By EBS Staff
Last year, global politics and policy news organization Politico named Montana among the top 10 governor races based on whether respective incumbents will be able to hold their ground.
In the Treasure State, the political color for presidential elections remains a crimson red, but pockets of blue dot this broad landscape and since 2005 Democrats have occupied the governor’s mansion in Helena. This year’s gubernatorial race is lining up to be a battle royale as Democrats hope to maintain control, while a political up-and-comer aims to shift the election back to the GOP.
Incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock is back on the Montana ballet this fall running for reelection. The Missoula native defeated Republican Rick Hill in 2012 after Gov. Brian Schweitzer reached the term limit. Bullock is a graduate of Columbia Law School and taught as an adjunct professor at George Washington University Law School before serving as Montana’s Attorney General from 2009 – 2013. He garnered national attention after he challenged the Citizen’s United decision, basing his argument on the state’s 100-year ban on corporate spending in elections.
Greg Gianforte stepped into the political spotlight in January after announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination. He and his wife in 1997 founded the software company RightNow Technologies in Bozeman, which was sold to Oracle in 2011. Gianforte holds an engineering degree and a master’s in computer science from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. Running on a conservative platform, Gianforte touts his business background as a conduit for raising wages in Montana.
Here’s a look at some of the issues, and where the candidates stand through quotes from Montana’s second gubernatorial debate held in Billings on Sept. 19.
Gianforte: “I am running for one reason: to create more high-wage jobs in Montana so our kids don’t have to leave [to find work]. We need a strong economy so we have a tax base. We need a strong private sector. Today we’re 49th in the country in wages and our kids are leaving, in large part because we have a failed administration in Helena.”
Bullock: “Don’t take my word. JP Morgan says we’re the most fiscally prudent state in the country. At the end of the day you don’t build the [economy] up by giving tax breaks to out of state corporations and millionaires.”
Bullock: “[For the] fifth year in a row [we’ve had] the most business start-ups, and 350 biotech companies across the state. We’re also investing in public education. We continue to do work with our two- and four-year colleges to make sure that the pipeline of talent and trained workers are available for any employer that wants to come here and build opportunities.”
Gianforte: “The Department of Commerce recently awarded a contract in a rigged process to an outsourced firm in Wisconsin causing jobs to leave the state. Jobs are created in the private sector. Montana does not have enough high-wage jobs. My sole purpose for running is to create jobs.”
Gianforte: “Coal is long-term, low-cost power. The American dream is alive and well. Don’t let anyone tell you anything is impossible. You can prosper in Montana.”
Bullock: “[In the] long-term, coal and other fossil fuels will be a part of our energy future. We have incredible opportunities in Montana, and we [also] need to explore all energy potential: wind, solar and others.”
Bullock: “It’s ultimately not the governor that gets to make the call of who comes through the borders. In states like New Jersey that have shut down relocation centers, refugees are still coming in but the governor and the state have no idea where those folks are. I’m not sure my opponent understands the role of government. You have to take responsibility.”
Gianforte: “We have to recognize our No. 1 priority is to protect the state. I would [stop refugee resettlement in the U.S.] until we know they can be properly vetted. We have an obligation to help but it does not include settling them here in Montana.”
Help Act (Health care)
Gianforte: “As I’ve traveled the state … health care is one of the top four issues that come up. Every time we add a new regulation or new tax … this is another brick in the backpack of every small business owner. My focus is going to be maintaining quality, rural access and bringing costs down. I think technology is part of the solution as well, to bring these costs down.”
Bullock: “The Help Act … is a real made-in-Montana solution. The only group that was regularly working against that act … was one of the groups my opponent funds: Americans for Prosperity. Fifty thousand Montanans now have health care across the state as a result of the Help Act.”