MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer MISSOULA
Gov. Brian Schweitzer promised at a debate Monday night to lower taxes, while Republican challenger Roy Brown vowed even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, Libertarian Stan Jones said he wants to get rid of basically all taxes. Democrats believe Schweitzer is a popular incumbent who should easily win the election, but Republicans say recent missteps by the governor give Brown a better chance at toppling an old foe. Jones, a perennial third-place finisher in Montana elections, spiced up the debate with extreme positions. Both Schweitzer and Brown, a state senator, worked off well-known campaign themes that date back to old battles in the Legislature. Schweitzer said the state's economy is doing better than ever, and he is doing more than Republican predecessors to boost energy production. Brown said he wants to be a "workhorse," and Schweitzer is just a "show horse." He said the governor is not really doing what he could do to develop energy. The first debate question dealt with a Schweitzer speech that dominated state news last week. Speaking to trial lawyers over the summer, it was revealed that Schweitzer suggested he tampered with the 2006 U.S. Senate election. Schweitzer has said he was joking. But Brown seized the opening to take the high road on ethics. "The election process is not a joke, and it should not be treated as such," Brown said. "My administration will be the most open, honest and accountable administration in Montana's history." Republicans have asked for an investigation, and Schweitzer took several hits over the weekend in newspaper editorials. Schweitzer simply said that "I think I will leave comedy to the professional comedians in the future" before moving on and talking about economic accomplishments. But it was Brown who skirted the edges of the next question, which asked if the candidate thought humans are contributing to global warming. He simply said "there are scientists on both sides of the issue." Schweitzer said the state can develop energy while lowering globalwarming emissions. "I believe that 95 percent of the scientists are correct, that we are increasing carbon dioxide on this planet and we are going to see climate change," the governor said. "We have to move aggressively toward a coal system that does sequester or create industrial products with the carbon dioxide." Another difference surfaced in a discussion about health care. Schweitzer said he supports a federal universal health care system, while Brown does not. Throughout the debate, Jones said he would slash all sorts of government programs, including higher education. Before the debate, a small group of Republicans held up signs critical of Schweitzer and chanted slogans for Brown. A larger group of Democrats chanted in support of the governor. The Missoula debate, broadcast live on public television, public radio and the Northern Ag Network, is the first of five between Brown and Schweitzer.