High-ranking OPI hire criticized Juneau’s sexual orientation, implied Clinton was lesbian on Facebook
A longtime GOP operative hired to restructure Montana’s Office of Public Instruction attacked the sexual orientation of female Democrats this fall, including outgoing state Superintendent Denise Juneau.
Randy Vogel, who most recently worked for Rep. Ryan Zinke, was appointed as senior policy adviser by new Superintendent Elsie Arntzen. A retired Billings police officer, Vogel has no professional background in education.
A pair of Facebook posts targeted Juneau, who ran against Zinke for his congressional seat, and Hillary Clinton in October.
“Montana is not ready to send to Congress a self proclaimed female lesbian alcoholic, according to the Gazette,” says a post from Oct. 17.
The Gazette and other media outlets have reported, in separate stories, that Juneau was convicted for two DUIs in the 1980s and that she appeared at a public event with her partner. Juneau’s sexual orientation was not previously widely known.
Another post about Clinton cites longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, a woman whose role gained prominence when the FBI reviewed a batch of her emails as part of an ongoing probe.
“The house of cards is falling, but remember, she’s a snake, and has been called the Anti-Christ by a sitting Congressman,” reads a post from Oct. 29. “She won’t go down easy. I still say that after the election she’s going to dump the dead weight, as in Bill, and her and Huma will be a real ‘thing.’”
Montana Human Rights Network organizing director Jules Shindel called the comments “very concerning.”
“We have an incredibly diverse group of students in Montana,” she said. “The fact that there’s someone in a position of power that has these discriminatory views is very concerning. It could potentially affect students, and all students — no matter their sexual orientation — deserve a quality education.”
Vogel runs his own company, RVogel Consulting, which was licensed by the state in 2013. He has forwarded press statements to reporters on Arntzen’s behalf. An email sent from Arntzen’s transition team email on Monday named Vogel as a new hire, along with several other staffers.
Arntzen did not respond to phone messages Friday, and messages left at a number assigned to the new OPI media assistant were not returned.
In a post responding to a comment on his Facebook, Vogel said, “Myself, I’m moving into State government and will be working with our new Supt of Public Instruction, our Supt of Schools, transitioning to her new job and helping her reorganize the office that has been held by the democrats for the past 30 years. It will be a challenge.”
While campaigning for the OPI seat, Arntzen emphasized that she wanted to “de-politicize” education. Arntzen is scheduled to be sworn in on Monday. She defeated Democrat Melissa Romano in November to become the first Republican to hold the office in almost 30 years.
Arntzen told the Gazette last week that she had “handshake deals” with several employees but that contracts were not official. She said she was slated to get the keys to the OPI office on Dec. 30.