Dennis McDonald brought his campaign for Congress to Havre and the Hi-Line on Thursday, telling a crowd at the Eagles Club that he wanted to be part of the team that will "help get the economy out of the ditch it's in."
McDonald gave a brief speech, listened to people who came forth with ideas and questions, and chatted with reporters about the issue he said was the biggest concern for voters: jobs.
McDonald toured the Hi-Line on Thursday, stopping in Glasgow, Malta and Fort Belknap before ending the day in Havre. He is heading toward Kalispell today in his effort to unseat Republican Denny Rehberg.
People have concerns about the economy even in eastern Montana, where "the employment rate is nearly 100 percent" because of the oil boom, he said.
In eastern Montana communities, normally there would be major construction as developers look to build trailer parks and apartment complexes to house workers.
"But they can't get money from the banks," he said.
If elected, he promised to create incentives so community banks could make loans to small businesses. In response to a question, he said he was "pretty much middle of the road," politically. "I recognize a good idea no matter where it comes from," he said.
The outsourcing of American jobs is causing many Americans to lose hope, he said.
"We have had a series of trade laws that have resulted in the loss of the American dream," he said.
He disagreed with one woman who said teacher salaries were too high.
"Teachers are my heroes," he said. "They are on the front line.
"Their salaries have been frozen because of the economy," he said. "They need a raise. It probably won't happen this year."
He praised Gov. Brian Schweitzer for leading one of two states in the country that have balanced budgets.
"Do you know why we have a balanced budget?" he asked. "Because we have a rancher for a governor."
Havre-born Schweitzer grew up north of Rudyard. McDonald is a Melville rancher.
McDonald also blasted Rehberg for his support of the trade embargo with Cuba.
"Ninety miles from our shores, we have this great market," he said. "They want our wheat. They want our beef.
"Rehberg's vote against repealing the embargo is a poke in the eye to every farmer and every rancher in Montana," he said.
McDonald was introduced by Montana House Speaker Bob Bergren, D-Havre, whom McDonald praised for "the great job he did in the House.
"Everyone in Havre should be proud they have Bob Bergren," he said.