By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
In the race in new House District 32, which stretches from Hill to Valley counties, two incumbent legislators are facing off in next Tuesday's general election.
Redistricting adopted by the Legislature in 2003 combined the districts represented by Republican Jeffrey Pattison of Glasgow and Democrat Jonathan Windy Boy of Rocky Boy.
HD 32 has the only Havre-area race where both candidates are incumbents in the Legislature.
Pattison, 45, is running for a third term. Windy Boy, 46, is running for a second term.
Both cite their experience in politics and their ability to work with people as qualifications.
Pattison said his experience as a legislator, a member of agricultural groups and as a businessman better qualifies him for the seat, dealing both with issues on and off the two American Indian reservations within HD32.
Windy Boy cites his experience dealing with local, state and national government as a member of the Chippewa Cree tribal council as well as his service in the Legislature.
Both candidates said their priorities in the legislative session that begins January include clean water and a good education system.
Both were involved in a bill that proposed establishing a state fund to pay for future water treatment at the Zortman-Landusky mine in the Little Rocky Mountains.
Windy Boy proposed selling bonds to create a $12.5 million fund, which would accrue interest until it could be used to pay for treatment once the bond Pegasus Mines set up to clean the site runs out.
The state Department of Environmental Quality determined that Pegasus' bond would not be enough for the total cost of treating the water, which may be needed indefinitely.
Pattison added amendments providing the state would sell $2.5 million in bonds contingent on Congress appropriating $10 million for the fund.
Windy Boy asked that the amended bill be killed, and it did not pass.
Pattison then successfully attached the $2.5 million to the House appropriations bill, still contingent on $10 million from Congress.
Windy Boy said waiting to create the fund will cause problems. If it had been established last legislative session, it would have accrued enough interest to provide the $48 million that will be needed when the bonds run out, he said.
Now, it will take a state appropriation of $15 million or $16 million to do the same, and every year that passes will require a larger state contribution, he said.
"When the existing bond expires, the state will have to pay for it anyway, so it's kind of a pay me now or pay me later," he said.
Carrying a bill to have the state establish the fund would be a high priority for him, he said.
Windy Boy also said he believes the legislators have a constitutional obligation to provide the funding Montana schools need to operate, and he will support funding their needs. The Legislature should not have let the state's percentage of education funding shrink, prompting a lawsuit, now on appeal to the state Supreme Court, to ask that the Legislature change how it funds education, Windy Boy said.
"We have a sworn oath to uphold and we should not have to allow the state Supreme Court to define our duties," he said.
Pattison said he also supports funding education, and he adds that some streamlining could be done to increase how much goes to educate students.
The average cost per classroom in overhead, like utilities and administrative costs, is $91,000, he said. If that could be reduced, through actions like consolidating elementary and high school districts to reduce administrative costs, more money could be used to educate, he said.
Both candidates said they support Montana State University-Northern, and want to establish programs to both help and utilize the university.
Pattison said he wants to establish a research program to develop and test lubricants made from locally grown ag products for diesel engines.
"If this works out right, we could be one of the leaders in the nation," he said.
Windy Boy said he is working on setting up a program that would help graduates from two-year colleges transfer directly to Northern as juniors.
"That would be an advantage to our region," he said.
He said the state needs to work to reduce unemployment on the seven Indian reservations in Montana. In the last session the governor touted a 4.5 percent unemployment rate, but failed to note the 40 percent to 70 percent unemployment rate on reservations, Windy Boy said.
"In order to address all of Montana, we have to address what the needs are," he said.
He added that his work as a tribal leader gives him a different perspective than most legislators.
"As a tribal leader I address issues and concerns that face my people without any Democrat or Republican political party as an influence," he said.
Pattison said his experience probably will allow him to deal with reservation issues better than Windy Boy can. He said his campaigning has shown him some issues that need to be addressed.
"I think we need to cut down those borders, imaginary or real, around reservations," he said. "I think they have a lot to offer and we have a lot to offer them. It's always kind of been them or us and that needs to stop."
The candidates have some similarities in their backgrounds. Both grew up on their family's agricultural operations and both have college degrees. Pattison continues to work the land, raising cattle and crops, while Windy Boy's brother, Alvin Windy Boy Sr., took over their family's ranch on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
Pattison followed another family tradition when he and some partners bought the Glasgow cattle stockyard. His grandfather, Jake Pattison, started a store near Vandalia in 1910, and later started Pattison Implement Co. in Glasgow, Jeff Pattison said. He and his wife, Dawn Pattison, sold their interest to their partners in 1998.
Pattison said he decided to get involved in politics after he met and was impressed by U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns while in Washington, D.C. Pattison was the Montana Stockgrowers Association's representative to the Young Cattlemen's Convention in 1998.
Burns used a joke Pattison told him when he was in a committee meeting, Pattison said.
"It really amazed me. He really heard what I had to say," Pattison said. "I thought, you know, maybe a guy ought to get involved in this political stuff more than I am."
He ran for the state House in 2000 after people in the district encouraged his candidacy, Pattison said.
Windy Boy is following a family tradition by being in politics. His father, the late John Windy Boy, served on the tribal council for 22 years, 18 as chairman. Alvin Windy Boy is running for re-election as tribal chair against John "Chance" Houle.
Jonathan Windy Boy lists another Rocky Boy politician as a major influence in his life. His cousin, John "Roddy" Sunchild, who died Oct. 6 while in Washington, D.C., served on the tribal council from 1984 to 1992, when he was elected council chair. In 1995 he formed the National Tribal Development Association, which now provides credit outreach services to more than 250 Indian tribes in 28 states.
"He was pretty much my mentor, both political and cultural," Windy Boy said.
Windy Boy earned a degree in telecommunications from Southwestern Indian Polytech Institute in Albuquerque, N.M., after graduating from Box Elder High School in 1976.
Pattison earned a degree in diesel technology from MSU-Northern when it was known as Northern Montana College. He graduated from Glasgow High School in 1978.
He said his experience serving on the House Appropriations Committee and serving as chair of the interim Audit Committee will help him in dealing with other legislators in getting bills that benefit north-central Montana passed. Legislators from rural areas have to build a rapport with legislators from the more densely populated areas of the state, he said.
"I've got a pretty good reputation and I think that's important," Pattison said.
He added that he thinks he has a better understanding of the Legislature than his opponent, which comes from lobbying for ag organizations as well as his two terms as a representative.
Windy Boy said he has extensive experience dealing with the state outside of his work as a legislator, from lobbying for the Chippewa Cree Tribe and experience while he was chair of the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council. Windy Boy was elected chair of the council in 2000. He resigned while he was campaigning for the Legislature in 2002 because he said he could not dedicate enough time to the position.
His experience is on all levels of government, he said.
"As a tribal leader you have three levels of government you have to deal with," he said.