Supporters of a Capitol statue of former Gov. Judy Martz officially kicked off their fundraising drive Wednesday, aiming to raise $165,000 in private donations to finance the project.
“It has to be totally privately funded and then we work with the Capitol Complex (Advisory Council) and the (Montana) Arts Council and whoever else is involved in this process to get this thing over the finish line,” said Dave Galt, an organizer of the fundraising drive.
Martz, who died in 2017, is Montana’s first female lieutenant governor and governor. The Butte Republican was appointed as lieutenant governor in 1995, by Gov. Marc Racicot, and was his running mate when he won re-election in 1996.
Martz won the governor’s race in 2000 and served only one term, choosing in 2004 not to run for re-election.
The 2019 Legislature passed a bill authorizing the statue of Martz somewhere on the Capitol grounds. Any statue or display in the building or Capitol grounds, that names someone, must be specified in state law and approved by the Capitol Complex Advisory Council.
Galt, who was state transportation director under Martz, said supporters of the project would like a full-sized statue of Martz and hope to place it inside the Capitol – preferably on the second floor, which is where the office of the governor resides.
“She wasn’t in the Senate or the Legislature, so we’re hoping somewhere on the second floor, on the governor’s side,” he said. “That’s going to be up to the Arts Council and the Capitol Complex (Council).”
The informal fundraising group plans to raise the money within four years, through letters, personal requests, social media and its website, www.govmartzstatue.org, which went up on Wednesday.
Galt said supporters thought it appropriate to have a statue of Martz because she is Montana’s first female governor.
“The governor that has a statue up there now (Joseph Toole) is our first governor, and we’ve got a statue of our first female congresswoman (Jeannette Rankin),” he said.
Martz had a sometimes difficult term as governor, as it began in the throes of spiking electricity prices for the state and region and the state and nation plunged into recession after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that same year. Her chief of staff also was involved in a car accident that summer that killed the House majority leader.
“There were a lot of hard days,” Galt said. “But at the end of the day, we were in financial trouble at that time, and Gov. Martz got us out of that without raising taxes, which was her promise.”
With her final budget, Martz did agree to increasing state tobacco taxes, but resisted any major tax increase and signed into law a state income-tax cut that took effect after she left office.