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Search “New Jersey” on the Montana Democrats’ website and you’ll find the attempts to label gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte as an outsider.

Gianforte was born in San Diego, spent some of his childhood in Florida, but he was raised in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Like his father, he attended college at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey and started his first business in that state. He moved to Bozeman in 1995.

If elected, the Republican businessman would not be the Big Sky’s first governor born outside the state’s boundary. Of our 23 governors, 13 were born outside the state, three of them in foreign countries.

Montanans elected Gov. Stan Stephens in 1992, who, like presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, is a Republican born in Canada.

The four governors since Stephens — Marc Racicot, Judy Martz, Brian Schweitzer and incumbent Steve Bullock — were all born in Montana, suggesting a burgeoning trend, but by no means a rule.

Montana State University political science professor David Parker explains that the Democrats are using the “one of us” tactic against Gianforte.

“The notion of ‘one of us’ is basically an effort by members of Congress to display their connectivity to a place and a group, and through that connection, demonstrate trustworthiness,” Parker wrote.

And conversely, if Democrats hammer the New Jersey drum, Montana voters might be distrustful of the candidate.

“If you look collectively at what they’re saying, it’s that Greg Gianforte doesn’t reflect Montana values — he’s rich, he’s from outside the state, and he has ‘radical views,’” Parker told the Chronicle this week, calling it “dog-whistle” politics.

“The idea is that you’re using coded language,” Parker said. “This is coded language meant to say ‘he’s an outsider.’”

Below is a list of Montana governors and their birthplace:

  • Joseph Toole — Savannah, Missouri
  • John Rickards — Delaware City, Delaware
  • Robert Burns Smith — Hickman County, Kentucky
  • Edwin Norris — Cumberland County, Kentucky
  • Sam Stewart — Woodsfield, Ohio
  • Joseph Dixon — Snow Camp, North Carolina
  • John Erickson — Stoughton, Wisconsin
  • Frank Henry Cooney — Norwood, Ontario
  • Elmer Holt — Savannah, Missouri
  • Roy Ayers — Lewistown
  • Sam Ford — Albany, Kentucky
  • John Bonner — Butte
  • J. Hugo Aronson — Gallstad, Sweden
  • Donald Nutter — Lambert
  • Tim Babcock — Littlefork, Minnesota
  • Forrest Anderson — Helena
  • Thomas Judge — Helena
  • Ted Schwinden — Wolf Point
  • Stan Stephens — Calgary, Alberta
  • Marc Racicot — Thompson Falls
  • Judy Martz — Big Timber
  • Brian Schweitzer — Havre
  • Steve Bullock — Missoula

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Troy Carter can be reached at 582-2630 or He’s on Twitter at @cartertroy.


Troy Carter covers politics and county government for the Chronicle.

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