Rep. Neill (in screen) answers questions posed remotely by Congressman Cohen.
Fundraising events for local or statewide candidates are a common phenomenon in these parts during election season. Relatively uncommon are fundraisers held in Memphis or Shelby County for candidates running beyond the county’s, or even the state’s boundaries.
But this week saw one such event amid preparations for another. The event that took place was on Thursday evening at the Grove Grill in East Memphis on behalf of state Representative Reilly Neill of Montana.
The event that is being set up, for U.S. Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, was originally scheduled for this weekend in Collierville but has been postponed to a time and place as yet undesignated in order to accommodate an ad hoc campaign swing for Pryor in Arkansas involving former President Bill Clinton. More on the local event as we have news of it.
Neill, a Democrat who represents Livingston Montana (District 60), is a former Memphian, a graduate of Central High School, and a former employee of Contemporary Media, Inc., publishers of the Flyer and several other publications. She is the daughter of CMI publisher Kenneth Neill, who served as host for the local fundraising event.
Introducing his daughter, who would shortly appear on a wall screen remotely via Skype, to the 25 to 30 guests in attendance, the senior Neill noted that she was, like himself, a publisher, having founded and operated the Livingston Current. As he explained further, she had won an upset victory over a Republican incumbent two years ago and now faced a stoutly financed challenge to her reelection from another Republican, Debra Lamm.
Montana State Rep. Reilly Neill
Reilly Neill then engaged in distinctly audible electronic conversation with 9th District U.S. Representative Steve Cohen, who posed several questions to her image on the wall.
Cohen asked: What were the major issues in her race? Foremost among them, said Rep. Neill, was the question of charter schools, so far illegal in Montana and opposed by Neill but strongly advocated by opponent Lamm in what, both Neill and interlocutor Cohen implied, was a conflict-of-interest situation. Lamm, a lobbyist for the Montana Family Foundation, is also founder of Montanans for School Choice, a charter-school organization.
Opponent Lamm, said Rep. Neill, is also a principal in the development of a “Creationist Museum,” among whose tents, said Neill, is a belief that human beings and dinosaurs occupied the same time span here on earth.
Other issues mentioned by Rep. Neill included the protection of Montana’s waterways, seeing to a clean-up of a local Superfund site, and holding corporations accountable for pollution they cause. Moreover, said Neill, her opponent was bending election law: “She doesn’t live in the district, while I live six blocks from downtown.in Livingston.”
Proceeds from Wednesday’s fundraiser will help buttress Rep. Neill’s advertising campaign in her stretch drive for reelection. She has the support of several well-known members of Livingston’s disproportionately large artistic community, including actress Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the movie Superman and who recently held a fundraiser for Neill.