White separatist candidate soundly trounced in school board election

Bozeman Daily Chronicle/May 4, 2005
By Gail Schontzler

Bozeman voters turned out in large numbers in Tuesday's school election to deliver a resounding no to white separatist candidate Kevin McGuire.

Voters in the Bozeman elementary district re-elected incumbent Sara Garcia, who received 4,039 votes, and elected first-time candidate Gary Lusin, with 4,031 votes. McGuire, 23, a recruiter for the National Alliance, received 157 votes, or 3.6 percent of the total. The National Alliance's vision of creating a whites-only society, cleansed of other races and of Jews, became the election's central issue.

McGuire issued a statement Tuesday saying that even if he lost, he planned to stay in Bozeman.

"Next year we plan to run National Alliance candidates for offices across the entire state of Montana," he wrote.

Garcia, 45, a stay-at-home mom who has served six years on the school board, and Lusin, 56, a physical therapist who has worked on plans for renovating Bozeman High, both support racial integration.

Martha Collins, 51, an environmental activist and co-founder of the Montana Outdoor Science School, was automatically elected as the only candidate seeking to represent rural voters on high school issues.

"Clearly Sara and Gary are the finest choices," Collins said. "The community has spoken clearly (about McGuire). ... The community was incredibly offended by this guy."

Turnout was the highest in 21 years, said Steve Johnson, assistant superintendent and district clerk in charge of elections. At noon when the polls opened at the Willson School gym, there were already a couple hundred people lined up, eager to vote.

"That's unheard of," Johnson said. "It was kind of neat."

By 2 p.m., people were lined up 23 deep at the table for last names starting with F through H. "Nobody complained about waiting -- a couple threatened to change their last name," one election worker joked.

Turnout was 4,260 voters, which was twice last year's and 17 percent of the total registered voters in the Bozeman elementary district.

Leaving the polls, Jessica Reed, 21, an office assistant, said she voted because she didn't want "anything having to do with white supremacists" in the schools.

"I wanted to see Mr. McGuire get trounced as badly as possible," said Tom Davey, a Galavan driver. "I didn't worry he would win, but I thought the larger the numbers, the better the message."

"I really do think this is a great referendum," said Don Bachman, an avalanche technician. "We don't often get to vote for those feelings and ideals."

McGuire did not return phone calls, but sent an e-mail Tuesday afternoon answering a reporter's questions.

"If I lose, I will stay in Bozeman," McGuire said. "This election is just one small step for us. The National Alliance in Bozeman is still in its infancy and we plan to expand."

McGuire said his experience campaigning would benefit other National Alliance members when they run for office.

During the afternoon, some of McGuire's opponents stood on Main Street, across from Willson School, holding handmade signs urging people to vote for Garcia and Lusin.

"I've only gotten good responses -- people driving by, blowing their horns, thumbs up, thanking us," said Jack Kligerman, 66, a retired New York City English professor.

"It's so heart-warming," his wife, Barbara, 64, said of the community's response.

She said an informal group had pitched in to buy full-page newspaper ads condeming the National Alliance, and volunteers had gone door-to-door handing out fliers calling it a "dangerous white supremacist group." In Germany, she added, Hitler started with only 12 supporters.

In letters to the editor published before the election, both liberals, like former Democratic legislative candidate Mike Phillips, and conservatives, like former Republican state senator Cindy Younkin, urged voters to vote for Garcia and Lusin.

At the same time Bozeman voters said no to McGuire, they said yes to raising taxes to support the schools.

The property tax levy for the Bozeman elementary district passed by a vote of 3,367 to 811, or 81 percent yes.

In the Bozeman High School district, which extends from Big Sky to the Park County line, the tax levy passed by 3,838 to 1,129, or by 77 percent.

The levies will raise the taxes on a $200,000 home by an estimated $5.86 in the elementary district and $11.12 in the high school district.

In the rural elementary districts that voted on the high school levy, it passed in several districts: Cottonwood (by a 17-4 vote), LaMotte (45-30), Malmborg (12-9), Monforton (73-38), Ophir (80-71) and Anderson (exact numbers not available). It failed in the Gallatin Gateway district (102-131) and Sedan (1-3).

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