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Big Sky Voter Guide: 2022 General Election

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EBS STAFF

The Nov. 8 general election is fast approaching, and local voters have several decisions to make on this year’s ballot. From federal Congressional candidates to a local school bond, EBS compiled a voter guide for both Madison and Gallatin county voters in the community including high-level information for candidates in contested races. Absentee ballots for the primary election have already been mailed out and must be in the possession of the county by 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, election day. 

U.S. House District 1

Monica Tranel (Democrat)

Monica Tranel, 56, grew up in Miles City, Ashland, Broadview and Billings. She currently resides in Missoula. Tranel graduated from Gonzaga University and received her law degree from Rutgers University.

Tranel is a two-time Olympic rower, having competed in both the 1996 and 2000 summer games. She moved back to Montana and began working for the Public Service Commission as a staff attorney in 2001. Tranel has spent recent years working in private practice.

Tranel made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Public Service Commission in 2020. Her campaign issues include increasing regulations and taxes for corporations, supporting affordable housing and higher wages, and climate change resiliency.

This biography was compiled with information from Tranel’s campaign website and an interview with the candidate.

Ryan Zinke (Republican)

Ryan Zinke, 60, served as Montana’s sole U.S. congressman from 2014 until 2017, when he relinquished that seat to become the Secretary of the Department of the Interior under former President Donald Trump. Zinke resigned from that position in 2018 after investigations into possible ethics violations, which Zinke dismissed as “false allegations.” In February, the department’s Office of Inspector General found that Zinke had misused his office but had not engaged in criminal conduct.

Since leaving his federal position, Zinke has worked as a contractor for private companies, including ConocoPhillips, Cyber Range Solutions and JVL Enterprises of Dallas.

Before his election to Congress, Zinke was a state lawmaker in Montana. Zinke served as a U.S. Navy SEAL for over 20 years, retiring in 2008.

This biography was compiled with information from the secretary of state’s records, national news articles and reporting by KTVH on Zinke’s 2022 financial disclosure.

Montana Supreme Court Seat 1 (nonpartisan)

Jim Rice

Jim Rice, 64, is the court’s longest-serving current member, having served as a justice since 2001. He was appointed to his seat in 2001 by

Republican Gov. Judy Martz, and won reelection in 2002, 2006 and 2014.

Before becoming a justice, Rice was an attorney in private practice and a three-time Republican legislator representing East Helena. He graduated from the University of Montana School of Law and was admitted to the State Bar of Montana in 1982.

This biography is based on campaign materials and interviews with Rice.

Bill D’Alton

Bill D’Alton, 59, is a Billings-based attorney who has practiced law in Montana for more than 20 years. He represents both plaintiffs and defendants at D’Alton Law Firm P.C. According to his professional website, D’Alton has tried jury cases in several types of Montana courts. He has also appealed cases before the Montana Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

D’Alton has said that, if elected, he plans to serve only one eight-year term, which he says will help him maintain independence as a jurist.

D’Alton earned his law degree from the University of Montana and was admitted to the State Bar of Montana in 1995.

This biography is based on campaign materials and interviews with D’Alton.

Montana Supreme Court Seat 2 (nonpartisan)

Ingrid Gustafson

Gustafson, 60, has served on the Montana Supreme Court since 2017, when she was appointed by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. She won re-election in 2018.

Prior to joining the state’s high court, Gustafson served as a district court judge in Yellowstone County for 14 years, a position to which she was appointed by Republican Gov. Judy Martz in 2004. While on the bench in Yellowstone County, Gustafson started a felony drug treatment court and a pilot court to expedite and improve outcomes in child neglect cases.

Gustafson received her law degree from the University of Montana and was admitted to the State Bar of Montana in 1988.

This biography is based on campaign materials and interviews with Gustafson.

James Brown

James Brown, 51, from Dillon, has operated his private practice law firm in Helena since 2012. He is also the current chairman of the Public Service Commission, which he campaigned
for in 2020.

Brown served as legal counsel for the Montana Republican Party from 2009 to 2015 and has continued to represent the GOP in recent cases. In that time period he also represented American Tradition Partnership, a conservative political organization.

Brown earned his J.D. from Seattle University in 2004. He was admitted to the State Bar of Montana in 2007.

This biography is based on campaign materials and interviews with Brown.

State Representative District 64

Alanah Griffith (Democrat)

Alanah Griffith was born and raised in Four Corners outside of Bozeman. She currently practices contract and real estate law with Griffith and Cummings, PC in Big Sky. She lives in Big Sky with her husband and son. Griffith told EBS that, if elected, she will focus on the issues facing all Montanans, like affordable housing, access to justice, healthcare and expanding access to our public lands. 

Jane Gillette (Republican)

Incumbent Jane Gillette served 14 years in the U.S. Air Force and serves as secretary treasurer of the Montana Bar Association. Gillette told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that she has been working on bills related to property tax stabilization, infrastructure, inflation, child care and wages.

Gallatin County Attorney

Audrey Cromwell (Democrat)

Audrey Cromwell works in Bozeman in the law firm she founded in 2011, Cromwell Law. She told EBS that she’s running for county attorney “because our county’s criminal justice and mental health systems need smart reform.” Cromwell has served as a Judge Pro Tempore since 2014—which means she has filled in as a judge at Justice Court when needed— as well as working as a public defender, legal aid attorney, prosecutor and private defense attorney.

Marty Lambert

Marty Lambert has been the Gallatin County attorney since he was appointed to the position in 1997 and is running for a seventh term. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that Lambert believes the community partnerships he’s formed during his tenure are reason for voters to re-elect him. Lambert also told the Chronicle that mental health would be a major priority if elected again.

Madison County Commissioner District 3 (nonpartisan)

Brian Conklin

Brian holds an MBA in economic development and recently retired as a U.S. diplomat after serving the U.S. on the front lines for more than 20 years. His wife, Dawn, leads the Madison Valley Medical Center Foundation. He has three kids. 

Why are you running?

I have spent my career in service to my country and community. Madison County is at critical cross-road. As the population booms there is pressure on infrastructure, housing, school and healthcare and our unique, small-town way of life. Businesses are struggling to find and house employees and we [are] having challenges recruiting and keeping county staff. Also critical is maintaining access to our public lands and streams. It’s time for serious and qualified leadership to bring people together to tackle these challenges. I am the only candidate with the experience in managing public services and working with key stakeholders to find creative solutions to address these issues.

Why should voters elect you? 

I’m committed to bringing transparent leadership to the county—leadership that supports our dedicated county employees, encourages open and respectful conversations with all constituents and ensures your voice will be heard.  I am a hands-on manager and will be working full-time, listening to your concerns, building relationships and working with you to find solutions. More than any other candidate, I bring the experience, leadership and strategic planning skills to professionalize and equip our county to tackle the challenges ahead.

Bill Todd

Bill Todd is the chief technology officer and co-founder of an application that enables political committees to file electronic reports with the Federal Electronic Commission. He lives in Ennis. 

Why are you running?

I was asked by a friend and local business leader to run for county commissioner and have answered the call of public service. I believe that the time is right for Madison County to transition its leadership to a professional model instead of a part-time pursuit. Along those lines, I already attend all regular commission meetings and upon assuming office, commissioner will be my full-time occupation to avoid conflicts of interest. The next five years are crucial to the long-term health of the county and I know that I’m the right man for the job.

Why should voters elect you to advance to the general election? 

I am a husband, an outdoorsman, a conservative and a college athlete. In 2012, I co-founded an accounting software company and serve as chief technology officer and secretary of our board of directors. I have extensive experience in managing contracts, engaging in difficult negotiations and overseeing civil litigation. I believe in low taxes and small effective government. My technical background is unmatched by any other candidate and I intend to use those skills in modernizing county operations. I represent four generations of family within Madison County and my dedication to success in this position is total, unwavering, and guaranteed. 

Madison County Justice of the Peace

Jordan Allhands

Jordan Allhands has lived in Madison County for 20 years. She and her husband and their two kids reside in the Ruby Valley, where her husband also owns a business. 

Why are you running?

My respect for the justice system has given me the ambition to sit as justice of the peace. I want to be able to give the residents of Madison County an impartial Justice Court while following Montana Code Annotated, which is of the utmost importance. I am dedicated, strong, impartial and intelligent and wish to use those qualities in a position I am passionate about. After my employment in this office, I know the importance of the laws of our great state and hope to do a part in upholding them. Serving Madison County in this capacity would be a great honor. 

Why should voters elect you to advance to the general election?

I was employed by Madison County serving seven years in the Justice Court. I was the substitute judge and conducted bail hearings (misdemeanor and felony), sentencing, omnibus hearings and pre-trial conferences. I have extensive knowledge of the duties in the Justice Court office, including finances/budget, filings, Full Court software and scheduling. Additionally, I have knowledge of criminal and civil law within Justice Court jurisdiction, pertinent to the position. I hold the duties of the court to high standards and will be dedicated to my job. I am confident in my experience and aptitude to sit as Madison County’s next justice of the peace and would be proud to serve its residents.

Marc Glines

Marc Glines and has lived in Madison County since 1989. He has served on several boards, and his wife, Brenda, has been a schoolteacher in Ennis for
30 years. 

Why are you running? 

Madison County needs a fair, compassionate and dedicated justice of the peace. I am that person.

Why should voters elect you to advance to the general election?

My wife and I moved to Madison County in 1989 and raised two children here. I have been actively involved in the community from starting an outdoor program involving K-6 children that saw students from Sheridan, Harrison, Ennis and Cardwell called Discovery Days to being a CPR-first aid instructor for 30 years. I was a Montana state game warden for 20 years, director of security for Moonlight Basin for four years. I went to undergraduate and graduate school at Michigan State University, a member of Trinity Episcopal Church and Justice of the Peace for Madison County since March.

Ballot Issues

Marijuana Excise Taxes

Voters in both Gallatin and Madison counties will be asked on Nov. 8 to decide on two local-option marijuana taxes as part of this year’s general election ballot including a 3% local-option sales tax on all non-medical (recreational) marijuana products sold in the county; and a 3% local-option sales tax on all medical marijuana products sold in county.

In November 2020, Montana voters passed Initiative Measure 190, which allowed for the operation of various categories of marijuana businesses and taxation of marijuana retail sales in Montana counties in which a majority of voters approved the initiative. The initiative passed in Gallatin County with 65.6% of the vote.

State law does not allow county governments to impose similar taxes on any other product. The state already imposes at 20% tax on recreational marijuana and a 4% tax on medical marijuana.

If voters in an eligible county pass a local-option marijuana tax, 50% of the tax must be retained by the county, 45% apportioned to the cities and towns in the county based on population, and the remaining 5% given to the Montana Department of Revenue to defray state costs associated with the tax.

State law allows counties or cities and towns that receive local-option sales tax revenue for any activity, undertaking or administrative service authorized by law, including costs resulting from the imposition of the tax.

If passed, the local-option taxes would go into effect on Oct. 1, 2022. Gallatin County Commissioners say that, if passed, they will use the county’s portion of the local taxes to fund mental health services.

Legislative Referendum No. 131

Voters statewide will be asked to decide on LR 131, the “born alive” ballot initiative. The referendum was approved by the Montana Legislature in 2021 and would declare that an embryo or fetus is a legal person with a right to medical care if it survives an abortion or delivery.

The measure would impose criminal penalties of up to 20 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine on any health care workers who doesn’t try to save a “born-alive infant,” defined as a legal person who breathes, has a heartbeat, or has voluntary muscle movement after an abortion or delivery. The initiative also includes a mandatory reporting requirement, which means any employee or volunteer at aa medical facility aware of a violation must report it to authorities.

Gallatin County Rest Home Mill Levy

Gallatin County voters have the option to decide whether to authorize county commissioners to levy up to nine mills—about $3.9 million—to fund the Gallatin County Rest Home. If passed, the levy would increase the annual property taxes on a home with a market value of $500,000 by about $60.75.

The Gallatin Rest Home is the only skilled nursing home in the county with Medicaid beds, following the September closure of Bridger Rehab & Care. County Commissioner Zach Brown told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that the facility has operated in the red for several years and the county has covered the facility’s losses through its general fund.

Ennis School Bond

The Ennis School District Board of Trustees will ask voters on Nov. 8 to approve a $45 million school bond intended to improve and expand current school facilities. The effort follows a failed Feb. 8 mail-in election for a proposed $59 million bond. Trustee Paul Bills said during an informational September meeting at Big Sky Resort that the bond would raise the annual property taxes on a home with a market value of $100,000 by $25.44.

The Ennis school board chairman has said that the 50-yer-old high school building is not up to code, not ADA accessible and is no longer big enough to accommodate all the students and classes in Ennis schools. The district’s total enrollment has grown by 29% since 2011, from 330 students to 425.

Madison County Golf District

Madison County voters will have the option to vote on whether to create a golf district with an initial levy of 11 mills, which would raise about $200,000. The district would pay for improvements to the irrigation system and replacing turf equipment at the Madison County Golf Course. Property owners within the district, if approved, would pay about $14.67 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

West Yellowstone ordinance to ban marijuana businesses

The West Yellowstone Town Council will ask local voters to decide whether the town will ban marijuana businesses within the town boundaries. As proposed, a ban would prohibit people from establishing businesses cultivating, manufacturing, testing and transporting marijuana, as well as banning any recreational or medicinal dispensaries from the town.

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