The Republican campaign circuit included numerous party dinners in communities large and small across Montana. U.S. Senate candidate Russ Fagg of Billings is among the candidates who’s been criss-crossing the state – by pickup or airplane - for the 2018 election.
The next event on the calendar was the Choteau County Lincoln Day Dinner in Fort Benton on April 29, 2018. Republican candidates from the contested U.S.Senate primary, the Public Service Commission, Legislative races, to local races were in attendance.
“This is an up and back trip so it makes perfect sense to fly,” said the former state District Judge.
“Well, you know Montana is a big state and Fort Benton is a great example,” he said. “So to drive it would be 3 ½ hours plus and we can fly it in an hour. So that’s awful nice.”
The decision to fly came earlier that morning, after consulting the weather forecast. The night there was the chance for some thunderstorm activity, but by morning it looked more favorable.
“This is a Beechcraft Bonanza and I am going to pull it out,” said Fagg of the airplane he co-owns with a friend. After opening the doors to the hanger, Fagg used a hook to pull the plane out of the hangar.
"Just so you know we might have a little rain," he said. "We might have a few bumps, but it shouldn’t be too bad.”
Other times, he said it makes sense to drive his F150 pickup because there may be up to 12 campaign stops spread over 2 to 3 days.
After loading the plane up with campaign signs and literature for the event, he adds fuel, and then we climbed aboard for the flight. Fagg taxied the plane to the runway at Billings Flying Service and was quickly airborne and flying north.
As the approach to Fort Benton gets closer, Fagg began calling out position reports to alert any nearby aircraft he was inbound.
No one responded.
On the final approach, the paved runway and ramp was empty. After Fagg landed, he parked the plane near the small, unstaffed pilot shack. After he de-planed, he unloaded his campaign signs and literature and took the courtesy car for the short drive into town.
Because he arrived early at the Montana Agricultural Center, Fagg quickly leaned yard signs all around the room and put his campaign literature on all of the tables, stopping to greet attendees as they started arriving.
Just to make sure he talked with nearly every attendee, he stood by the entry to the buffet line to shake hands, introduce himself, and chat with some of the folks who lived near U.S. Senator Jon Tester, a farmer from nearby Big Sandy.
Afterwards, Fagg sat down to for a brief bite to eat before popping up again to help call out bidders during the fundraising auction.
Three of the Republican candidates - Al Olszewski, Russ Fagg, and Troy Downing – were given time during the event to deliver their stump speeches and take a few questions from the roughly 100 attendees. Matt Rosendale did not attend, instead his representative read a statement on his behalf.
The winner of the June primary will face Tester on the November election ballot. Absentee ballots are scheduled to go out beginning May 11, 2018.
Editor's note: This is part of an occasional series as the 2018 candidates make their schedules known to YPR.