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Republicans see rally in LHS parking lot as unfair

by Brandon Roberts Western News
| November 2, 2008 11:00 PM

Following a “Vote Early” rally in the Libby High School parking lot, Lincoln County Republicans feel partisan favoritism was at work.

Eileen Carney, former teacher and Democratic candidate for Montana House of Representatives District 1, stood in the back of a pickup with a “Vote Early” sign that contained a phone number for the Obama in Montana campaign. The rally was held after school in a near-empty parking lot on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 17.

Carney shared information about early voting with interested community members for about 10 minutes before forming a caravan that went to the Lincoln County courthouse to vote.

“It is kind of like being hoodwinked,” said Alvin Benitz, vice-chair of the Lincoln County Republicans.

Earlier this fall, LHS principal Rik Rewerts contacted Democrats and Republicans asking them “not to use the student body, student activities or student crowds as a captive campaign audience.”

“I feel this has been upheld to this point,” Rewerts said. “It is a very small thing that has been blown way out of proportion.”

Rewerts believes it was a rally and not a campaign function, what he called a “community use type of thing.”

“I have expressed my concern that we (Republicans) felt targeted by many of the school employees,” Benitz said. “Kind of a shocker for a former teacher to get the OK and not for us.”

Benitz believes the Libby School Board should look at its campaign policy on campuses.

“They need to set some kind of policy so it is equal for everyone,” Benitz said.

Rewerts said he was not notified prior to the rally and would not have given it approval. He said the whole issue came about when a Republican candidate put campaign literature on cars during LHS graduation this past spring.

“Our policy is to stay neutral,” Rewerts said. “We have no intent on anything.”

Julie Eubank, deputy communications director for Obama in Montana said, “We hope the Lincoln County Republicans will focus on the real problems facing this country rather than attempting to generate an issue from a 10-minute stop in a public parking lot.”