Corey Stapleton is putting his Navy training and his triathlon running experience to good use these days.
The candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination is visiting all parts of the state, spreading his message and shaking hands.
He's also sitting in front a computer, communicating with 600 to 800 people a day on Facebook. He's making fundraising calls to finance his way in the nine-way race to succeed Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who is barred from re-election because of term limits.
"It takes 16 hours a day," he said.
The 45-year-old Stapleton brought his campaign to Havre on Monday. It's not an unfamiliar area for him.
His father was an architect here more than 40 years ago, and his mother was a county extension agent before the couple moved to Great Falls.
His wife Terry's family is from Turner.
Stapleton, a former state Senate Republican leader, said he is finding his ideas on how Montana should move forward are popular with state residents.
And during the last quarter, he said, he raised more money than any of the other candidates.
Still, the public is confused by the nine-way race, and he hopes the field will winnow down to a few candidates in coming weeks.
Some candidates, he said, have barely raised enough money to pay the $2,000 filing fee.
One of his primary goals is to develop natural resources, especially oil and coal in eastern Montana.
He sponsored legislation to open up coal mining in Otter Creek, he said, but he's frustrated that a decade later, no coal has been mined. Schweitzer has given "lip service" to coal, he said, but has failed to prod the bureaucracy to act on applications.
Montana is losing out to coal production to neighboring North Dakota, he said.
Developing those natural resources could bring the unemployment rate from from 7.7 to about 5 percent, he said.
Stapleton said Montana State University-Northern could play an important role in developing the Hi-Line's economy in coming years, he said.
And agriculture will play an important role in northern Montana, he said.
As the world's population increases, he said, there will be a greater need for food that Montanans can produce.
He said he opposed the health care reform law supported by President Barack Obama, but said quality health care is a complex issue.
He introduced legislation to create a medical school in Montana, a plan that would keep Montana money in the state and would enable more state residents to become doctors. The state has far too few doctors, he said.
He said he was pleased with some aspects of the 2011 legislative session, and looked less favorably on others.
While they were at each other's throats during much of the session, the Republican leadership and Schweitzer managed to end the session with a large budget surplus.
But there was stalemate on many other issues, he said.
"You don't talk with this governor," Stapleton said. "He talks to you."
His leadership style contrasts with Schweitzer's, he said. He would be more inclusive and be more able to talk across party lines.
He said he was a conservative on social issues, but would like to concentrate on issues that could unite Montanans.
Stapleton said his campaign is fueled by college students who are campaigning on his behalf.
Their enthusiasm is symbolic of the kind of campaign and administration he hopes to run.
"It's a big state," he said. "If I'm elected, I will be out everywhere."
Corey and his wife are both fourth generation Montanans who grew up in Great Falls. After more than a decade in the Navy, they’ve made their home in Billings, where you’ll find them at a variety of business, school, church, music, and sporting events with their four children.
Enlisting into the Navy’s nuclear power program out of Great Falls High School in 1986, Stapleton quickly rose through the ranks and earned an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Ma., where he graduated with an engineering degree in 1992. Assigned to the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, Stapleton qualified as Officer of the Deck (underway) and Surface Warfare Officer as an Ensign.
Going to night school while stationed at the Philadelphia Naval shipyard, Stapleton received a master’s degree in political science from Temple University in 1995, before reporting to the Aegis cruiser USS Hue City in Mayport, Fla, as the missile Fire Control Officer. After making three overseas deployments, and a fulfilling navy career, he and Terry returned to Montana in 1997, where he began his career as a financial advisor.
Stapleton was the first Generation X-er elected to the Montana state Senate in 2000, and re-elected in 2004 before being term-limited. He ascended quickly into leadership within the Republican caucus. In 2005 he was elected as chairman of the statewide Legislative Campaign Committee, where he created a statewide campaign platform called "Handshake with Montana." Handshake proved decisive in the 2006 elections against the Democrats’ platform response "Square Deal." Montana was the only state in America that year where the GOP regained control of a chamber of the Legislature — and it happened in both the House and Senate — winning back the House and tying in the Senate. Stapleton served as the minority leader his final legislative session in 2007.
Stapleton has received numerous leadership awards over his 20 years of public service and 13 years in business. He has been a member of Rotary, Chamber of Commerce and the American Legion. He currently serves as president of the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind foundation. Stapleton and his family enjoy camping, hunting, fishing and all sorts of sporting activities.