In late October, former Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton posted a series of cryptic videos with naval iconography hinting at a forthcoming announcement.
Given the timing, there was brief speculation among online media and political types that Stapleton, who formerly served as a Republican state senator from Billings, would be launching a bid for one of Montana’s two new congressional seats. Stapleton quieted that chatter when, on Oct. 29, he announced that he would have a country music single dropping called “Western Son” under the band name Corey Stapleton and the Pretty Pirates.
However, there was something to the idea that Stapleton had a continued sense of political ambition — it’s just that the office he’s shooting for is higher than the U.S. House. In fact, he announced Thursday, Stapleton is exploring the idea of running for president in 2024.
The former gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Navy officer said this week that, hot on the heels of the release of an album, “Sea Change,” he’s forming a “Testing the Waters” committee to “determine feasibility for becoming a presidential candidate in 2024.”
And Stapleton, 54, insists it’s not just a ploy to sell records — more the other way around.
“I’ve been about a dozen years in the (Legislature), a dozen years in the military. I’m as serious as they come,” he said.
Stapleton said he’ll be traveling with his band to increase recognition and raise money.
“I would like to be a traditional candidate to the extent possible, but I haven’t learned that right yet. We’ll see, I’m hopeful,” he said.
He said he hopes to bring change to a dysfunctional Washington, D.C., and bridge political divides he feels have been aggravated by social media.
“Our neighborhoods are no longer geographic, they’re digital, they’re massive, they’re mean. I think that there’s a demeanor issue that needs to be solved first,” he said. “I think we can be strong and still have manners. I think we can do the right thing and still win an election.”
Stapleton served in the state Senate from 2001 to 2009, then ran for governor in 2012, followed by the U.S. House in 2014. He was elected as Montana Secretary of State in 2016, and ran again for Congress in 2020.
After Democrat Joe Biden won the election for president in November 2020 but losing incumbent Republican Donald Trump falsely claimed the results were rigged, Stapleton urged support for the election outcomes in a Tweet: “I have supported you, Mr. President, we (Montana) have supported you — and @realdonaldtrump accomplished some incredible things during your time in office! But that time is now over. Tip your hat, bite your lip, and congratulate @joebiden. Blessings on you and your family. [Heart]”
Stapleton also was Secretary of State during litigation over Green Party candidates in the 2020 primaries. After the revelation that the Montana GOP had bankrolled the collection of signatures to qualify Green Party candidates for the ballot — eliciting accusations from the Democrats of election fraud and that they were seeking to dilute the party’s support in the primaries — hundreds of people requested to withdraw their signatures.
Stapleton rejected many of the requests, saying they were not filed by a deadline. Litigation followed, and the Montana Supreme Court would eventually affirm a lower court ruling accepting the withdrawal request, meaning most of the Green Party candidates lacked enough signatures to make it onto the ballot. Stapleton filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Supreme Court to restore the signatures, but the court denied his request.