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Candidate interviews HD #70

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By Renae Counter Editorial Assistant

HELENA – All 100 of the seats in the Montana House of Representatives are up for reelection this year. Republican Michael More currently holds the seat for House District #70, which covers rural Gallatin County, Big Sky and West Yellowstone.

More is not up for reelection, and three new candidates, Republican Kerry White, Democrat April Buonamici, and Independent Christopher Burke are all in the running to obtain his seat.

Explore Big Sky interviewed the candidates, directing questions toward the individuals’ specific viewpoints and concerns. The interviews with Buonamici and Burke were conducted via email, and the interview with White was conducted via phone. Answers were edited for clarity and brevity.

Kerry White, Republican Candidate for House District #70

What is your history in Gallatin County?
I’m a from a fourth generation ranch family; my great grandfather came here in 1864. Lived in Gallatin County my entire life. My wife Patty and I have been married 30 years, we have three kids and two grandchildren.

What made you decide to run for House District #70?

To give back to my community, to try to be part of the solution and to make a difference for the people of Montana.

How do you plan to create and support a sustainable year round economy that supports businesses and communities in the district, specifically in the two major seasonal areas, Big Sky and West Yellowstone?

I would like to promote year-round tourism and also a responsible development of economy in the aspect of buildings, housing and natural resources.

How do you plan to create and support job stimulation?

I would stimulate jobs by reducing regulation on outside investments. I think taxing and regulation structure has a lot to do with the influx of dollars. [We can] stimulate growth in the business sector by reducing regulation and giving some predictability to those investment dollars that come into businesses, and provide a more stable business atmosphere. Infrastructure has a profound effect on business. Roads, bridges, safety, fire—all those are part of the landscape that provide for a good business climate.

What is the biggest concern you see in District 70 and, if elected, how do you plan to resolve the issue?

I think the biggest issue is water, water quality and availability especially in aquiculture. I am for the protection of senior water and property rights and a very strong supporter of private property rights for agriculture and recreation. Also, about 40-50 percent of the land in Gallatin County is managed public land, and I am concerned about the health of that land [as it] equates to the health and condition of wildlife and water quality, because most of our water originates on these public lands.

What are some of the biggest issues facing our schools? How would you address those?

Our schools need to be brought back to more local control rather than a centralized agency. [I support] a new idea called Chan Academy—about 40 million people nationwide are taking advantage of this program. Students take 10-15 minute lessons, and the teacher becomes more of a coach, providing personalized instruction to help those struggling or falling behind, while not hindering those getting the lesson faster. It’s an innovative technique. Also, I think we’re very administrative heavy in our schools. We need to refocus our resources into the teaching component, and reduce the administration cost in our education system.

Visit White at

April Buonamici, Democratic Candidate for House District #70

What is your history in Gallatin County, specifically District 70?

My husband, three sons and I have spent the last 20 family Christmases in Big Sky. We have only lived here year-round for the last seven years, since Jim and I are both teachers, and moving here would have meant cutting our teaching salaries in half. We have both a condo in Big Sky and a house just outside of Bozeman in the county.

What made you decide to run for House District #70?

“No Child Left Behind” created 10 times as much paperwork for me as a teacher and never gave me one more minute of instruction time with students. I vowed when I retired I would do something more positive for our schoolchildren and help remove the government red tape that [didn’t] benefit them. When my property in Big Sky dropped to 1/3 of its value, that was the impetus I needed to get involved with local politics.

We need a representative who is attentive to local needs, especially in economics, education and environment. We make our living from tourism and agriculture. We need to conserve and preserve our land and water, while also providing the services residents need. This starts with an excellent education for our children and includes the infrastructure needed for daily life.

You website says that K-12 education would be your number one spending priority. What are the biggest issues facing our schools, and how would you address those issues?

Making sure we can attract and keep excellent teachers is the starting point. We need to keep our instruction up-to-date with the technology knowledge children will need in their future careers. Preparing students for entering the workforce—which enables them to make a living and contribute to the community—should be our paramount goal.

Your website claims you plan to stimulate job creation in the field of clean and renewable energy. Can you expand on that?

I support the current tax advantage given to clean energy. As wind and solar power is built and developed, we’ll eventually be able to phase this out, but helping free enterprise, especially small companies, develop in Montana with minimal taxation and regulation, can eventually place us as leaders in energy development.

What is your stand on bison land management in our district? How do you see that affecting people who reside near bison roaming areas?

Currently, there are [only] areas where bison in winter, but might easily remain year-round. To [expansion] on public land, we must protect the rights of private landowners and reimburse for damages that may be incurred by allowing bison to roam a wider area.

How do you plan to create and support a sustainable year round economy that supports businesses and communities in the district, specifically in the two major seasonal areas, Big Sky and West Yellowstone?

Helping small businesses thrive is the key. Maintaining their ability to thrive without over-regulation is a key. Resort tax in both areas has been a boon to each community, and they should continue to determine for themselves how and where that money is spent. Affordable worker housing, especially in West Yellowstone, is a need. I would like to find a way to stimulate more for those who live there year-round, but I believe this is best accomplished through the private sector. I support moving forward through the community input process we have in Montana. Projects and planning must provide ample opportunities for community discussion and testimony before they are approved.

Visit Buonamici at

Christopher Burke, Independent Canidate for House District #70

What is your history in Gallatin County?

I first came to Gallatin County in the spring of 1992 to work for Hamilton Stores in West Yellowstone. I worked two seasons, one with Hamilton Stores and one with Xanterra in Yellowstone National Park. After three years away, I returned to Montana to roast coffee for Rocky Mountain Roasting in Bozeman. The coffee industry brought me to Hawaii in 1998, where I worked for Kauai Coffee Company. I returned to West Yellowstone in 2002. My wife and I purchased a house in 2004 and started our business, Morning Glory Coffee & Tea, in 2005.

What made you decide to run for House District #70?

I own a business and a home in West Yellowstone. As a year-round citizen, I want to contribute to the success of my community in the best way possible. It’s my opinion that both parties are more interested in filling a seat for their “party” in the legislature than representing the citizens and communities of District 70. [That’s why] I’m running as an Independent candidate with no ties to either political party. If elected I will make sound judgments in the best interests of those living in my district and contribute a nonpartisan viewpoint for Montana as a whole.

Your website headline states “Legislation from both parties can and will stall economic progress. Moderate legislation, cooperation and common sense will provide for and grow Montana communities and businesses.” How do you plan to communicate and develop relationships with both parties, if elected?

The choice of who to caucus with [would] depend on who is willing work toward real solutions, instead of political posturing. The last legislative session was very contentious, and many of the bill draft requests for the upcoming session are carryovers from last session. I hope to build relationships face-to-face in an effort to support bills that support, maintain and grow our communities and their economies for the long term.

How do you plan to create and support a sustainable year round economy that supports businesses and comminutes in the district, specifically in the two major seasonal areas, Big Sky and West Yellowstone?

First and foremost, I will make every effort to protect the 4 percent Lodging Facility Use Tax, commonly referred to as the bed tax. Tourism is a big economic driver in Montana, Bozeman, and in the communities of Big Sky and West Yellowstone. I will support legislation that will improve infrastructure, public safety and economic development for small businesses. I will also support legislation that will help to develop affordable year-round housing in our rural communities so we can attract, retain and grow sustainable working communities.

Your website says you’ll work to create and support services that provide for the safety and general welfare of D70 and Montana citizens. Can you expand on that?

The communities of HD-70 depend on mutual aid from multiple agencies to keep the district safe for residents and visitors. It’s of great importance to make sure public services such as law enforcement, 911 coverage, fire department and public works are adequately funded and trained to ensure safety of our communities.

You own an independent coffee shop, Morning Glory Coffee and Tea. With your experience, how do you plan to help with the development of more small businesses?

Starting and operating a small business from the ground up in the seasonal economy of District #70, I understand the challenges that businesses, communities and citizens face. Morning Glory Coffee produces a product sold via retail, wholesale and Internet catalog, allowing us to build our business regardless of tourist season. [With] 18 years of experience in the coffee industry and seven-plus years operating my current business in West Yellowstone, [I have] hands-on experience with the daily struggles of sustaining and growing a business. I would like to help provide an environment that will attract small producers and manufacturers to set up shop and develop facilities in our smaller communities such as Big Sky and West Yellowstone.

Follow Burke at and

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