AP NEWS

Libertarians select Western Montana man to replace Fellows

September 22, 2016 GMT

HAMILTON — A new Libertarian candidate for Montana’s lone Congressional seat was selected Wednesday as county clerks and recorders across the state scrambled to reprint ballots following the death of Mike Fellows in a car crash Monday near Potomac.Rick Breckenridge of Proctor was selected as the party’s statewide candidate by the Ravalli County Libertarian Central Committee because the county has the only elected Libertarian central committee in the state. Breckenridge will take on incumbent Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Republican, and Denise Juneau, a Democrat.“The papers should be filed by the end of the day,” said David Merrick of Corvallis, the temporary state chair of the Montana Libertarian Party.Breckenridge, 57, has been a professional land surveyor since 1994. He currently shares a practice with his son.“My other son is a land surveyor in Hawaii,” he said. “My great grandfather, grandfather, father and now my sons — we’re all surveyors.”He also served 17 years with the U.S Army and Army Reserves. He resigned his captain’s commission after being severely injured in an automobile accident.“I wasn’t going to lead from the rear,” Breckenridge said.Breckenridge said he became interested in politics after he began to follow the career of Libertarian Ron Paul. In 2009, he ran for the chair of the Montana Republican Party against Will Deschamps.“I kind of figured out where the Libertarian-leaning Republicans fell in the scheme of things,” he said. “I got about 38 percent of the vote. It gave me a good barometer of where we stood. Ronald Reagan said Libertarianism is the soul of the Republican Party. I figured that the Republican Party had lost its soul.”Breckenridge said he’s been frustrated with the direction the GOP has taken since then. As an example, he pointed to the state Legislature’s decision to overturn an initiative passed by voters to allow the use of medical marijuana in the state.“You can’t overturn the will of the people,” Breckenridge said. “There were 151 people who thought they knew more than the 500,000 electors in the state of Montana. I’m sick and tired of the Republican Party and its antics. That’s tyranny.”Breckenridge said it was Fellows who first called him a RINO (Republican in Name Only).“He said, ‘Come on, Rick. You’re a Libertarian,’” Breckenridge said. “At first, that hurt my feelings, but then I saw he was right. So, I guess you can blame this on Mike.“Quite frankly, I have always respected his tenacity and perseverance to keep the Libertarian Party on the ballot,” he said.Merrick said Wednesday that he’s been working with organizers of a Congressional debate planned for Monday to ensure that Breckenridge will be included.Breckenridge said he’s not worried about finding himself on the debate stage with such short notice.“Libertarianism is pretty straight forward,” he said. “You don’t have to make up stories … you just do what is right because it is right.”Merrick said he was only able to reach nine of the 11 members of the Ravalli County Libertarian Central Committee Wednesday, but all agreed Brekenridge should replace Fellows.“As the only elected central committee in the state, the secretary of state’s office said we would be the people to decide,’’ Merrick said.Plettenberg was happy to hear that the Libertarian Party had been quick to find a replacement candidate.“That’s really good news,” she said. “They had until Monday. I was sort of fearful that it would take that long to find someone willing to do something that big. I’m very grateful for the party that they didn’t wait until the very last minute.”