Montana Tea Party says it does not endorse political candidates


BOZEMAN, Mont. - One of the three Bozeman area legislature candidates singled out by a progressive liberal political blog will appear on the Democratic ballot in the June primary.

Laura Springer, Harry Pennington and Dane Peeples all filed with the Secretary of State's office as Democrats. The Montana Cowgirl Blog claimed all three are actually conservative extremists.

Campaign filing records showed all three registered to the same Bozeman address.

NBC Montana tracked down Springer and Pennington. Springer said she filed as a Democrat because she had become disappointed with the Republican party, but withdrew from race because of a family issue.

Harry Pennington, a Bozeman homeless man, refused to talk to us, but reportedly told an employee at Bozeman's homeless Warming Center that he dropped out of the race. Neither filed the required paperwork.

NBC Montana has reached out to Dane Peeples multiple times to find out if he intended to stay in the race. We have not received a call back, but learned Tuesday that he met all the requirements with the State Commissioner of Political Practices and will appear on the ballot.

House District 62 incumbent Tom Woods, is running against Peeples, and said he is not concerned about his competition.

The party affiliation is largely done on the honor system and eventually this is going to be sorted out by the voters," Woods explained. "I have a great deal of faith in the Democratic process, and what we're seeing here is just the fact that it's a bit of a political prank, I guess, and I don't think it's going to go far beyond that."

The Montana Cowgirl Blog claimed Peeples is a Tea Party member, but the Montana Tea Party Coalition is speaking up, saying Peeples is not part of the Tea Party, and they do not know or support him.

We received an email from the Montana Tea Party Coalition that said they don't endorse any candidate. Instead, the email says Tea Party backers encourage people who identify with limited government power, free markets, and fiscal accountability to get involved in the political process.

Last week, Republicans didn't let Montana U.S. House candidate Drew Turiano speak at a dinner in Billings. Turiano identifies with the Tea Party. He said his support of an old policy calling for all illegal immigrants and their American born children to be sent home got him kicked off the speaker list.

The Montana Tea Party Coalition also addressed Turiano, saying they do not endorse him as a candidate, nor do they align with his views.

"We want people who believe in our principals to be engaged and we would encourage them to do so," explained Bozeman Tea Party cofounder Henry Kriegel. "But to claim that these people are Tea Party candidates is a far stretch."

A Washington Post poll says that about 38 percent of American adults support Tea Party views.

The Montana Tea Party Coalition is made up of 17 Tea Parties throughout Montana. Kriegel explained these organizations do not identify themselves as a political party.

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