A retired military leader made a push in Havre for his Democratic ticket running for Montana governor, saying the current state attorney general has shown, by his actions in the state’s top legal office, that he will help everyone .
“The things that (Steve Bullock) has done he hasn’t done for just Democrats or he hasn’t done them for just Republicans, but he’s done them for Montanans, what is right for Montana, ” Brig. Gen. John Walsh, Bullock’s running mate, said Friday during the Hill County Democratic Pasma-Peck Dinner. “And that’s the type of leader we need as governor of this state. We need somebody who’s going to look out for all Montanans, and have Montana’s best interest in every decision he makes. ”
Bullock and Walsh, the retired adjutant general of the Montana National Guard, face Republican candidates former U. S. Rep. Rick Hill and state Sen. Jon Sonju of Kalispell and Libertarian candidates Ron Vandevender and Marc Mulcahy in November’s general election.
In an interview earlier Friday, Walsh talked about bills Bullock sponsored during the controversial 2011 Legislature to improve public safety. Of the 12 bills Bullock’s office requested, 10 passed, Walsh said.
“The last Legislature, we had such a division, and Steve will be able … to bring the Legislature together to give positive results for the citizens of Montana, ” Walsh said.
He directly contrasted Bullock and Hill during the Democratic fundraiser, held the first evening of Havre Festival Days.
It is not good policy to come to places like Havre as a governor or former member of Congress telling people how it should be, Walsh said. Instead, the leaders should be listening to people on Main Street, where “the rubber meets the road, ” to find ideas on how to grow the economy and create jobs, he said.
“If you have any ideas, we want to hear your ideas. The big difference between Steve Bullock and our opponent is, Steve Bullock listens to Montanans and will work with Montanans …, ” Walsh said. “If we could get Congressman Hill to travel around the state of Montana, he’s really one of our best campaign ads. ”
He added that the oldest of Bullock’s three daughters will be graduating from high school at the end of his second term, if he is elected.
“So, when Steve talks about the things he wants for Montana, he wants to make sure his children and all of our children have … better options than we did when we were growing up in Montana, ” Walsh said. “So every decision that Steve Bullock makes as governor, Montana’s children will be considered in those decisions. ”
He said one of those would be to strengthen early childhood education — when children go to kindergarten without being able to read, they already are behind. Walsh said he and Bullock want to provide more services to make sure that doesn’t happen.
He said he and Bullock also want to strengthen k-12 and higher education, including reversing increasing college costs that are leaving Montana students deeper and deeper in debt when they graduate.
Walsh spoke about a proposal from Hill to use revenue from natural resources, including oil and gas, to fund education and reduce property taxes.
“The problem with that is he didn’t really do his homework before he came out with a plan, ” Walsh said. “The numbers just don’t add up. ”
He added that Hill wants to increase private schools and start charter schools in Montana. While Walsh and Bullock don’t oppose charter or private schools, Walsh said, they do oppose shifting money from public schools to support them.
“Congressman Hill’s plan will not fund our public schools the way they are right now. … Our public school system will be significantly degraded, and we cannot let that happen, ’ Walsh said.
He said whoever takes over as governor and lieutenant governor will start at a pretty good time, with $450 million to $500 million in reserve.
“Governor Schweitzer and his administration have done a fantastic job and there’s going to be money in the bank. ” Walsh said.
But, he said, he and Bullock want to be careful — they want to invest money in education and infrastructure, and also give a $400 rebate to property owners in the state, but maintain a rainy-day fund.
“We want to make sure we have a balanced approach, ” Walsh said.
He said during the interview that people who say the state does not have an attractive economic environment to businesses are wrong.
“I would really disagree with that. … Governor Schweitzer and his administration have done some fantastic things when it comes to economic development, ” Walsh said.
He cited industry ratings of the state that include being rated eighth-best overall in the nation for business climate, sixth overall for tax climate for businesses, third-best for sales tax climate for business, eighth-best for quality of life, sixth-best for cost of labor including productivity, and fourth-best for having an educated work force.
During the Pasma-Peck dinner, Walsh also touched on a new poll showing Bullock gaining in the campaign. In the spring and early summer, polls showed the two campaigns neck-and-neck at 39 percent each he said, but a poll released Thursday showed Bullock ahead 44-39.
Walsh said in the interview that he thinks the change shows the momentum of the campaign.
The message of what Bullock will do and what his priorities are is getting out, Walsh said.
At the dinner, he said he and Bullock know it is the team effort by the Democrats that is helping the campaign. That team effort is needed for all Democratic candidates, to prevent a repeat of the Republican victories in 2010, which included a first-ever sweep of all contested races in Hill and Blaine counties.
“We can’t let … what happened in 2010 happen again, ” Walsh said to cheers and applause.
The problem was, 100,000 fewer Montana Democrats turned out to vote that year than in previous elections, Walsh said.
“We cannot let that happen again and expect to win, ” he said.