Congressional candidate Lewis visits supporters

Photo by Alastair Baker

Democrat U.S. House candidate

John Lewis at the Red Lodge

Senior Center, Thursday.

Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis visited with supporters at the Red Lodge Senior Center, Thursday to discuss his views on rural healthcare to protecting ranchers and farmers as well as the outdoors heritage that exits here. Former Montana Representative Pat Williams recently endorsed Lewis, and called him "a new generation of leadership."

“It’s two decades since we've had a Democrat hold this seat. Williams feels strongly about this,” said Lewis.

Williams was the last Democrat to represent Montana in Congress.

Lewis is a fourth generation Montana.  His Great-Grandparents came to the Bitterroot Valley in 1869 and his great grand father George Washington Ward became a State Legislature and wrote the legislation that separated Ravalli County from Missoula County.

Lewis has so far traveled to all 56 counties in Montana, growing a grass root campaign that has seen him raise more funding from individuals than the three Republicans running against him as of Dec. 31. He is no friend of the excessive millions spent on the last Senate race.

“This election will not be easy but this our biggest shot in a long time. There will be a deluge of outside money. In 2012 we worked hard for John Tester's campaign but there was $50 million spent on the Senate race alone. That’s disgusting. $35 million was spent on TV ads. It comes down to who can run the best campaign on the ground. It will take a lot of resources to win this race,” he said.

He is adamantly supportive of protecting the outdoor heritage of the State, particularly the Rocky Mountain Front.

“People are here because of the outdoors. I support responsible energy development, it’s a big part of our economy, but it seems to me certain places we should protect and one of those is the Rocky Mountain Front, The idea of bringing the Bakkens to the Beartooths is terrible,” he said.

Lewis said he also hearing  “how sick and tired” people are of partisan politics, and “seeing Congress not doing anything.”

“They only have a 7 percent approval rating. Root canals and cockroaches have a higher standing. We want to see someone work together. My mom taught me about cooperation. Working with others without giving up your principals. I see Congress going from crisis to crisis, and it affects seniors, teachers, students, working families and low-income families. They pay the biggest price and especially in rural America,” he said.

He talked about the Ryan Budget that “puts a huge red target on rural America,” he said.

"We all agree we need to reduce the deficit but it is about priorities. (That budget) cuts to Amtrak when ridership is at an all time high, it cuts to central air services, turns Medicare into a voucher program. One in five Montanans counts on Medicare, it would eliminate Saturday delivery. And all things, result in big cuts to agriculture, one in five jobs are related to this.”

Agriculture is part of our economy and Lewis thought it “outrageous what happened the last two years waiting for a Farm Bill to be passed.”

“It caused enormous anxiety for farmers and ranchers, and it was not because of Democrats but an extreme group holding the House of Representatives hostage on the Farm Bill. It is not a partisan issues, that is lives and jobs,” he said. He also touched on the issue of rural healthcare and it “paying the biggest price.”

“The Affordable Care Act wasn’t perfect but we can’t escape the fact 1,000s of Montanans are benefitting from it. My own family. We are saving over $400 a month on our premiums and get more coverage,” he said. “The unfortunate things about not passing the Medicaid Expansion are that those 70,000 Montanans who don’t have coverage or qualify for subsidies to get health insurance are mostly in rural parts of the state. Small clinics like here bear the largest brunt of people that don’t have insurance but have health care and this drives up the cost for everyone else with insurance.”

He reiterated that the seats in this race are “winnable.”

“The House seat is close; we have to get every Democrats to vote, even the independence,” he said.

Lewis plans to get a field campaign started in Carbon County soon.