By Matt B. Walen
Matt B. Walen
The Havre Daily News
Wednesday, May 12
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark OKeefe accepted several endorsements from Hi-Line elected officials Tuesday during a campaign stop in Havre.
OKeefe, Montanas state auditor, said the Hi-Line has always been a special place for him because of the peoples hospitality.
These endorsements are a tremendous boost to my campaign on day two, he said.
The Hi-Line Democratic elected officials who are supporting OKeefes run include Reps. Ray Peck, D-Havre, and Antonetti Toni Hagener, D-Havre, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, Hill County Commissioners Kathy Bessette, Pat Conway and Doug Kaercher, Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller, and Havre City Councilwoman Emily Mayer Lossing.
Betty Peck, wife of Ray, is OKeefes campaign treasurer.
I am honored and deeply appreciate the endorsements of these elected officials, OKeefe said. Their support is key. It allows me to gain momentum on the Hi-Line and I can call on them to give me solid advice on issues important to families in northcentral Montana.
OKeefe, 46, said he is running for governor because he believes the states economy can be improved, the tax system can be fairer to working people, and place the top priority on childrens education.
Montana needs to do more to attract high-paying jobs, find new markets for its agricultural products, encourage high-tech industrial development, and stabilize rural communities that have been losing population and commerce, OKeefe said.
Sadly, Montanas economy has been sitting still far too long, he said. The state has been sitting dead in the water for the last decade.
The states lawmakers have approved an unfair tax equation requiring eastern Montana homeowners to pay more than their fair share while giving homeowners in western Montana better tax breaks, OKeefe said.
And thats not fair. The governor should represent the whole state, he said.
As governor, OKeefe said he would have sent the legislation back to the lawmakers for reconsideration in an effort to level the taxation.
But making education the top priority is important to continue producing some of the brightest students in the nation, OKeefe said.
His ideas for education include making schools a budget priority; teaching children discipline, responsibility, respect and hard work; paying teachers better; reducing class sizes; upgrading school buildings; and ensuring safe schools.
OKeefe is the second candidate seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2000 primary election that is still more than a year away. Secretary of State Mike Cooney entered the race Dec. 8.
At least one other front-line Democrat Attorney General Joe Mazurek is likely to run.