The Republican candidates for the state House of Representatives all made similar calls during campaigning Sunday, for local voters to keep this part of Montana red in the Legislature.
Incumbent Rep. Kris Hansen of Havre said Sunday she has had the distinction of serving under both Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Gov. Steve Bullock, both Democrats, and has seen 149 vetoes in her two terms. That is likely to continue in the 2015 session, she said, as Bullock serves out the end of his first term.
“I’m not telling you that to discourage you,” she told the crowd of nearly 100 people at the local Lincoln-Reagan Day GOP fundraising dinner. “I’m telling you that this time will give us the opportunity to continue honing what we’ve done; continue improving upon the legislation we’ve passed; continue to get the conservative message out to the people about why these are good bills and, hopefully, with your support, continuing to put pressure on this governor to sign good legislation.”
Hansen, who faces Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Havre, in the race for Senate District 14, also encouraged people to vote for Stephanie Hess, the Republican candidate in the only other, so far, contested legislative election in this area.
Hess faces City Council member Janet Trethewey, a Democrat, in the race for House District 28 that essentially is Havre.
“Stephanie is the best thing that could have happened to Havre, and she is going to be an outstanding representative,” Hansen said.
She said she sees many people in Missoula wearing a T-shirt saying, “Keep Missoula Weird.” Hansen said she wants to see T-shirts and bumper stickers saying, “Keep Havre Red.”
“And it’s going to happen if you support Stephanie Hess because she’s going to do a good job,” Hansen said.
Hess, a social worker at Northern Montana Care Center, said people ask her why she wants to be a legislator.
“I love Montana. I love this community, it’s a great community, and I really just want to serve. It’s really that simple,” she said.
“I really want to do the best I can with the time that God has given me and, in my mind, that includes serving,” Hess added.
She said the redistricting that put Havre, previously divided into three districts, into one gave her an opportunity to serve she otherwise wouldn’t have had.
“So I am volunteering for deployment in Helena,” she said, referring to a headline she saw stating “Battle lines are drawn for legislative districts.
“I really didn’t like that headline because it sort of implied that the battle is between parties, and, in my mind, the battle is not between people it is for ideas, for good ideas,” she said.
Mike Lang, the incumbent first-term representative from Malta, said his first term was eye-opening and nearly overwhelming.
“There were many challenges where my ideas, along with ideas of others, were challenged,” he said. “Sometimes I didn’t agree with them, but I had to learn what they were thinking about and what they were talking about.”
He said whenever he voted on a bill, he had to consider a string of issues, including was the bill good for business; are the family values and private property rights respected; how it impacted local jurisdictions and would the government be responsive and efficient; impacts on jobs and schools and wildlife management and responsible natural resource development; and did it respect the views of his constituents.
“And last and foremost, can I make this decision with a clear conscience?” he said.
He said he wants to fight a war for freedom and prosperity, hallmarks of the Republican Party, he said, including fighting restrictions and taxes from Washington. That means staying true to his convictions, Lang said, and sometimes that means saying, “No.”
“What does the word ‘no’ mean? To me, it’s no way, no how, it’s not happening on certain issues,” he said. “But, on the same token, I have to come in and try to turn that no into a ‘yes’ when that person is totally against my convictions. I have to try to turn it around to make it a positive thing, so we have a ‘yes,’ so we can embrace these convictions to move our state forward.”
Hollandsworth, the incumbent representative from Brady, talked about his serving on the House Appropriations Committee, which means he does nothing but look at and juggle numbers for the entire session while putting together the state appropriations bill.
He said he, like Lang, ran his own business as a Chouteau County farmer.
“My problem with Legislature is, we elect 150 people. Only about 30 of the 150 have actually run a business, and that is hard when you’re talking appropriations … ,” Hollandsworth said. “I have nothing against schoolteachers; I have nothing against people that work for the county, but that seems to be what gets the place filled, and I don’t know why that is. I think everybody is so busy making a living they don’t have a chance to serve.”
Hansen said she wants the Republicans to keep working and to look to the future.
“I just want you to stay encouraged for this next election cycle,” she said. We’ve got one more time with this governor, and then, if we do it right, if we work together if we start to think together and not fight with each other, we will, in 2016, have a Republican governor and we are going to put some of this stuff in place that will rapidly propel us into a smaller-government, less expensive, pro-business, pro-family state again like we’re supposed to be.”