Williams Runs for U.S. Rep: “Experience, Temperament…and Proven Record”

Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, September 19, 2019
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Photo by Eleanor Guerrero
Kathleen Williams is running for U.S. House of Representatives.

Former three-term Montana congresswoman, Kathleen Williams who is running to be Montana’s Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives filled the upstairs room at Carbon Fork Restaurant in Red Lodge with about 60 locals last weekend. 

If elected, she promised to protect health care, Medicare, Medicaid and social security and rallied the audience with a strong defense of public lands under attack. 

With a long record on specifically local issues, the native Montanan said hard work and public service have been the hallmarks of her life. 

Veterans’ issues are in the forefront for this daughter of a World War II veteran. She told of an emotional young veteran she met who thanked her for running and voiced how important her fight for democratic issues is to the country. 

“I know that I can help. I have the experience, the temperament, the ability to build relationships and the proven record on complex issues for Montana,” she declared. Her issues include health care, opportunities for Montanans, and outdoor concerns like public access.

Williams was always in office in the minority but says she managed to find common ground and get things done. 

Williams believes in strong borders to protect against the illegal trafficking of weapons, drugs and humans.” She says immigration must have a clear policy and “be solving problems not compounding them…” Congress must step up, “That is Congress’ job.” She says Congress is broken.  

Montanans who share their lives with her touch her deeply. There was the father rationing heat and food to afford his wife’s insulin. She recalls the single mother who couldn’t afford any private insurance and the real fear she had for her daughter should anything happen to her. “These are the people who motivate me.”  

She says nothing is happening with women’s health care.  “Health care is personal,” she reflected. She watched her mother deteriorate over eight years with Alzheimer’s Disease. “My father and I were her caretakers. It’s hard. I want to work on these issues.”

Williams’ campaign is about opportunity: “for public education; women’s health; economic development. It’s opportunities for veterans, opportunities in Indian country, making sure everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream.” 

With the environment, her concerns are climate change, clean air and water and public access. “For 36 years, I have been working on these issues.”

Most importantly, “We need to stem the industrialization of our public lands.” She said, “A lot of people are concerned with the reopening of BLM management plan in Montana.” 

On March 1, 2018, according to Gianforte’s house.gov website, “Congressman Greg Gianforte introduced legislation, the Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act and the Unlocking Public Lands Act, that will increase access to public lands...” 

According to the Helena Independent Record, “The Wilderness Association is calling for public meetings to discuss bills by Sen. Steve Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte that call for the release of wilderness study areas, over 500,000 acres of land in Montana.”

Williams said, “It didn’t need to be reopened-the critical areas, the study areas.” It’s been done, people said what they wanted and now they have to do it all over again. “We need good people at the top not just to harvest our natural resources.” With her extensive experience working with Forest Service, National Parks and the BLM, “I know how to speak agency. I know how to help with pointed questioning to help agencies do their job and to uncover issues that need to be addressed.”

Williams discussed various bills passed that she had fought for in the State House and her various committees work experience. She stressed her strengths were unique compared to her possible adversary, Gianforte, who claims running a business was sufficient.  

Working on particularly Montana issues is her strong suit regarding jobs, farm and ranch issues and tourism. She has a Bachelors degree in Science in Resource Economics and a Masters in Recreation Resources from Colorado State. She has spent 36 years in government work including water resources program manager at Montana FWP; research analyst at Legislative Environmental Policy Officer for the Montana Legislature; and river and recreation planner at the Forest Service. She has been project manager and economist at ESA/LSA Associates.

Williams was one of the lead negotiators on the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Compact the first time around. The next time, she educated negotiators. If it doesn’t pass by 2019, the Tribes can walk away. That means, “all the water right holders in the western part of the state have to go up against the tribes and represent themselves.” She feels the issues are not being presented accurately. She strongly disagrees with the claim, “If they pass this you’ll never get your rights.” 

“The CSKT is a powerful nation. Their claims are stayed (for now) by the court.” If the compact fails it is unknown whether the tribe will then move to enforce their rights. “Who in the House will introduce it?” she asks regarding the Compact.

She does not embrace “Medicare for all” but would lower the age to 55 years so “more can spread the word of its effectiveness in their lives.” 

She has heard from farmers and ranchers concerned with the tariffs. “Some of these are choosing to vote for the best person” to help them rather than party.

Williams said she was first elected to the Montana legislature to “grow and diversify our economy. “I am an entrepreneur.” Montanans speak of the importance of quality of life and work force as well as the need to support education. She supports work force training in colleges for actual jobs. “I passed a bill that created a new type of corporation-a benefits corporation.” It protects corporations, allowing them to plan more broadly without having shareholder profits as the sole priority.  

She created a food products bill producing 200 new businesses. She sees many uses for Montana agriculture. “Gianforte didn’t create 200 businesses,” she noted. “He created one.”

She has worked with Economic Development groups to see what can be done from training kids to economic innovation to supporting existing programs. 

As a hunter, she said her family has about 13 guns. She asks people to disregard how some try to her portray her; her positions are clear and on her website. 

She refers to her “Kathleen Shield”-those who know her and will correct mud-slinging. “They’ll say, ‘that’s not her! She went to Ekalaka; she puts her own chains on!’” she said with a laugh.

Williams isn’t waiting to get elected to help. She asks people to reach out to their neighbors on opposite political sides now and find something to talk about in common. “Pick three people!” she asks, and then “we will start to heal.” 

She loves one Montanan’s comment as best portraying her image. He said, “Kathleen Williams is the candidate Montana’s been waiting for.”