Interview: Melinda Gopher weighs bid for Senate or House

"Chronicle: I was impressed by your performance during the 2010 primary election for the U.S. House, and how you gained such high voter support with very little campaign expenses. In the four-person primary, you spent virtually no money and received 20 percent of the vote. In hindsight, it is clear that if you had been funded similar to other candidates, you would have been the strongest performing Democrat against Denny Rehberg in the general election.

Melinda Gopher: Thank you for your words. I believe I used technology and the social networks effectively. I felt I ran a very effective guerrilla campaign, so to speak, and I will continue to do so in the future.

Chronicle: I thought we could start by talking about Sen. Tester's complicated relationship with the sovereign peoples of Montana. Tester-Burns 2006 was a very close election, a dead heat, and there was a widespread sense that the Native American vote put him over the top and into office. Even Gov. Schweitzer acknowledged this with his ill-advised little joke about Republicans being turned away from the polling places, and a near 100 percent Democratic vote.

Shortly after taking office, Tester started a series of teleconferences with Montana's weekly newspapers, and my colleagues at the Char-Koosta News participated in the very first one. I recall that the Char-Koosta reporter was angry, and basically said, Sen. Tester received a gift from the Native American voters, his election to the U.S. Senate, and what was he going to do in return? Already, at the very beginning of Tester's term, there was a sense of betrayed trust. What did you hope for from Jon Tester, and why did he lose your trust?

Melinda: I do think this sense of betrayed trust is not only attibutable to Jon Tester, but it has been an issue in the Democratic party for quite a while. There is this perverse disregard for the Native American vote--that seems to be rooted in the way Max Baucus has led the party for the better part of the past 30 years. It is time to challenge this, and put forward a new way of thinking that our common wants, needs and values are not exclusive of each other. I feel the Native voters have given the political powers-that-be a free pass for too long."

Get the Story:
Melinda Gopher explores challenge to Tester, Democrats (The Clark Fork Chronicle 4/15)

Related Stories:
Profile: Melinda Gopher, Blackfeet/Ojibwe, eyes US House (5/11)
Melinda Gopher: A new day for tribes with Obama (11/16)
Blackfeet woman seeks nod for US House seat (11/30)

Join the Conversation