This is second in a series of interviews with 2012 U.S. Congressional candidates
from Montana. Two Bozeman residents have declared their candidacy for
Montana’s singular House of Representative’s seat currently held by Republican
Denny Rehberg: Democrat Franke Wilmer and Republican Steve Daines. As of
the end of June 2011, four of the five declared candidates have filed their Statement
of Candidacy and second quarter financial statements with the Federal
Elections Committee. The primary election will be June 5, 2012 and the general
election Nov. 6, 2012.
By Kim Ibes
Published Aug. 18, 2011
Franke Wilmer is a political science
professor at MSU and a three-term
member of Montana’s legislature. The
61-year-old was born and raised in
Maryland. Wilmer’s mother was born
in Terry, Mont., but the family moved
east after their ranch burned during the
drought of the 1920s.
A single mother, Wilmer worked
her way through her undergraduate
and graduate degrees over 16 years.
She completed her Ph.D. in Government
and Politics at the University of
Maryland in 1990, and the next year
accepted a teaching position with MSU.
This move to Montana was serendipitous,
Wilmer said. “My mother
talked about Montana all her life. From
the moment I got off the plane it just
At MSU, she’s taken a leadership role
in unionizing MSU faculty, written
three books focusing on war and ethnic
conflict, and was appointed by Governor
Schweitzer to chair the Montana
Human Rights Commission.
Why are you running for the 2012
House of Representatives seat?
I feel strongly about today’s issues,
and I feel strongly that the U.S. House
of Representatives should be broadly
represented. We need more waitresses
who become professors who serve. I
bring unique qualifications that address
these issues, including the knowledge
and experiences I have as a professor
and as a blue-collar worker. It’s an important
voice to bring to the table in the
discussion of how to strengthen and
accelerate our economy.
What values are most important to
Fairness is number one. We talk a lot
about liberty and freedom, but liberty,
justice, fairness and freedom are
equally important. Justice without
freedom is not really just, and
freedom without justice is not really
fair. We have to balance those two.
I think most people can support a
decision or outcome if it was arrived
at fairly. If asked about a policy or issue
this is a good yardstick. It means
you have to look at solutions from
a different point of view, and it’s an
antidote to self-centeredness.
What skills and experiences make
you a successful representative
My life experiences working in a
blue-collar job, my public service
experience in a legislative environment,
and my practical knowledge
about foreign policy and national
security. My area of expertise is in
conflict, war and human rights. My
first book was on indigenous people,
talking about fairness. It looked at
the creation of an American state
from the point of view of indigenous
people on a global scale.
My second book was on war crimes
in Yugoslavia and the psychological
consequences of war. One of my
research projects was on rethinking
national security in terms of
both state and non-state or terrorist
threats, and protecting ourselves
from non-state entities. There are
about 130 countries with weak institutions
where nobody knows what’s
going on. They’re fertile grounds for
terrorists, and it’s why we need to
have ‘good-enough’ relations with
other countries so we know what’s
What will be the main issues in
the upcoming election? How will
you address them?
The number one issue is jobs. This
election has to be about our economy.
It’s about the people who work
in our economy and are out of work.
Everybody says they want to create
jobs. I’ll be a little more specific. I
want to create jobs that pay wages
that support families. I want a level
playing field for American workers.
Secondly, we need to look at ways
to exercise fiscal responsibility and
eliminate waste and fraud. Social
Security wasn’t part of the federal
budget until the 1980s, and since
then it’s been used to fund other programs.
It should be taken back out of
the federal budget.
Third, we need to let the current
tax cuts expire for the very wealthy;
you can set it at $250,000 per person.
The cuts were in response to a
surplus in the 1990s. I’m taking a
different view in approaching the
deficit and debt problem. Workers
in good paying jobs pay more taxes.
When we’re prosperous, we have a
There’s a saying in congress that
freshman should be seen and not
heard. If elected how would you be
This is a seniority question. I think if
you bring good ideas to the table it’s the
idea – I don’t have a problem if someone
with more seniority picks it up and
makes it happen. I think you can be
It’s about being upfront with voters
on how I approach problems. I want
Montana voters to know what they’re
getting. Representing people is an important
part of the job. I’ll bring a more
reserved perspective about foreign
policy and fair trade.