independent School District would have to close both its schools.

    Question: Why do they still call them “Independent School Districts?”

  28. The problem is not that Jore was elected. We’re in a sparsely populated, largely rural state. We’re bound to get a couple of nutjobs who believe that the Constitution was handed down to the Founding Fathers by God and clearly states that Christianity and government are intimately intertwined.

    The problem people have with this is that he doesn’t believe in Education funding, yet he’s been picked to head the Education Committee… this pisses a lot of people off, especially people with kids.

    That we’re mad that he’s not either GOP or Dem isn’t the point here, as much as some of you want to make it so.

  29. There is a point that all of the posters so far have totally overlooked.

    The Republicans should not have had to “give” Jore anything.

    Right now, Rick Jore is a one-man minority party. He could be the ranking member on *every* committee. The Democrats are stuck in the middle — neither majority nor minority. (The smallest party represented in the chamber is the minority party. And, with only one member, the Constitution Party is the minority party. The Republican Party is the majority party. The Democrats should be begging for a seat on *any* committee.)

    Jore should not take crumbs from the Republicans.

    Keep in mind that, back in 1856, the Republicans were the smallest party — from a field of several. They took a principled stand against slavery, and kept working until they grew in size and clout.

    But now, that same Republican Party tries to belittle the Constitution Party for doing the same thing. By “giving” Jore a committee, the GOP is treating Jore as though the CP is merely some sort of “extension” of the Republican Party. They seem intent on refusing to recognize the Constitution Party as a separate political party.

    What will they do if a CP candidate wins the White House in 2008? It can happen!

    I’m hoping that Tom Tancredo will leave the GOP and join the Constitution Party. If he does, he is a virtual shoe-in for the presidency.

  30. Th Constitution Party is irrelevant (as is the LP, the Socialist Labor Party, etc). There is really no such thing as a “third party” office holder, as every elected “independent” winds up caucusing with one major party or another, mking that person for all practical purposes a member of that particular party. Ergo, Bernie Sanders is a Democrat, etc.

  31. You know Jim, you’re largely correct on that. Look at Libertarian Party history. Actually, just look at an old issue of Reason Magazine (which I have in my garage), from 1985, “Alaska’s Libertarian Legislator.” It was a feature piece on then LP Rep. Andre Marrou of Homer, AK. In it Marrou admits that he “Caucuses with Republicans.”

    In the early 1990s there were 4 elected Libertarians to the NH House. All four of them “Caucused” with the GOP.

    Even today, take an elected Libertarian like Phillipsburg, Montana City Councilman Andy Lochridge. (I visited with Andy and the other MT Free Staters for two weeks over the summer). The only allies Andy ever has on the City Council are the Republican members.

    Libertarian Party folks hate to admit this, but facts speak louder than words: The Libertarian Party IS essentially an arm of the GOP in very practical terms.

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