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Five Dems Run to Take on Gianforte in November

After winning last year’s special election for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., will be on the ballot again this November. He is unopposed in the Republican primary, but five Democrats — John Heenan of Billings, Grant Kier of Missoula, John Meyer of Bozeman, Jarred Pettinato of Whitefish, and former state Rep. Kathleen Williams, R-Bozeman — hope to take the House seat in November.

The winner will face Gianforte as well as Libertarian Elinor Swanson of Billings and Green Party candidate Doug Campbell of Bozeman in the general election.

Gianforte’s 2017 win has been overshadowed by his assault on Guardian political reporter Ben Jacobs just days before Election Day. Democrats were outraged and in their press releases often branded Gianforte as a convicted criminal. Heenan has said he was so outraged by the act that it played a role in his decision to seek the Democratic nomination.

All five Democrats have been critical of President Donald Trump on issues ranging from health care, meeting the rural needs of Montanans, and the wisdom of the tax cuts he and Republicans passed late last year.

There have been differences though. Heenan has pushed for a Medicare for all healthcare system, while Kier and most of the others have been more hesitant to embrace such a plan. 

JOHN  HEENAN

Montanans Need a Winning Choice. In November, Montanans will have a choice.

Will we stick with a person in the U.S. House of Representatives who votes to take away the health care of hundreds of thousands of Montanans without having a viable alternative? Are we going to trust a person who supports legislation that undermines our access to public lands and waterways for fishing, hunting and recreation? Is it okay for us to be represented by a person who supports massive tax cuts for corporations and for ultra-wealthy Americans, including himself?

I never intended to run for elected office. My work and my life are dedicated to my wife Meagen, to our four children, and to my clients, who I serve as a consumer protection attorney. When I’m not running the kids to and from school and their various activities, I’m working hard to stand up to bullies and corporations who have lied, cheated and stolen from my clients—from the widow whose insurance company tries to trick her rather than pay the benefits it owes, to the teacher who does everything the bank told her only to suddenly find her family facing foreclosure, and the farmer who can’t get the big out-of-state energy company to live up to their contract.

When Greg Gianforte body slammed a reporter in response to a question about his position on access to health care, I joined millions of Americans and all Montanans who were deeply offended and shocked with his violence. Equally offensive were his efforts to lie to all of us about what occurred.

In contrast to our current representative, I will fight for you and your family every day. You deserve access to high-quality, affordable health care without regard to the interests of insurance companies, drug companies and their well-heeled corporate lobbyists. You deserve a strong public education system that is not undermined by efforts to take your tax dollars and spend them on private schools for the wealthy who can afford to pay their own way. You deserve a tax policy that helps expand and grow our job opportunities, strengthens our economy, and looks to save you money—not save money for those who benefit by so many tax-dodging loopholes already. You deserve a representative who will stand up to dark money special interests, not support it.

If you choose me, I will make you proud. I will listen to you and take strong action on your behalf. It will be an honor to fight for all of you and your families. Just as I am for my clients, I am excited to fight for you, for your family, and for all Montanans.

In closing, I want to thank my local campaign representative in Havre, the Hi-Line and Great Falls, Jacob Bachmeier. A huge debt of gratitude goes out to all my many friends in Hill County who have so generously supported my campaign and helped me understand the importance of the issues near and dear to all of you.    

JARED PETTINATO 

I love Montana, and I am the only candidate who can beat Gianforte and take Montana values back to Washington.

Montana Democrats have a rare opportunity, but we also face a challenge. Not since 2008 have we picked a candidate — in a seriously-contested, statewide primary — who has beaten the Republican. We need to pick the right candidate now to take us to victory in November. I worked for both Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Sen. Max Baucus, and from them, I learned how to win in Montana.

Out of the eight candidates in the four parties, I am the only one born and raised in Montana. As a fourth-generation Montanan from a Whitefish railroading family, I grew up hiking in Montana’s mountains, swimming in its lakes, and fishing in its creeks. Montanans raised me and taught me Montana values, values like rolling up your sleeves to tackle tough problems, working together, and pitching in for your community. I took those values to the United States Department of Justice. There, I served nine years defending our public lands here in Montana and throughout the United States: Forest Service projects, wind farms, highways and public rail. The United States trusted me with $16 billion of projects—and I successfully defended about $15 billion of them. I made a career out of defeating wealthy interests who wanted to bend government for their own ends.
 
Just last year, I defeated Beverly Hills and Donald Trump’s lawyers’ firm to save taxpayers $1.5 billion. We need a representative who has specialized in federal public land laws and federal agencies, and who can leverage good deals for
Montana. Pick anyone else, and you will wait nine years. Or you can pick me, and we can start tomorrow. Indeed, my experiences have already shown me opportunities to move Montana forward. We can bring money and jobs to Montana with the wind and the trees.
 
We can make money out of thin air with wind energy in eastern Montana. Wind presents the next treasure from the Treasure State. And we can use the money that grows on trees to manage forests and to reduce high severity wildfires. We can restore fire to its natural role in the system.
 
With these ideas, we can build Montana for the future. Some Washington leaders look back for our best days. But Montana’s best days lie ahead. The wind and the trees will bring more jobs to rural areas and reservations than Gianforte ever dreamed. We can expand freedom and invest in your tomorrow. We can push back against the toxic politics coming out of Washington and restore civility to Montana’s seat.
 
There’s a new sheriff in town, but I cannot do this alone. If you want to beat Gianforte, vote for me, and together we
will send the body slammer packing!
 

JOHN MEYER

 
Several pink flamingos standing in water in someone’s front yard recently caught my eye. I was driving home from a day of teaching college students about public lands in Swan Valley.
 
I swallowed hard as I walked past an old car that didn’t appear to run. I knocked on the old wooden door but nobody answered. Thoughts of being shot flew through my mind as I opened the door and took a step into the mudroom.  Before I could knock on the inside door the heavy curtain covering the window jerked. I stepped outside as the door opened. The man who came outside was bigger than me. I didn’t tell him I was a Democrat. I just told him I liked the flamingos, that I was running for Congress, and asked if I could put up a sign in his yard. When he said yes I asked him what he was looking for in a representative. He told me honesty. I believe that is something all voters in Montana are looking for. I told him that I am from a blue collar family and that I was the first person in my family to graduate from a four-year college, the University of Montana. I told him that I used to work for the Flathead National Forest.
 
One day when I was surveying for rare plants and setting up a timber sale I ran into a baby fawn hiding in a tree that had burned out. At that time Montana’s senators were saying we needed to “salvage” log the area. The word salvage makes it sound like the area was going to go to waste if the trees were not cut down, but I was looking at direct evidence that wildlife used forests after they burned. I told the man the experience made me decide to go to law school.
 
Now I practice and teach public land law. The man nodded his head. Voters I have talked to expressed concern that money is corroding the integrity of congressional elections. That is why I will not take any money from any political action committees. Nor did I loan myself a large sum of money to start my campaign. You won’t find me on controversial television commercials that only speak to Democrats. Instead I have been talking to people who don’t share my worldview. I have been appearing on a conservative AM radio talk show to discuss things like the Second Amendment and health care.
 
If we are going to reunite this country we need leaders that will talk with everyone. The voters I have talked to are not looking for a representative that can buy elections, they want someone who is honest.
 
The man gave me permission to put a sign in his yard, I went back to my truck and cut a piece of cardboard. I used a large black marker and wrote a single word: Meyer.
 

KATHLEEN WILLIAMS

 
I am running for Congress because Montana deserves better representation.
 
Our current office holder has not stood up for our agricultural sector. He voted to deny health insurance to tens of thousands of Montanans. Mere months after introducing legislation to balance the budget, he supported a revenue giveaway that is now resulting in threats to Medicare, Social Security, a workable Farm Bill, and more. 
 
We can do better. Montana can elect a congresswoman who will put every corner of Montana first, is not afraid to meet with people of all political stripes, and who understands policy so she can deliver realistic and lasting solutions for this great state, its people, and our economy, all of it.
 
To do better, we need to elect a candidate in the primary who can win in November. My campaign has attracted progressives, independents, and moderate Republicans – that’s what we need. Our candidate needs the experience, temperament, and relationships to hit the ground running in Washington, heal partisan divides, and represent Montanans on all fronts: fixing healthcare, protecting our outdoor heritage, creating economic opportunity, and restoring America’s place in the world. I am that candidate, the only one who can unseat Gianforte because of my unique background. I am a Jon Tester, Steve Bullock-style candidate — experienced in policy, and focused on the needs of Montana. 
 
I served three terms in the Montana state Legislature. I am committed to our agricultural community, and have served it well by protecting senior water rights and telling the story of good work on the land to stakeholders around the country. I have also been honored for my work with business, including creating hundreds of new businesses generating thousands of new Montana products, many from Montana agricultural inputs. And I have a history of success passing important legislation in a hyper-partisan, divisive, inexperienced environment, while making friends and building relationships along the way. 
 
In Congress, I will fix our broken health care system, create jobs, protect public lands, and be the toughest champion for Medicare and Social Security that Montana has ever seen.
 
 I would be honored to earn your vote and serve this wonderful state in Congress.
 
Editor’s note: Grant Kier had not sent a letter by publishing time. 
 
Meyer did not send a headshot to accompany his letter, but he did send a picture of a pink flamingo-riddled yard with a cardboard sign inscribed with his name.  

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