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Democrat Williams Optimistic About House Race

For the second time in two years, Kathleen Williams travels across Montana in her camper with her dog Dani, drumming up support for her U.S. Congressional bid.

In 2018, the Democrat Williams lost a close race to Republican Greg Gianforte. Gianforte is running for governor now, and State Auditor Matt Rosendale appears to be the frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination. Polls in Montana races are few and far between, but the little data available show Williams with a slight lead in a race with Rosendale, she said.

The signs are encouraging, she added.

She and Rosendale have raised about the same amount of money. Rosendale’s campaign has about $820,000 in the bank, while Williams has about $811,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.

She said 80% of her campaign contributions are small donations from Montanans, while corporate interests and political action committees comprise Rosendale’s biggest supporters.

Williams drove to Havre from Bozeman Thursday to attend a fundraiser at the home of Renelle Braaten, who owns Enell, the sports bra maker. Afterward, Williams planned to head to Great Falls.

Montana was the first state to elect a woman to Congress in 1916 when it chose Jeanette Rankin. But only men have filled the seat since then.

Williams touts her record in the Montana Legislature, where she was known for working with Republicans and Democrats to accomplish her goals. She said she shuns the phrase “across the aisle” because she likes to act as if there is no partisan aisle.

“People ask if I’m a progressive or a moderate. I say yes,” she said. 

Health care issues concerns many voters as she travels the state. Her ability to get work done will help as she tries to pass her proposal to allow people 55 and older to buy into the Medicare system, she said. That plan will provide less expensive quality health insurance for people and lower the cost of insurance for other residents. She would also work to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

She also wants to increase mental health services in Montana. She finds such programs severely lacking.

If elected, Williams said she would work hard to get Congress to approve an infrastructure plan, as she unsuccessfully tried to do when she served in the Montana House. A tremendous need exists to improve infrastructure in Montana. She would back a nationwide overhaul of bridges, schools, highways and similar projects.

Against a President Donald Trump proposal seeking fees to pay for infrastructure projects, Williams contends that charges like highway tolls are impossible in Montana.

She noted that most surveys give low grades to the condition of Montana highways, bridges and schools. For example, infrastructure money could be used to finance repairs to the St. Mary’s Division project that provides irrigation to farmers along the Milk River.

Williams said she would work to bolster programs that provide student debt relief to college graduates who spend time as teachers, medical professionals or firefighters in rural areas that struggle to attract professionals.

She smiled when a reporter told her Republican dark horse congressional candidate Joe Dooling, former Lewis and Clark County Republican Committee chairman, referred to her as “from Berkeley, California.”

Berkeley is a hotbed of liberal activism. Williams graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She said she has lived in several western states, but she moved to Montana 25 years ago.

“Montana is the only place that ever felt like home to me,” she said.

The race so far has been encouraging, Williams added.

She’s most proud of the Montanans who have supported her candidacy. She boasts about her backing from EMILY’s List, an organization of Democratic women who financially support Democratic women who have a good chance of winning.

Ending Citizens United, a campaign finance reform law enacted 10 years ago, remains high on her platform priorities.

As for the Congressional battle, Republicans, too, believe it will be a horse race, she said.

She pointed to Trump’s early support of Rosenberg in one of his famous tweets. Usually, Trump waits until the primary to make a public endorsement, she said.

Trump “hardly seems chastened” by his recent impeachment, Williams said, adding: “He didn’t learn anything.”

But she would work with him if he is re-elected, she said.

“I’m running for Congress because I enjoy solving problems,’ said Williams. “I will work with anyone who has good ideas.”


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Write to John at (406) 262-7778
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