Gianforte leads battle cry as election looms

Alastair Baker
News Editor
Thursday, October 15, 2020
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Center, Montana gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte speaks at the ‘Montana Get Out Our Vote’ rally at Rockvale last week. Behind him, left to right, Kristen Juras running for Lt. Governor; Austin Knudsen for Attorney General; Troy Downing for State Auditor; Christi Jacobsen for Secretary of State and General Elsie Arntzen for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Photo by Alastair Baker

Montana Republican candidates appeared as a unified force at a  ‘Montana Get Out Our Vote’ rally at Rockvale last week, with gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte leading the charge.
Sharing the stage with Gianforte were Kristen Juras running for Lt. Governor; Elsie Arntzen for Superintendent of Public Instruction; Troy Downing for State Auditor; Austin Knudsen for Attorney General, and Christi Jacobsen Secretary of State.
“I am so honored to stand up here with this slate of candidates because we are running to serve the people of Montana and create better outcomes,” said Gianforte.
Gianforte honed in on his skills as a businessman to lead Montana referring to his business he and his wife, Susan, founded, RightNow Technologies in Bozeman, turning a $5,000 investment into a multi-million dollar company and creating over 500 high-paying jobs.
“We showed when you combine the Montana work ethic with good leadership, people can prosper,” he said.
For Gianforte the ability to create good-paying jobs will enable Montana to keep its youth and not see them leave for other pastures.
“I’m thrilled to be with Juras. I’m an electrical engineer, I’m a business guy and she has deep ag roots and is a lawyer. Partnering together, we can move Montana forward but let’s review where we are after 16 years of Democratic control in Helena. Folks we are not doing that well. We are 44th in wages and what that means is we export beef, grain, and kids. They leave. I said we raised 4 kids, 3 of them left for better pay and better jobs. And frankly, I prefer to have my kids around the table on Sunday,” he said.
“Since COVID we have lost 150,000 jobs in Montana, many small businesses have closed. We lead in areas that are really tragic, we have one of the highest suicide rates in the country and this current administration has been shutting down mental health facilities in the state, that is wrong-headed and in the wrong direction,” said Gianforte.
“Folks we can do better and frankly you deserve better and that is why we are running, to get our economy going, create good-paying jobs and we have a plan, the ‘Come Back Plan.’ It lays out how we will lower taxes, reduce regulations, implement more trade education, and get our miners and loggers back to work,” he said. “We are the Treasure State. I firmly believe we can develop our natural resources and protect the environment.”
Gianforte made light of his opponent, Mike Cooney’s zero-rating from the Montana Chamber of Commerce.
“Let me just say to his credit that is hard to do,” said Gianforte, too much applause. 
“Every single proposal that is brought forward that might help a small business in Montana, he’s opposed. So I’ve spent my entire life creating jobs and making people prosper. Who do you think you’d trust the most to help get our economy going again and help create good-paying jobs? A job creator who has done it or a career politician who has a zero percent rating? I think that is a pretty easy choice.”
Juras praised Gianforte for his business efforts to get growth and kids back to Montana.
“Because one of my sons is an ore digger engineer he had to leave Montana to find work. Well because of the success of Greg and Susan and the successful growth in high-tech industries they generated in Bozeman my son came home last year. I want to see this happen across the board, to protect farmers and ranchers and see families stay on them, and to get miners and loggers back to work,” said Juras.
“I’m thrilled to have both the private sector and business experience in all of your Republican candidates,” she said.
Elsie Arntzen, wants to see “those precious tax dollars get to the classroom” and a return to teaching the Constitution to students
“What I am working on right now is Stars and Stripes for every classroom.  For more than 2 decades the civics education standards haven’t been touched. How many of our kids have gone through public schools, not knowing about the flag, the Constitution, that America is a Republic, or even how Montana became a state? They don’t know. I’m growing that future electorate and future Montanans and Americans through Star and Stripes,” said Arntzen.
Christi Jacobsen, talked of how she has cut government waste in her office in the last 3 and ½ years.
“Our Business Services Division has eliminated 50,000 errors, reduced call wait time. In 2017 people were on hold for up to 2 hours, now calls are answered within 30 seconds or less. I’ve cut government big time,” she said.
“I will oppose automatic online voter registration and I support voter identification,” she said.
Jacobsen rounded on her opponent, Bryce Bennett, saying “he is a super liberal legislator from Missoula County and has zero experience, and work.”
“He has literally never had a real job and wants to undo all the great work we have done. He votes for Sanctuary Cities, thinks it is a   good idea for 16-year-olds to vote, and would like to introduce tobacco and alcohol at polling locations. He is dangerous and I’m the person who is going to stop him,” she said.
Huge applause greeted Troy Downing opening questions asking those assembled, “How many think America is better off having a businessman in the White House?”  and, “How many people think we can do the same thing in Montana by having a businessman in Helena?”
“Let’s get the government out of our way and let's start using the private sector, business experience to solve problems,” he said.
“I’m happy about this Republican slate. We have people who have been effective in the private sector,” said Downing. “We’ve built businesses that have done real things. I look at the ticket from the other side, career politicians that have never signed the front of the check, that have no idea what you’re life is like, what it is like to be just a normal person and I think that is incredibly meaningful and I think we have the ability to be really good for Montana.”
“You’ve got your entire future land board here. The land board was constitutionally created to manage our state trust lands and raise money for education and it supports farmers and ranchers, natural resource development, all the things we do with our lands. It is important.  It is a floating backbone of the Montana economy.  We all look out of our windows and smile that everyone here is going to be putting food on the table of Montanans that depend on these decisions,” he said.
Austin Knudsen, talked of the challenges facing Montana.
An attorney for 13 years presenting farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and a lot of his neighbors gives him, he feels, “a very diverse background for the legal challenges facing Montana.”
However, his main focus is on the meth epidemic in the State. He ran for County Attorney in Roosevelt County after a drive-by shooting occurred near his kids’ school in his hometown of 700 people.
“I’ve been aggressively prosecuting meth crime ever since and 90 percent of my prosecutions are meth-related,” he said. “That is our true epidemic in this state, yes we are wearing masks and we are concerned about COVID but meth is truly epidemic. Violent crime has increased by 36 percent in Montana in the last 6 years, according to the US Department of Justice.”
He is optimistic that with Gianforte as Governor “we are finally going to move that Conservative football down the field and put some of these points the end zone.”
“One of the most frustrating things we had being in the legislature with the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate we had a Governor who is a Democrat. We could pass pro-life legislation and put it on his desk and it would get vetoed. I cannot tell you folks how excited I am to support Greg Gianforte. He is going to be an amazing governor for Montana,” said Knudsen.
 After the Rally Gianforte took time to answer questions.
The first centered on how he would manage the State in this present Pandemic with Gianforte expressing a wish to take advice from both public health officials and economists and trying to balance it.
“I heard a tragic story. Augusta  (Montana) canceled their rodeo this year. That may have been the right decision but the Monday following the rodeo four businesses filed for bankruptcy and will probably never open again so we have to balance, recognize public health priorities and people’s livelihoods because 150,000 people have lost jobs and people are hurting, businesses have shut down,” he said.
“We are learning a lot more about this virus, we are getting better at therapeutics. We know how to treat it. The mortality rate is going down and we now have four vaccines in phase three clinical trials. I’m hopeful by the time I get sworn into office, if I am fortunate enough to get elected, we will have a vaccine that will be a new tool in the toolbox we have not had up until now and my priority would be to get that vaccine for our front line health workers, emergency response personnel, the teachers in the classroom and the most vulnerable in nursing homes.”
“I am also going to focus more on personal responsibility rather than mandates for the general population because I trust Montanans with their health and the health of their loved ones. So we will be publishing very clear guidelines on how people can stay safe,” he said.
 As to Governor Steve Bullock wanting to raise taxes, Gianforte believes this to be the “wrong direction.”
“Understand, Montana before the COVID crisis was 44th in the nations in wages. I don’t think you tax your way to prosperity. What we ought to be doing is taking a page out of the national book. I voted in Congress to give $2 billion back to Montana through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and I think we need to apply a similar play in Montana, we need to balance our budget as we get our economy going and develop a surplus that we will use to lower income taxes, lower property taxes and simplify our business equipment taxes because I think if you leave the people to keep the fruits of their labor they know how to spend it better than the government does.”
Gianforte also wants to carry out a top to bottom regulatory review on every state agencies.
"The reality is the DEQ, DNRC has become the project prevention departments. The FWP has good state employees, they just haven’t been led well and have created conflict with sportsmen and landowners and the outfitting community,” he said.
Gianforte wants to see a coming together of ideas from both sides.
“I think as Montanans we share much more in common than separates us. We need to bring people to the table. That’s why in Washington I cook for members of Congress every week at our little rented apartment. I have thrown venison steaks and moose burgers on the grill and have Democrats and Republicans there and one of the things I’m going to do is I’m going turn the governor’s residence into a house of hospitality and bring people around the table and break bread together because we need to do that, it is a lot easier to focus on the things you have in common than the things that separate us.”
"I made a commitment during the Debate on Tuesday If I am elected as Governor I will dedicate 100 percent of my salary over the entire period I serve to Montana charities because this is not about me,” he said.