By Matt B. Walen
Montanas state offices will have several new faces to help shape the state in the next millennium. Paul Tuss wants to be the one who helps shape the secretary of state office.
Tuss, an Anaconda native currently living in Cut Bank, is a Democratic candidate for the office that is being vacated by Democrat Mike Cooney due to term limits.
Tuss is being challenged by fellow Democrat Rep. Hal Harper of Helena for the right to face the Republican winner in the general election. Three Republicans are seeking the office, including Russell Fillner and Bob Werner, both of Helena, and Harry Combs of Laurel.
Tuss, 34, said he doesnt feel his young age is an important issue for the voters to be concerned about. He said he quizzed several influential Democrats around the state and asked if he should be concerned about his youthfulness the answer was always no.
Im really interested in getting out there to hear what the people have to say, Tuss said before making a campaign stop at the Great Northern Fair Friday. The people are talking about important issues.
Tuss said he has been talking about four major points during his run for the office, including comprehensive campaigning reform laws, rural economic development, proper stewardship of the states public land and implementing creative ways to get more people to the voting booths.
There needs to be more campaign reform on the level of money spent in each political race, Tuss said. Its an obligation of the person in charge of the office to do something about the spiraling costs, he said. So far in the state, we have done a fairly good job. But there can be some improvements made.
One way to improve rural economic development is to make it easier for businessmen to do business in the state, Tuss said. Several businessmen have told him during campaign stops that the red tape in the Business Service Bureau, an office within the secretarys office, restricts business opportunities in the state.
I want to try to create a user-friendly office, he said. I want to help create a good relationship with the states businessmen. There are a lot of people hurting out there and we need state leadership to step up to the plate.
Easing the business restrictions would help the smaller businesses in rural Montana, Tuss said.
We are only as strong as our weakest link and unfortunately that weak link is in rural Montana, he said.
Getting Montanans who moved out of state to return home and bring their business with them, would be a great start for rural economic development, Tuss said.
As secretary, Tuss said he would take seriously the appointment to the state land board. He said he would want to keep the public lands open to the public and would fight hard to keep the lands open.
The final task the secretary has is to inform the public about voting and getting more people to the polls during primary and general elections, Tuss said. He said he would like to encourage Montanas youth and Native Americans to get registered and go to the polls.
Tuss said the campaigning has gone very well and he has put on a lot of miles already. He graduated from the University of Montana in 1988 with a bachelors degree in political science and is employed as the executive director of Glacier Action and Involvement Now (GAIN) in Cut Bank.
Tuss and his wife, Pam Hillery, have a 6-year-old son, Dolan.