By Tim Leeds
Harlem rancher seeks Democratic nomination
A Harlem rancher announced Tuesday that he is campaigning to take the place of state Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook.
Ken "Kim" Hansen is running as a Democrat for the seat in Senate District 46, covering parts of Hill, Blaine and Phillips counties. Jergeson cannot run for re-election because of term limits.
Hansen said the biggest issues facing Montana are utility deregulation and education funding.
"There's a lot of issues, but those are the ones that are foremost," he said.
Hansen advocates a strong public education system, with an emphasis on fairly funding smaller schools, like many on the Hi-Line.
"I think that the Legislature needs to step up to the plate more," he said. "Schools on the Hi-Line are hurting and it's up to the Legislature to fund them. I know there's a limit, but we have to do something."
Most of the issues facing Montana are connected to education, Hansen said.
"I don't want to cut any corners," he said. "It's all intertwined. Economic growth, agriculture, it's all tied in to education."
He said something has to be done to keep Montana's quality teachers in the state, to attract Montana high school graduates to the Montana university system, and to keep them in the state once they have their degrees.
People have told Hansen that energy deregulation is a big concern to them. The estimates of rate increases have gone down, from 50 percent to an estimated 13 to 15 percent, but that's still very difficult for people on a fixed income and to small business owners, he said.
Hansen would like to go back to what Montana had before deregulation, but he said there are so many ideas out there right now that he's not sure what the answer is.
He added that Montana needs the Public Service Commission to take more action than it has, and said negotiations with utility companies should be public.
Hansen has served in government before. He was a member of Gov. Ted Schwinden's Economic Development Council in 1983, and served on the Harlem School Board from 1987 to 1990. He said the most important thing, if he's elected, will be serving his constituents.
"People in my district come first, then Montana," he said. "If I go to Helena, I'm going to fight for (District) 46 'til the end."
He and his wife, Renee, have five grown children.
County commissioner will face him in primary
A longtime Blaine County commissioner announced his candidacy for the state Senate Tuesday.
Commissioner Art Kleinjan said he is running as a Democrat for Senate District 46, which includes parts of Hill, Blaine and Phillips counties. The senator from the district, Democrat Greg Jergeson of Chinook, cannot run for re-election because of term limits.
Kleinjan said legislative decisions that hurt rural people have prompted him to run. He said he can use his experience and knowledge of local issues to help constituents.
Unfunded mandates are one example Kleinjan cited. Although the situation has improved in some areas, Kleinjan said, the state requires local governments to provide some services and programs without providing any money to pay for them.
He said the Legislature also has reduced state taxes and shifted the burden to local government.
"Then we either go without services, or raise taxes, and we're (often) frozen in to where we can't raise taxes," he said.
He said the state has replaced some of the money local governments have lost because of state action, but he doesn't know how well that will continue.
Kleinjan said another problem is loss of local control over local issues.
Kleinjan thinks his experience as a commissioner and the work he has done on boards and organizations give him good experience for the position. He has been a Blaine County commissioner for 20 years, has chaired the Montana Association of Oil, Gas and Coal Producing Counties, chairs the boards of Bear Paw Development Corp. and Golden Triangle Mental Health Center, is on the Justice and Safety Committee of the Montana Association of Counties, and is on the Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Council. He also chaired a task force appointed by Gov. Judy Martz to examine the boundaries and use of the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument.
Kleinjan said he has worked with all levels of bureaucracy, and has testified at every legislative session since becoming a commissioner.
Born in Chinook and a lifelong resident of Blaine County, Kleinjan sold his farm and ranch to his son, Dennis, in 1999. Kleinjan and his wife, Alice, have five children.