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In Red Montana, Two Democrats Take a New Political Approach: Attack

U.S.In Red Montana, Two Democrats Take a New Political Approach: Attack

At a recent campaign event at a brewpub in Whitefish, Mont., Ryan Busse was laying into his political opponent, Montana’s Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, with surprising vehemence for a red-state Democrat.

He criticized Mr. Gianforte, who is running for a second term, as an elite, out-of-state rich interloper who simply does not understand Montanans.

“I love putting the punch on this guy, because there’s so many places to put it on him,” Mr. Busse told the crowd.

A former gun industry executive whose 2021 book “Gunfight” denounced the industry would seem like an unlikely candidate for governor in a state that loves its guns, especially since his book vaulted him to stardom in gun-control circles.

But Mr. Busse, 54, and his running mate, Raph Graybill, 35, a crusading constitutional lawyer in Montana, are testing a new approach to campaigning as Democrats in Republican states. Instead of adopting the soft-spoken moderation of, say, the governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, or the recently retired Democratic governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, or even the last Democratic governor of Montana, Steve Bullock, Mr. Busse and Mr. Graybill are campaigning as fighters, eager to activate not only the state’s few progressives but also its many voters disaffected with both parties. (Mr. Busse and Mr. Graybill will officially become the party’s nominees with Tuesday’s primary.)

If nothing else, their campaign might bolster turnout for another endangered Democrat seeking election in a state almost sure to vote for former President Donald J. Trump in November, Senator Jon Tester.


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