Don Richman and Douglas Stuart are seeking the Republican nomination for the state Senate from District 17, which covers northern Blaine and Hill counties. The primary is Tuesday June 5.
The winner will face Democrat Greg Jergeson in the Nov. 6 general elections. Incumbent Craig Tilleman is not running for re-election.
Both candidates are Blaine County natives. Stuart, a former rancher, is involved in several businesses. Richman is a Harlem insurance agent and has been involved in a wide variety of community activities.
Stuart: I have been asked why I decided to run for office in Senate District 17. Simply put, I care about the future of hard working families. Our family worked hard and fought our way out of poverty, faced financial reversals and fought our way back again. This great country and the state of Montana have provided our family with the opportunity and privilege to succeed if we were willing to work hard and never give up. I want every Montana family to continue to have access to that same opportunity.
I am a conservative. I am a Republican because I believe everybody should have the opportunity to succeed. I do not, however, believe that succeeding should be guaranteed. We can make it through working hard and working smart and if we make mistakes and have setbacks, we start over and are much wiser the second time around.
I want to bring my real-life experience and that commitment to creating opportunity to work for us at the state capitol. I believe I have the proven leadership for Northern Montana. I am a third-generation rancher and farmer. I have been a leader in our agriculture community and in our region’s economic development. Northern Montana is a special place for all of us, and we need to fight to keep it that way.
As your state Senator, I’ll work every day to create jobs and economic prosperity for our hard-working families. That begins with the responsible development of our natural resources to create good jobs and help our great state become energy independent. It means empowering small businesses by removing burdensome regulations to help small business to grow, prosper and create jobs. It means working every day to reform the state budget process and spend our tax dollars wisely. It means creating a friendly climate for business by streamlining permit processes and red tape so our local and state businesses have fewer obstacles to job creation. It means developing a real energy plan that will harness our natural resources to strengthen Montana and become energy independent. And most importantly, it means getting the government off our backs, out of our pockets and off our property.
I invite the primary voters of Senate District 17 to visit my website at http://www.DouglasStuartForSenate.com.
Richman: I’m excited to announce to you, my fellow Montana citizens, that it’s official … I’ve thrown my hat in the proverbial “ring” and have filed as a candidate for Senate District 17. Please send up a little prayer for me as I jump in with the lions!
You may or may not know me, though, so I feel it's important to tell you a little about me before you head to the polling places later this year. I want you to feel confident in supporting me in my efforts to help make Montana a better place to live and work. So, here is everything you need to know about Don Richman ... and if I've missed anything, I'd love to visit with you about it.
I’m a lifelong resident of Harlem and Blaine County. I’ve lived in Harlem since the early ’50s, other than the three years I served in the U.S. Army. I’m a Vietnam veteran, having served there from May 1968 to May 1969.
After returning from Vietnam in 1969, I married my high school sweetheart, Rita, on Aug. 3, and together we raised two wonderful children, Heather Jorgenson and Heath Richman. We’ve since been blessed with five precious grandchildren — three girls for Heath and Tawna (Tylie, Teagan and Tayla) and two boys for Casey and Heather (Chantry and Colten)
I’m a get-it-done kind of person, and not one to gripe, groan and complain. As a born-again Christian, I feel an immense duty to fight for the things I believe in, like the right to life. I am also a recovering chemically dependent alcoholic, in recovery since June 1983. I’m willing to share my story anywhere, and at any time, especially with young people.
Right now I’m a businessman, and as such, I feel strongly about the issues that face the residents of Hill and Blaine counties, Montana and our country. I have a diverse background and a genuine love for this great state of Montana, and I will fight hard for you in Helena!
I'd love to visit with you about any issue — call me. Thank you in advance for the opportunity to serve you.
What are the major issues you see confronting the 2013 legislative session?
Stuart: I believe the major issues of the Legislature will include the priorities I have set forth: I will be fighting for job creation in Montana and defending job creators, including accelerating the responsible development of our natural resources. This will be my No. 1 priority. I will be leading the fight for performance-based budgeting, which will examine each state program for efficiency and effectiveness. Within the state budget debate will be the issue of the state’s two largest pension funds, the Teachers Retirement System and the Public Employees Retirement System which have combined unfunded liabilities of $3.4 billion. These will be my No. 2 priority. Then I will lead the fight for a unified energy policy for Montana, through which Montana can become a Net Zero Energy State by using our natural resources first. We must have our own energy policy to protect our state’s economy.
Richman: Oil and gas and energy development would have to be major issues. Hopefully, we can be proactive and have our infrastructure ready for the Bakken coming our way.
It appears that the state will have a rather substantial surplus at the end of 2012. What would you like to see done with that money? Tax cuts? Spending? If spending, in what area?
Stuart: The state surplus is forecasted to be nearly $500 billion. But the state has unfunded pension liabilities of at least $3.4 billion, an amount which could substantially rise with the federal debt out of control and the national economy remaining very weak. In addition to the pension problem, the state is forecasted to be dependent on the federal government for 41 cents for every dollar the state will budget and spend. The federal government, by Montana standards of family budgeting, is broke, so how dependable will that 41 cents be over the next four years? All of which means the state should be accelerating the responsible development of its resources to bring in the TENS of billions of dollars of tax revenue that today, is still in the ground, locked up by out of state, radical environmentalists and burdensome regulations. There is no real surplus. If you visit my website I discuss this very situation.
Richman: Give it back to the taxpayer. We need smaller government and less spending.
What should Montana do to improve education, high school and secondary as well as college?
Stuart: Improving education is not a simple subject or answer. Let's start by saying that I agreed to be interviewed by the MEA-MFT COPE Committee for North Central, here in Havre. I figured if Ronald Reagan could talk to Tip O’Neal, why should I not talk to the MEA. At some point we all have to work together to move the state forward, so my thought was to address any perceptions we might have about each other, learn from each other and see where we could work together and where we might disagree but not be disagreeable. I felt it was a very enlightening 90 minutes for all of us, four lovely ladies and me. Part of my view is that teachers are not allowed to really teach. They have become facilitators. This is what the strings of federal money have produced, aided by school boards all too willing to cede local control and quality to get those federal dollars. Compounding the problem is the constant data collection required by OPI of teachers, who already don’t have enough time in the classroom.
Richman: Education is a tricky issue. I would like to see some coal revenues used to fund education. I feel that, at times, we push all or our high school graduates to go to college, when in some cases, a technology school or trade school would benefit them more. Too much of our education dollars are spent on administration and not enough on students and teachers.
What should the state do to bring more jobs to Montana? Should environmental laws be loosened? Should taxes be lowered?
Stuart: Bringing more jobs to Montana requires a multifaceted approach that will lower our corporate tax rate, lower or eliminate other business taxes like the equipment tax, lower worker’s comp rates to be competitive with other states (Have you seen the multi-million dollar palace they built in Helena?) and streamline our regulatory environment. I agree with Neil Livingstone, candidate for governor, who summed it up very well in a facebook post on April 19:
“We have more than 200 environmental groups, funded largely by out-of-state elitists, operating in Montana. In alliance with left-of-center politicians, job killing judges and trial lawyers, they have created an odious regulatory environment that has undermined the state's business climate and brought natural resource development to a near standstill.”
Richman: Yes to all of them. We need to make Montana a place where business wants to come. Tax breaks would help, and less control by the environmentalists.
Some of the highest poverty areas in the state are on Native American reservations. What should the state do to improve the situation on reservations?
Stuart: Indian reservations are sovereign governments. The state is a sovereign government. The tribal governments and the state government have a government to government relationship. The state is not responsible for the poverty that exists on any reservation. The state can leverage its resources with tribal resources, when invited to do so by tribal governments, in order to fund viable business investments and job creation. Poverty on reservations is not an economic problem. It is a political problem. There are three main factors that influence successful economic development on Indian reservations all researched and documented by Harvard and these are: sovereignty, institutions and culture. Institutions are the most critical factor. Court systems, collateral security, political and financial stability all contribute to a safe haven for investment. Tribal governments have tremendous power to attract federal, state and private money to their economic development. Montana tribes need to follow the successful models of the Choctaws in Mississippi, the Chickasaw in Oklahoma, the Seminoles in Florida, the Salish at Flathead, to name just a few. In these sovereign nations, economic development is separated from the politics of tribal government by establishing separate business corporations for just that purpose.
Richman: I'm not conceited enough to think I have all the answers, but I really feel there are solutions to problems if we try to find them. For example, our reservations have very high unemployment. We also have hundreds of thousands of pine beetle killed trees in our forests. Those trees are a forest fire waiting to happen. Why can't we use some of our unemployed to cut them down and make use of the resource before it's too late?