​​​​​​​​​​A daily digest of Montana news

June 26, 2016


Republican challenger Greg Gianforte and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock engaged in their first debate Sunday at Big Sky, sparring over such issues as the economy and infrastructure.



Bullock, Gianforte spar in first debate over economy, infrastructure

As revenues wane, state officials face tough budget choices

Can Republicans break Democratic dominance on MT's reservations?

Authorities investigating sex-assault complaint against Barry Beach

Ramp at Canyon Ferry Reservoir blamed for boy's death

Editor of Libby paper quits amid questions about mayor's recall petitions

Bozeman man who killed ex-girlfriend sentenced to life without parole

State hints it may look at alternate sites for its registration bureau

Bear rambles through Missoula parking lots

Clancy residents concerned about group home taking Boulder clients

National AFL-CIO chief visits Montana to endorse Bullock, Juneau

Visitors to Glacier Park could get smothered by snow this weekend

Judge sets Sept. 14 trial date for man who said he killed bin Laden

Lots of blame going around for decline of Montana's timber industry

Bullock, Gianforte to have first debate on Sunday

Wolf Point man denies kidnapping, abusing Poplar girl

Remains of MT soldier who went missing in 1968 buried at VA cemetery

State officials review Montana's overcrowded prisons, jails

Residents of Bozeman subdivisions criticize proposed logging project

VA names new interim director for Montana health-care system

Weyerhaeuser to close 2 Columbia Falls mills; 100 to lose their jobs

Mill workers devastated by news of layoffs

White House claims coal royalty hike would only modestly cut production

Police investigate murder of woman who left pre-release center

Massachusetts man charged in fatal shooting of Polson teen

2 charged with assaulting, then setting fire to women near Crow Agency

Fire officials expect average season in Montana

Skier injured in 600-foot fall in Bridger Mountains rescued

55 counties getting $30 million in PILT funds this year

Former Billings nurse sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting girl

Former MSU coach Joe O'Brien hit with new drug charge

Woman who strangled boyfriend in Billings knew him for less than month


Former editor of Missoulian drops wrongful discharge lawsuit

Opponents to demolition of Missoula Merc fail to show at hearing

Who owns Montana? A list of the top 10 private landowners

BNSF, feds tout safety program in wake of Oregon train crash

Victims of Polson scammer will get back some of their losses from state

Solar industry suffers setback as PSC suspends old rates

Maclay Ranch south of Lolo goes on auction block July 30




Ex-Griz running back Lex Hilliard gets lots of practice at bouncing back

Columbus native Dwan Edwards 'pretty sure' his NFL playing days over

Former Griz Breunig returning home to Germany to play pro ball

Billings' Manual ready to hit court at OSU after a year sidelined by injury

Former Griz coach Blaine Taylor takes job as assistant at Cal-Irvine

Hailey Nicholson latest in long run of Malta hoop stars to commit to UM


Business owner: Bureaucrats made simple transactions into ordeals

When it comes to rape cases, don't blame the victims

Zinke sending mixed message on public lands

Zinke: I will never sell your public lands

Time for state to add district judges

Preserving state's history in new center wouldn't be a pork project



Classic 1920s sailboat returns to water after getting facelift

Even those living in far-off four corners of MT have a lot in common

One-star reviews of Yellowstone Park. Yes, there are some

Darby, once reliant on logging, struggles to find a new identity

Pianist Phillip Aaberg named treasured Montana artist

Post of Helena quilter's labyrinthe pattern goes viral, shared 3.8M times



Lineup set for Butte's folk festival July 8-10

Moods of the Madison set to rock Ennis July 15-16

Legendary rock band KISS to perform at MSU July 16

James Taylor to perform in Bozeman July 18

Red Ants Pants Music Festival set for July 28-31

Alabama, Chris Young among headliners at State Fair in GTF

Keith Urban plans Aug. 4 concert in Bozeman

Ziggy Marley to headline Billings Magic City Blues Festival in August

Jason Derulo on stage at MontanaFair in Billings Aug. 12

Emmy Lou Harris, John Prine performing in Gardiner Aug. 25

Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Tesla in Billings Sept. 14


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​JIM MESSINA, who graduated from the University of Montana's journalism school, won plenty of plaudits for overseeing President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.

But now his reputation will suffer a setback with Great Britain's shocking 52-48 vote to leave the European Union.

Why's that? Because Messina was the Remain campaign's key strategist. He also played a role in arranging the visit of President Obama, his former boss, to visit Great Britain in April to oppose the "Brexit" plan. Some analysts now think Obama's visit may have backfired.

Most pundits and polls had predicted Messina's Remain campaign would prevail.

Matthew Elliott, the head of the Leave campaign, said his side knew it would be over-matched in many ways, and it didn't have the resources to bring in strategists from outside the country. "It was formidable (Remain campaign), but we felt with the right team, and the right strategy, we could do it," Elliott said.

A NEW national survey has some surprising results: Montana Sen. Steve Daines is one of the most popular senators in the country, while Sen. Jon Tester is among the least popular.

The analysis by Morning Consult was based on interviews of 62,000 Americans, but results for each senator were calculated based on responses from their constituents.  

Tester, a second-term Democrat, ranked No. 8 as the least popular senator, with a disapproval rating of 40 percent and an approval rating of 48 percent.

Daines, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, ranked No. 17 on the list of the most popular senators. Daines had an approval rating of 59 percent; a disapproval rating of just 23.

The senator picked as most popular overall? Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Least popular? Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

WHEN it comes to fiscal condition, Montana measures up pretty well. A new study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranks Montana No. 10 in the country based on debt and other fiscal obligations. That was the same ranking the state had the prior year.

The study's authors said it was important for state officials to understand debt issues because growing long-term obligations for pension and health-care benefits are straining state finances so much.

The states in the best shape to deal with their debt are Alaska, Nebraska, Wyoming and North and South Dakota. Those in the worst condition, say the study's authors, are Kentucky, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

WHO'DA thunk it?

Billings is the winner of Outside Magazine's "America's Best Town of 2016." 

Billings was a surprise winner, coming out on top after starting as the lowest seed among the 16 teams that started the competition. It beat No. 1 seed Jackson Hole, Wyo, in the final round.

Outside Magazine, which picked the winner with weekly online voting, said on its website: “We looked for places with great access to trails and public lands, thriving restaurants and neighborhoods, and, of course, a good beer scene — all while excluding the winners and runners-up from the past three years to make room for hidden gems, underdogs, and towns on the rise.”

ANITA Whitworth, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe, hates the Washington Redskin's moniker. She agrees with activists who argue that the problems that plague America's Indian reservations can be fixed only if the youth living there can take pride in who they are. 

Anita, a chemical dependency counselor, said she's been the victim of discrimination -- even called a "redskin" -- and she doesn't want her son to experience the same trauma.

Ironically, Anita's husband, Rusty, feels differently about the football team's name. “Just let them keep it,” says the laborer who works on ranches in the Flathead Valley. “It ain’t hurting nobody.”

Ironically, Rusty's opinion on the Redskin's name reflects the views of other Native Americans, by a long shot. A new Washington Post poll has found that nine in 10 Native Americans aren't offended by the name. The poll, which surveyed 504 people in every state and the District of Columbia, was consistent with the results of an earlier 2004 poll.