Dan Cox won more than margin in high-profile 3-way Montana U.S. Senate race

Part of a series highlighting significant stories from the 2012 election

Dan Cox,
2012 candidate for
U.S. Senate in Montana

With the balance of power in the Senate at stake, the 2012 Republican and Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in Montana spent an average of $41.61 per vote — one of the highest of any federal race in the country.

Libertarian Dan Cox found himself in the crossfire of the hotly contested campaign, where his Democratic and Republican opponents spent $18.8 million combined, according to OpenSecrets.org, in a state where just 486,066 votes were cast for U.S. Senate.

Republicans implored Dan Cox to withdraw from the race for fear his influence would cost their candidate, Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg, to lose to incumbent Democrat John Tester. In the end, Cox won 31,892 votes, or 6.6 percent, almost twice the 3.7 percent margin by which Democrat Tester prevailed over Rehberg, 236,123 (48.6 percent) votes to 218,051 (44.9 percent).

Cox seized the moment when he appeared in two debates and was covered by national media, including Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner, Politico, the Associated Press, Talking Points Memo, CQ Roll Call, the Wall Street Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor. He offered a bold, Libertarian agenda while exposing the Big Government track records of both of his opponents.

“I think people are starting to wake up to the fact that there’s really not that much difference at all between the Republicans and the Democrats,” Cox said.

On his Republican opponent, he said “he voted for every police-state big-brother bill he could get his hands on,” and added that Rehberg “voted to raise the debt ceiling 10 times.”

He had little confidence that the GOP was going to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, when the Republicans began talking about “repeal and replace.”

High on Dan Cox’s once-in-office priority list was ending the Federal Reserve Banking System and repealing the National Defense Authorization Act. He let voters know that the Federal Reserve lent $16 trillion to foreign corporations and banks during and after the financial crisis of 2008.

He also showed voters how the Federal Reserve’s printing of money hurts everybody, pointing out that inflation is a hidden tax.

Dan Cox also ran on ending the Transportation Security Administration, protecting private property rights, and legalizing marijuana. He charged the federal government with overstepping its boundaries by cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries, where they are legal in Montana, and sought to protect residents against Washington overreach.

“I think he’s one of the best candidates we’ve had in Montana,” said Dave Merrick, Ravalli County Libertarian Party chairman. “He’s well-grounded in libertarianism. He’s a good speaker.”

“He’s gotten more [votes] for our national race in Montana, more percentage of the votes, than anyone in a national race who has ever run here,” he continued.

Behind the scenes helping the campaign were Montana activists like Merrick, who put out ads for Cox and circulated his campaign literature. He also made calls to get Cox into the debates, and succeeded in getting him included in two, which, Merrick says, he won. In 2008, Cox successfully opposed the Ravalli County Growth Policy, a local zoning scheme that has been repealed, thanks to Cox’s signature-gathering efforts. He says that “there’s no countywide zoning.”

Cox also took interest in illuminating the federal government’s policy of importing foreign wildlife and releasing it on federal land, destroying native wildlife. He says the federal government “dumped a bunch of wolves” it had imported from Canada onto federal land, which interfered with elk hunting and “ravaged herds.”

Looking to the future, Cox says, “It’s possible I would run again. Of course, it really depends who the candidates are.”