Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Schweitzer has pulled off a rare two-fer. His longtime efforts at raising his national profile paid off with a widely-touted speech at the Democratic National Convention and his popularity remains undiminished at home as well.
Montana's governor, as expected, easily defeated Republican challenger Roy Brown. The outcome was never in doubt, with Schweitzer showing leads in polls of upwards of 35 points.
Schweitzer was able to take credit for a growing economy, including increased energy development -- not just in traditional areas such as oil, gas and coal, but in wind farming as well. Unemployment in Montana is low, taxes have been cut and the state budget is in surplus -- a rare thing these days.
Brown, a state senator, called Schweitzer a "show horse" who took credit for programs put in place before his time in office, claiming he would do a better job on taxes and spending. But Montana voters were pleased to give credit to the incumbent for good times happening on his watch.
And, perhaps reflecting his celebrity, Schweitzer raised nearly half of his money from out of state donors. He outraised Brown by about 3-to-1.
One issue that drew attention was Brown's resentment at a whisper campaign suggesting he was a closet vegetarian.
"I am not and have never been a vegetarian," Brown said.
"I am disgusted by the baseless allegation that I am a vegetarian and that my personal eating habits should somehow be construed as opposed to the economic interests of Montana's livestock industry."
Brown called it a nasty slur from Democrats, but his mother had told an AP reporter on the campaign trail, "He's almost a vegetarian he eats so little."
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