A group of local Republican candidates and a Whitefish candidate for state auditor gathered in Pepin Park for a barbecue and to tell local voters why they should win in the November election.
Harlem insurance agent Don Richman, running for the state Senate, said local voters have a wonderful slate of Republican candidates.
“We all work together because we stand for the same thing, ” Richman said. “We all love our god, and we love our country. ”
Andrew Brekke, chair of the Hill County Republican Central Committee, said the barbecue got started a little earlier than planned.
The event was set to run from 1 to 3 p. m. Saturday, but by 10 minutes to 1 most people already had eaten, and the candidates all had already spoken. Brekke invited them to speak again, for people who came to the event after they had made their presentations.
Richman, who faces former Sen. and Public Service Commission Chair Greg Jergeson of Chinook in the race for Senate District 17 in northern Hill and Blaine counties, is looking to take the seat of Sen. Craig Tilleman, R-Havre, who was appointed to take the place of Republican Rowlie Hutton, who resigned after his first term. Tilleman did not run for re-election.
Richman was joined by Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, who faces Democrat Karen Sloan in the race for House District 34 in eastern Havre and northern Blaine and Hill counties; Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, who faces Democrat Brenda Skornogoski in House District 33 in western Havre and western Hill County; Republican Hill County commissioner candidate Debi Rhines of Havre, facing Democrat Mark Peterson, and Rep. Derek Skees, R-Whitefish, who is trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Monica Lindeen in her bid for re-election as state auditor.
Skees said he is proud of the work the Republican majority did in the 2011 Legislature, a session Democrats, including Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who vetoed 74 bills, including branding some with his famous “VETO” branding iron, have attacked.
“I fought in the last Legislative session, the one that our illustrious governor B. S. labeled the ‘bat-crap crazy’ session, and I'm darn proud of all the aggressive things that we tried to accomplish for you guys, ” Skees said.
He added that that would translate to his work as state auditor, who regulates securities and insurance in Montana.
The biggest issue facing the auditor is overturning the health care reform act, Skees said, adding that Lindeen will not take that step.
“Today's auditor will protect you all day long from private concerns, but she's nowhere to be found when you have to deal with the public concerns, ” he said. “Where is the current auditor when you look at what the federal government is trying to do to insurance in Montana?
“I believe that this job has a guardian level that goes all the way to protecting Montana from horrible policies from the federal government in D. C., ” Skees said. “That horrible policy is the Obamacare bill. ”
Skees said something needs to be done to control the high cost of insurance, “but I don't believe the reform of giving government control of everything is going to work. … Let's give it back to the private sector. What we need is competition in insurance. ”
He said another crucial part of being a state office holder is participating on the Land Board. That board, under Democrat control, has cost the state jobs in logging, mining, and oil and gas, Skees said, while the income of Montanans has dropped from its level in the 1960s.
“We are eating crumbs from the federal table, … We are a welfare state, we take in more money from our sister states than we give back, ” Skees said, adding, “It’s critical we get the Land Board back. ”
Rhines said she has been active in the community for many years, and wants to take that experience to the County Commission.
“I have a strong accounting background, I am fiscally conservative, I am a consensus builder and I am willing to listen to everyone, so we can continue the work to move Hill County forward, ” she said.
“Not too many people want to run for an office where they’re dealing with roads and parks and fair boards, ” Rhines added, “but I’m your candidate for that because I believe it’s about the people, and I do love Hill County, and I would be honored to serve all of you. ”
Richman said he wanted to take the opportunity at the barbecue to tell people where he stands, pointing to the people at the barbecue at Pepin Park.
“You see it right here, ” he said. “I’m pro-life, I’m pro-family, I’m pro-Montana, I’m pro-business, I’m pro-work, all for less taxes and less government intervention in everything we do. ”
He said he wants to continue the service he gave to the country when he served in the military in Vietnam.
“If you’re pro-life, pro-family, pro-guns, pro-everything and anti-Obama and anti that liberal tax and spend stuff, then vote for me. ” Richman said. “If you’re not, then I guess you vote for the other guy because he stands for Obama …. ”
Hansen said the Republicans want another chance to pass bills in the Legislature.
“We would like to get some things done next session that we were not able to get done last session; 74 vetoes was entirely too many vetoes, ” she said. “So give us another shot at it. Let us pull your taxes down, let us pull in the spending a little bit, let us protect your property rights. ”
Warburton echoed that, citing as an example a bill she cosponsored to overturn Montana’s unisex insurance requirement, as she did at the “What ‘War on Women? ’ forum in Havre headlined by former Republican Gov. Judy Martz.
Montana is the only state that won’t let insurance companies consider gender when setting rates, Warburton said Saturday, adding that that drives up rates for women and for men.
“(The bill) passed on mostly Republican votes, and got vetoed on ideological differences, ” she said.
Opponents of the proposal say it would cost women more for insurance in some areas, and that it would allow companies to not cover some women’s health care, which is prohibited by the unisex insurance requirement.
Warburton said one thing she is very excited about this election is the chance to send Skees to the auditor’s office.
“We need him in there to help us stand up and fight Obamacare and the other things that come down from the federal government that they really don’t have a right to shove down our throats, ” she said. “We have to stand up and say, listen, it’s time for states to be bold enough to say, ‘No, you are overstepping your constitutional bounds. ’”