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McDonald fires first salvo in House race


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Dennis McDonald started traveling the state the day after he won the Democratic primary in his race for Montana's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, pushing for a victory against five-term incumbent Denny Rehberg.

McDonald won the primary with

38. 26 percent of the vote. The other Democrats, Tyler Gernant, Melinda Gopher and Sam Rankin, received

23. 96 percent, 21.02 percent and 16.2 percent, respectively.

He now will face Rehberg, who won the Republican primary with 74.56 percent of the vote. His challengers, Mark French and A.J. Otjen, won 19.48 percent and 5.74 percent of the vote, respectively.

"It's a humbling experience, and I now am feeling the responsibility of wining this seat, come November, and putting it back to work for ordinary Montanans," McDonald said in an interview in Havre Friday morning.

McDonald hit the trail the day after the primary, starting on Wednesday to go to Billings, Butte, Missoula and Great Falls. He said he was on the road after leaving Havre to travel to Glasgow, Glendive, Terry and Miles City.

"We're going to every community that we can," he said.

He said his focus will be on saying Rehberg is a Washington insider who has forgotten his constituents.

"(I'll be) saying that Rehberg is a slick, polished politician that's been in politics all his adult life," he said.

McDonald is a former trial attorney who had a practice in California, including after he purchased his ranch near Melville in 1972. He served as chair of the Montana Democratic Party, stepping down from that office last year to begin his campaign.

McDonald has questioned Rehberg's calling himself a rancher, saying he has had little to do with his family ranch near Billings in years.

He re-extended his invitation to Rehberg to have a ranching contest, Saying the congressman could come down to McDonald's ranch to see if he really can rope a calf.

McDonald said he would take a d i f f e r e n t a t t i t u d e t o Washington than Rehberg.

Rehberg, he said, focuses on trickle-down economics, "which works for Wall Street but doesn't work for Main Street, Montana." He said that, while Rehberg voted against the bailout of the f inancial industry pushed through by President George W. Bush in 2008, he supported policies like the deregulation of that industry that led to its financial collapse.

"The Wall Street bank bailout was just an example of poor economic planning," McDonald said "We should have invested that money on Main Street and we would have realized a muchgreater return." Montana's U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester split on that bill, with Baucus voting for it and Tester voting against it.

McDonald said that in 10 years in Washington, Rehberg h a s d o n e n o t h i n g f o r Montanans.

"He offers no ideas, no solutions and no hope," McDonald said. "We need a congressman who will get up every morning, go to work, make sure that Montanans have an opportunity that we have good jobs and that we're building stronger communities." When asked about specific actions Rehberg had taken, such as adding funding for projects like the St. Mary Diversion and the North Central Montana regional water system to legislation, McDonald cited the fact that Rehberg this year took a pledge to not use any earmarks.

Rehberg took the pledge saying it was to try to reduce the federal deficit, although he admitted it actually would not reduce federal spending.

McDonald said Rehberg's pledge reduces his effectiveness for his constituents.

"His place on the (House of Representatives) Appropriations Committee has no value to Montanans," McDonald said.

McDonald admitted he faces an uphill battle as far as campaign finances. Rehberg has about $750,000 left in his campaign account, while McDonald raised about $167,000 and spent most of that in the primary.

He said representatives of his campaign have been in touch with national Democratic fundraising organizations, but mostly he will be talking to the voters.

"I will make an effort to raise money, but that's not going to be my focus. My focus will be on meeting with, shaking hands with, Montanans and discussing the issues … ," McDonald said.

"Frankly, I'm not looking for a lot of out-of-state support. I think ordinary Montanans, at the end of the day, will support this campaign."


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