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Montana inaugurates new leadership amid national political drama

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Montana inaugurated elected leaders amid national political tensions including the pandemic and the U.S. Capitol riots on Jan. 6, 2021. PHOTO BY COLIN LLOYD / UNSPLASH

Jan. 15, 2021

By Bella Butler EBS STAFF

HELENA – The state of Montana ushered in new leadership into its Congressional delegation and state executive office at the start of 2021, preceding the inauguration of Joe Biden as President of the United States and the political drama surrounding it. 

Republican Greg Gianforte, Montana’s former Congressman and 25th governor, was inaugurated before the start of the Legislature on the morning of Jan. 4. The new governor enters office after a 12-point victory over Democratic opponent and former lieutenant governor, Mike Cooney. 

 After campaigning on a promise to focus his COVID-19 efforts on protecting the most vulnerable and relying on personal responsibility rather than government mandates, Gianforte held a press conference on Jan. 5 announcing a shift in the state’s approach to COVID-19.

“We will issue new directives and guidance to replace the existing ones,” he said. “There will be changes. Some guidance and directives will be revised.”

Montana voters also decided to send Republican Sen. Steve Daines back to Washington, D.C. for another term to join Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. Montana’s sole Representative seat was won by Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale. 

Following President Donald Trump’s accusations of an unfair election, Sen. Steve Daines announced on Jan. 2 that if an election commission did not audit the Nov. 3, 2020 election that he would join 12 other Republican senators in opposing Electoral College votes from some states. Rosendale also announced his support for opposition to some state’s votes. 

In the middle of the U.S. Senate’s confirmation process of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, “stop the steal” protesters stormed and sieged the Capitol building in D.C., effectively stalling the proceedings until later that night. Following the violence, Daines released a statement at 5:30 p.m. saying he would not oppose any votes. 

“Today is a sad day for our country,” Daines wrote. “The destruction and violence we saw at our Capitol today is an assault on our democracy, our Constitution and the rule of law, and must not be tolerated … We will not let today’s violence deter Congress from certifying the election. We must restore confidence in our electoral process. We must, and we will, have a peaceful and orderly transition of power.”

A spokesperson later released another statement saying that Daines’ goal in opposing votes was never to overturn the election but rather to raise concerns for Americans lacking confidence in elections. 

Sen. Tester also released a statement following the disruption at the Capitol.

“I join my Republican and Democratic colleagues in condemning this despicable and dangerous attack on our democracy.

The election is over—and the time for the baseless objections that do nothing but undermine our Constitution is over too. Now is the time for both sides to come together to solve the pressing problems facing our nation, not rip it apart.”

Bella Butler is the Managing Editor for Explore Big Sky.

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