Bart — Arthur “Art” NoonanFormer executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, former lawmaker, 2022 legislative candidate, and influential old-school member of Irish-American Bart politicians, Died of heart attack this week, said his nephew, former lawmaker Pat Noonan. He is 70 years old.
Noonan served as a policy aide to Pat Williams, the last Democrat to represent Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives, in the 1980s and 1990s, and came to the state legislature in 2005 as the representative for the House’s 73rd District. In 2007, as a minority he engaged in a heated debate with Republicans as he worked to help Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer set the agenda through a nearly evenly divided lower chamber. That same year, he was named the party’s executive director, a position he held until 2009, his last legislative session.
“Art Noonan has lived a life of public service, serving the people of Butte and his hometown for 40 years,” Sheila Hogan, current MDP executive director, herself a Butte, said in a statement said in. “He has weathered storms and upheaval, never wavering in his determination to fight for the dignity of Montana workers and families.”
Noonan was still politically active at the time of his death.He chaired a policy committee at a recent meeting Contracting States Platform Conventionand is running to represent the House’s 73rd District, a seat currently held by the retiring Jim Keane, another titan of Barth’s democratic politics.
“His extensive knowledge of Montana politics and his love for Butte is fantastic,” Keane told the Montana Free Press on Thursday. “He’s really looking forward to going back to the House and it’s so sad he can’t go back.”
Committee Chair Faith Scow told MTFP that the Butte-Silver Bow County Democratic Central Committee will meet on Sunday to select Noonan’s replacement. The Republican candidate is Jason Freeman.
The Montana secretary of state’s office was informed of Noonan’s death on Wednesday. Spokesman Richie Melby said under regulations, replacement candidates must submit applications to the office by 5pm on Monday, September 26.
“Art’s passing is very tragic and leaves a huge hole in the Butte community,” Scow said in an email. “Art was very passionate and loved getting young people excited about government. He was an otherworldly figure and we will miss him dearly.”
“The art is very clear, that’s one of the main things,” Keane said. “You better have a little time when you’re talking to Art.”
In 2007, Noonan wrestled with an unruly Democratic caucus against Republican efforts to split Schweitzer’s combined budget into eight separate bills.The fight was so hard Contemporary Profile, that year Noonan skipped St. Patrick’s Day in Butte. Ultimately, the Legislature failed to pass a budget and had to call a special session to fund the state’s spending.
“Bart legislators, usually, get their way,” Pat Williams said in the profile. “Until Art, they did it through quiet tactics, what some call backroom deals. Art is more open and transparent. He has matured the Butte tradition.”
The Noonans settled in Butte in the 1880s, according to a forthcoming obituary shared by family members. Art, one of six children, was born in Mining City in 1951. He gained statewide recognition as the first 19-year-old to register to vote in Silver Bow County after a 1970 Constitutional Amendment lowered the voting age, the obituary said.
After serving on the federal delegation and legislature, Noonan served as Montana’s Deputy Director of Fish, Wildlife and Parks until 2011, and then advised Northwest Energy Corporation on government affairs until 2018.
With Noonan’s death and Keane’s retirement, the number of old-school Butte Democrats active in political service is dwindling.
Keane and Noonan were taught by their predecessors to stand together as a delegation and to constantly fight for the good of their community above all else, Keane said. Now, the younger generation is looking to older guards — including Keane, Noonan, Bob Pavlovich, Jon Seto and the late JD Lynch — for the same lesson.
“Both [Democratic state Sen. Ryan] Lynch and I really spend time with these people and understand at least a fraction of the knowledge they have,” said Rep. Derek Harvey, a Butte Democrat who The legislature’s second term is over. “They’re idols. “
Story by montana free press