He didn’t think he had a chance to beat a Democrat incumbent, but G. Bruce Meyers won a seat in the Montana state legislature anyway surprising many, even himself.
Even more surprising he won his seat running as a Republican in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom that Republicans can neither win in the 32nd District, nor be an American Indian.
Meyers, who grew up on the reservation and is a member of the Chippewa-Cree Tribe, ran against Democratic state Rep. Clarena Brockie of Harlem and beat her by 172 votes. Brockie is a member of the Fort Belknap Indian Community.
Brockie, who only ended up getting one term, beat long-time incumbent, Democrat Tony Belcourt who ended up being accused of embezzlement last year. Belcourt us also a native American.
Now, after years of typical, big government liberals in the 32nd seat, the voters gave a small government Republican the nod.
But 66-year-old Meyers almost got hounded out of the running when a Democrat blogger revealed that he had been convicted of abusing his own son when police charged him in an incident when he tried to forcibly discipline the boy in 2005. Meyers served his sentence and said he has re-established his relationship with his five children.
He quickly found that few voters cared much about his legal trouble. Meyers spent his time campaigning hard throughout the district and was seen by voters when his opponent was not. The personal touch seems to have made the difference.
“I think people were saying, basically, that they wanted change, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” he told the Billings Gazette.
“After talking with a number of tribal leaders and elders statewide, I asked them if they were better off with 40 years of Democratic rule and social-welfare policies, and they said, honestly, no.”
The newly minted politician also said that he hopes to help his constituents learn to become less reliant on government.
“Some reservations, they don’t even have a barber shop, or basic services,” Meyers said. “I’m not saying get rid of (these programs) overnight. I’m saying we need to wean ourselves off them, and use those programs to help us move toward self-sufficiency.”
When Meyers takes his seat in the next session he will be the only Republican American Indian in the legislature.