The full line of statewide Democratic candidates began the final day of a week-long tour of every Montana Indian reservation, plus the Havre bowling alley, with a visit to the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation’s Business Committee Chambers.
Starting at 8 a. m., the candidates took turns telling the committee and the rest of the room how important it is to vote and how detrimental Republican victories would be for Montana’s Native Americans.
“I cannot express how important the Indian vote will be in this election, ” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction. “This is the slate that is going to get it done for you. If the other side wins, don't expect them to show up here and work for you. You will be a forgotten people. ”
Sen. Jon Tester said that he sympathized with Rocky Boy and how, “over the last six years it seems like there have been more challenges up here than almost anywhere else in Montana. ”
“There’s been a lot done, but there’s a lot left to do, ” Tester said. “After the election, we’ll need to roll up our sleeves and get back to work, if we get our folks to the polls.
“If I don’t win, I’ll be a farmer about 25 miles west of here. ”
U. S. representative candidate Kim Gillan said she wanted to work “as a team with senators Baucus and Tester” to invest in the education and infrastructure that are necessary to “create good-paying jobs. ”
Attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Steve Bullock pointed to the success of Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s eight years in office, especially greater respect for and dialogue with Montana’s tribal governments.
“This election will decide what kind of Montana that we will want to have, ” Bullock said. “Every vote will influence the kind of Montana we have going forward.
“They can take away a lot of things, but they can’t take away your right to vote. ”
Incumbents played up what they’d already accomplished.
State Auditor Monica Lindeen said she’d changed an insurance company background check policy that was increasing rates for Native Americans.
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch told the group about new policies she had developed that made it easier for start-up businesses to acquire small business loans.
She also warned of the voting laws her opponent, former Secretary of State Brad Johnson, wanted to enact to limit late registration and require voter ID.
Clarena Brockie, the unopposed candidate for state House District 32, said she was excited to represent Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap, and thanked Tony Belcourt, whom she narrowly defeated in the Democratic Primary, for his service in the past four years.
Belcourt said he couldn’t have done the work he had without the help of the candidates in the room.
“These aren't masks you see here. These are real folks, ” Belcourt said. “I got 65 people down there working, paying taxes, staying out of trouble, because of your help, Jon.
“That's been why I'm successful, because of my friends, these people. ”
The members of the business committee also took turns expressing their appreciation of and support for the candidates and continued the demands to vote.
Republican Hill County Commissioner candidate Debi Rhines also spoke briefly, saying she wanted to “take my love for Hill County to the county commission” and encouraged anyone to ask her anything at any time.
Rhines may have been the only Republican candidate in the room, but political parties in the commission mean less. At the end of the meeting, outgoing committee Chair Bruce Sun Child Sr. said how much he appreciates how involved Hill County Commissioner Jeff LaVoi has been in the tribal government. LaVoi ran as an independent against Democrat Jim Catt in 2010.