November’s US Senate elections continue to provide entertainment for political junkies as well as holding some promise for the Democrats, who need to gain five seats to overturn the Republican majority.
On their target list must now be Montana, where incumbent Republican Senator Conrad Burns keeps landing himself in trouble.
Back in 1999, he described Arabs as “rag heads” and one of his aides was then caught removing this fact from his Wikipedia entry. He was only narrowly re-elected and has since become mired in the Abramoff lobbying scandal. But clearly he hasn’t learned his lesson.
As a massive wildfire raged in Montana this summer, elite firefighters flew in to tackle the blaze, making the 2000-mile flight from Virginia to work long shifts on wages of $8-12ph. At the end of one such shift, the firefighters were confronted by Senator Burns, who berated them for “doing a piss-poor job” and not doing “a God-damned thing”. He issued a thinly-veiled death threat to an official who he thought worked for a particular agency he had taken a dislike to and complained to another than “you probably paid that guy [a nearby firefighter] $10,000 to sit around”.
A Virginian journalist calling Burns’ office to press him on his remarks was treated to an obscenity-laced tirade by an aide who apparently mistook him for a friend, concluding with “…you can tell Senator Allen of Virginia to [vulgarity deleted].”
Burns then hosted a press conference call to defuse the row, stonewalling reporters and letting a state official answer any tricky questions. Not realising that he was still on video, Burns is seen ending the conference call and declaring “That’s the way to shut that down! Huh? That works. You bet!” He then dons a white cowboy hat and strides out in imagined victory.
This weekend sees a new low point for Burns, with his campaign finance director (though Burns said he left this post a few weeks ago) Pat Davison being charged with defrauding two families of $1.2m.
The polls showed Burns and Democrat challenger Jon Tester neck and neck before this. The Daily tips this race as one to watch.