This is part of a series of interviews with candidates for the US House of Representatives seat from Montana.
By Taylor Anderson, Explorebigsky.com Assistant Editor
Rob Stutz, a Democrat, was the chief legal counsel for the 2011 Montana Legislature. He was the first Montanan to file to be on the ballot for Rep. Denny Rehberg’s open at-large seat in the U.S. House.
Stutz’s views range from reforming current tax loopholes, engaging students in the civic process and cleaning up politics-as-usual practices in government. He campaigns on a strong constitutional value, and has emphasized a positive campaign message. He refuses to accept campaign contributions from political action committees (PACs) and won’t sign pledges with interest groups.
TA A few things that stuck out to me about your campaign, you are adamant about not collecting any PAC funding. What are your thoughts on that sort of funding in political races? State level? Federal?
RS [I’m] not collecting, not soliciting any money from PACs in state or out of state. Not signing any pledges for PACs. Montanans want to limit corporate influence on our elections, that’s clear.
Every other candidate Democrat and Republican who’s filed with FEC has collected PAC money. Steve Daines has collected the most, over $100,000 of PAC money. I’m not just telling people I’ll work for them I’m showing them, I’m showing them who my boss will be. I don’t see it as disarming my campaign. I see it as strengthening my campaign.
TA I saw you at the Montana Conservation Voters forum in Bozeman. One thing that stuck out to me was that you were one of two candidates that didn’t speak out strongly against Keystone XL. What is your view?
RS My view on Keystone is that we should build the pipeline from the Bakken oil fields south, because that would decouple the economic benefit and the jobs that we’ll have here in Montana from the environmental problems with the Alberta Tar Sands.
The fracking that’s being done in the Bakken oil field should be done in an environmentally safe way that doesn’t pollute our groundwater. Whatever is built should reach the highest levels of environmental security with automatic shutoffs, high quality pipeline and not routing it through sensitive areas.
TA How quickly could we become the alternative energy leader you and other candidates have talked about?
RS We have the electrical production online now and growing with wind based production. We have water resources and we have means to transport it. It requires investment in infrastructure and education but those are the two factors that drive economic growth.
TA Another interesting note from that forum was that, as you mentioned, you were traveling from across the state and Steve Daines wouldn’t travel across town to speak. What does this say about this race?
RS The last time a Democrat was elected was in 1994 when Pat Williams was elected for his last term. The folks who were born in ‘94 are voting for the first time 18 years later. We’ve lost a generation of voters by taking our eye off the ball.
Daines has been a political insider for decades—since the early ‘80s. One of the things in his campaign, he’s got this simple message, ‘I’m a Montanan, I’m a businessman, I’m not a career politician.’ He’s a political insider masquerading as an outsider. The only reason he’s not a career politician is because he hasn’t won the office he’s sought.
He’s not interested in a particular position. He’s run for state and federal office. He’s run for executive and legislative position. This is just political sport for him.
TA Aside from the fact you want troops home from Afghanistan, there’s a great deal being made about Iran today. You say we should maintain a well-equipped force for today’s threats. Is Iran one of those threats? How do you see the U.S. dealing with a nuclear Iran?
RS I think we need to be careful about engaging ourselves in military adventures overseas. If there’s one lesson people wish Bush learned in his administration, it was to consider lots of voices and change his mind if he’s made a mistake.
I don’t know what the best course is in Iran. But I guess my view is that we should be careful about trying to police the world. If Iran poses a clear and present danger to the interest of the United States then we should consider military options. Military is important but it needs to be used wisely.
Not all military use is hard military power. Providing military aid, training on the ground, training here in the United States. Some of the benefits are you improve personal relationships with leaders of countries through training and use of aid. I think there’s a perfect role for the military’s softer powers.
TA You are running for a spot in perhaps the least liked Congress in the U.S. ever. Why? How are your compromising skills?
RS I’ve got a quote for you. Thomas Jefferson: “On matters of style, swim with the current. On matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
I stand firm on our constitutional values, some of which have been undermined by our state legislators and Congress. The constitution is a social contract that requires elected officials to work for the people. When we go to Congress, our oath is to defend the Constitution, there’s not an oath to the president, there’s not an oath to our state, there’s not an oath to other members of congress.
Those are matters of principle. You can’t compromise for standing up to the Constitution. On individual policy matters, I’ve got a background that demonstrates I can work in a nonpartisan manner. I work for the people, I show them I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk.
TA Your campaign issues include educating from a young age about the civic process and getting involved. Elaborate on that.
RS In order for an elected official to be successful working for the people the people need to step up and say this is what we want out of our elected official. It’s a different message you hear from other candidates. That’s because I’ve never run for office before, but this is what I’d want out of my officials.
There are lots of free and low cost ways that they can participate. There are lots of ways for people to get involved. Civics is a lifelong process. It needs to start at an early age. Teaching kids how our system works and encouraging them to do that.
District 01 Candidates
Steve Daines – $720,000
Eric Brosten – N/A
Kim Gillan – $176,160
Franke Wilmer – $162,378
Diane Smith – $100,033
Dave Strohmaier – $72,163
Rob Stutz – $13,315
Jason Ward – $0