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Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]
A Missoula lawyer said he thinks more can be done to help Montanans find jobs in the state, instead of seeing what he says is a repeat of what happened to his family in the 1980s. Tyler Gernant, who has said he will run as a Democrat in the 2010 race for the sole Montana seat in the House of Representatives, said his family left the state in the 1980s when it looked like his father would probably lose his job as a teacher at Hellgate High School in Missoula due to budget cuts. His father could not find another job in Montana, and they moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho, Gernant said. Gernant said he is seeing the same thing happen in Montana again. “I saw a lot of my friends go through the same thing I saw my parents going through,” he said. “Several friends have lost their jobs and left the state.” He said an article he read in the Missoula Independent last year led him to decide to run a long article about incumbent Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont. Gernant said when Rehberg's spokesman listed sponsoring resolutions to honor Billings for its 125th anniversary and to honor Carroll College for winning a national football championship the article also listed work to fund the Fort Peck/Dry Prairie Rural Water System he thought he should challenge Rehberg. “I thought that probably a lot more could be done to create opportunity here,” he said. Dennis McDonald and Linda Gopher also have announced their intent to run in the Democratic primary next year. Gernant said he believes much more can be done to improve the economy in Montana and in the nation. “I don't think a lot of people are feeling like it's a recovery right now,” he said. Gernant returned to Montana to study law at the University of Montana and now is an associate with a firm there, although he said he is primarily working on his campaign at this point. After growing up in Idaho Falls, he attended college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he also was active in politics. Gernant worked in the office of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and later worked on his reelection campaign. He then worked in the office of Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash. He worked in the finance office for the John Edwards for President Campaign in 2003, and later that year campaigned for Sen. Edwards during his campaign for the Democratic nomination. He then worked as a substitute teacher in Idaho Falls before returning to Missoula to attend law school. While studying there, he co-founded the Rural Advocacy League. Gernant said one of his focuses, if elected, would be on promoting alternative, renewable energy. With its wealth of resources in sun, wind, geothermal sources and bio-energy, Montana could be a leader in and benefit from developing those sources, he said. A primary need will be in developing the infrastructure for that, both in the physical infrastructure, like transmission lines, and in education, Gernant said. He said he also wants to focus on smaller projects most emphasis seems to be on large energy products. Having smaller projects, like wind farms or biomass projects, could be a major player in Montana, Gernant said. Gernant said he also would like to see more incentives to attract businesses to rural areas, like Montana. If businesses will come to rural areas and invest in and utilize local and rural resources, that would benefit everyone, he said. Gernant said he is not saying programs for metropolitan areas should be cut, but that rural areas are definitely in need of help. The focus on metropolitan areas is part of the problem, he said. “I think rural Montana, especially, has been hit very hard,” he said. He said he strongly supports having a public health insurance option in the health care reform now working through Congress. Baucus, who has sponsored legislation expected to be voted on this week, has said he will not support that option because he believes it cannot pass the Senate. Gernant said he believes the public option, where the government will offer insurance in competition with private insurance, is a way to give people another choice. That generally is a good thing, he said. “I think it's a meaningful way to keep insurance companies in check,” Gernant said. He also said he thinks it is time for a change in Washington Gernant said he does not think Rehberg has done what is needed to help the state. “We pay Rep. Rehberg $170,000 a year, and I don't think we're getting our money's worth,” Gernant said.