By Tim Leeds
Three more hopefuls have announced their candidacy in the 2002 legislative election.
Andrew Brekke of Harlem is running in House District 92 as a Republican, Democrat John Musgrove of Havre is running for re-election in House District 90, and Democrat Jon Tester is running for re-election in Senate District 45.
Brekke, who is studying political science at Montana State University-Bozeman, is running in the district containing parts of Hill, Blaine, Phillips and Chouteau counties. At the top of his agenda is support for Montana public education. The bottom line of the initial report from Gov. Judy Martz's task force on public education is that more funding is needed, and he agrees, he said.
"There is nothing (the education system) can do without further funding," he said. "When we keep cutting funding, less and less resources are available. How can we provide quality education without funding?"
He said the Legislature needs to look at new ways to raise money for education, or new ways of allocating money to increase education funding. He doesn't support a tax increase, but said that if one, like a sales tax, is necessary to fund education adequately, Montana voters would probably back it and so would he.
Another top priority of Brekke's is making affordable energy available to Montanans. He said he fully supports energy deregulation, although the timing was a problem because of the Western energy situation.
Brekke, the son of George "Skrud" and Roberta "Bobbie" Brekke of Harlem, is a 1999 graduate of Chinook High School. He said he has always been interested in running for office, but meeting U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns in 1994 solidified his desire.
Brekke served as legislative intern for Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Crofts in the 2001 legislative session. He said the experience taught him a lot about the workings of politics and the Legislature in Montana.
Jonathan Windy Boy of Rocky Boy has declared as a Democratic candidate for the seat. Rep. Matt McCann, D-Harlem, cannot run for re-election in the district because of term limits.
Musgrove ran unopposed in the 2000 general election to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Ray Peck, D-Havre, who could not run because of term limits. The district contains the northern parts of Hill and Blaine counties.
Musgrove said he learned a lot in his first term and is running again to take care of a lot of unfinished business.
"I didn't feel that a lot of the issues that should have been addressed were addressed to the depth that was needed to get something done," he said.
Education and the economy will continue to be his priorities if re-elected, Musgrove said.
He carried the school funding study bill in the 2001 Legislature, which authorized interim legislative committee work on ways to strengthen Montana's K-12 public education system. That bill helped to create the governor's task force on K-12 public education.
The task force had an excellent makeup, he said, but didn't go far enough in its recommendations. The final compromise version of the his bill required the task force to deal with many issues in addition to school funding, giving it too much to examine extensively in the time the task force had to work, he added.
He said he is troubled that the Martz administration didn't wait for the task force's full report to come out before stating there isn't enough money to better fund education.
"They're already posturing about not funding education before the report is out," he said.
Musgrove said he isn't satisfied when he hears that money isn't available.
"In order to make a difference it is going to take money, and I'm tired of hearing the phrase, You can't keep throwing money at this problem,'" he said.
If the problem is not having enough money, he said, it's going to take money to solve it.
Education and economic growth are interrelated, Musgrove said. When one is strong, the other usually is too. He said Gov. Martz's economic advisor, Dave Gibson, is a bright young man but has a daunting task ahead of him.
"I'm not sure the state government can solve the problems," Musgrove said. "It has to come from private individuals in cooperation with the government."
Musgrove taught in Havre for 25 years. He lives in Havre with his wife, Sue.
Tester defeated former state Rep. Roger DeBruyker in the 1998 election to win his seat in SD45, which includes parts of Hill, Liberty and Chouteau counties. He said he learned a lot in his first two legislative sessions, and listed four main priorities he would have if re-elected.
One is the economy. All of Montana, especially eastern Montana, is economically challenged, and small businesses and