Montana Democratic candidates talk issues, voice ideas

 

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Raph Graybill, who is running for Attorney General, shakes hands during a Working Families Barbecue Saturday at Pepin Park in Havre.

Several state candidates spoke Saturday at Pepin Park discussing their campaigns for the upcoming election in 2020.

The event was in honor of working Montana families and was held by the Hill County Democratic Party and the Big Sky Democrats. Nine candidates from six different races spoke at the event, and focused on issues that face Montana.

Candidates for Governor, Senate and Congress were profiled in Monday's edition of the Havre Daily News.

Montana Attorney General race

Since Attorney General Tim Fox announced his campaign for the governor's office in January, a number of candidates have already announced their campaigns for the vacancy.

Republican Chief Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion and former Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen, R-Kalispell, in addition to Democrats state Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula, and the governor's office chief legal council Raph Graybill have all announced their candidacy.

Kimberly Dudik

"Wouldn't it be great to have a democrat back in the attorney general's office to fight for our rights?" attorney general candidate Kimberly Dudik said.

Dudik, of Frenchtown, earned her nursing degree from Montana State University and her law degree from the University of Montana. She said she has dedicated her career to helping people, which is why she decided to go to law school.

Over her 16-year career, she has worked as deputy county attorney, assistant attorney general, substitute judge, registered nurse and a domestic violence advocate at The World Young Women's Christian Association. She began her legislature career eight years ago which is where she learned about human trafficking, which she called "modern day slavery."


Dudik, a mother of four, said she has worked in child protection and has seen too many kids killed at the hands of their parents.

She said she had a number of reforms go through the Legislature, including laws regarding child protection, criminal justice reform, human trafficking reform and more involving criminal justice. One recent reform she was a part of that was passed this last session was taking the statute of limitations away on the abuse of a child. This law will hold abusers accountable for the rest of their lives without a time limit.

"If I am your next attorney general, I pledge to safeguard your rights, protect consumers and also to continue reforming our criminal justice system," Dudik said.

She said her first act would be to establish an office of Native American affairs, so that Native Americans can be fully involved in the justice system and every tribe would have a representative to deal with the issues Montana Natives are facing.


If elected, she would be the first female attorney general in state history.

Raph Graybill

Raph Graybill, of Great Falls, is also running for attorney general. He lives in Helena with his wife and daughter where he works as Governor Steve Bullock's Chief Council.

"What do I do? What does that actually mean? What that job means is when your attorney general, Tim Fox, tries to shut down public access and that make it harder for you to hunt and fish in Montana, (Bullock) sends me into court, the supreme court to argue against him and beat him," Graybill said.

Graybill said his career is based on action and he has been practicing law since 2015. He has a law degree from Yale University.

"I am running for attorney general because out-of-state corporations are using our legislature, our courts and our government to turn our choices against us and to take our choices away from us, and I know that we can do better," he said.

He said it is important to have an attorney general who works with the public again, and his top priority is having an attorney general who will hold the priorities of Montanans first. He said he cares about Montanans' values, and will be loyal to them.


"I am running because I am an optimist," Graybill said. "I am running because I know we are on the dawn of a new progress era. As your attorney general, I will be an optimist and a fighter."

Montana Secretary of State race

With Secretary of State Corey Stapleton announcing his candidacy for U.S. House, Republican state Senate President Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, and Democrat state Sen. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, will be vying for the position.

Bryce Bennett

Bryce Bennett is the only Democratic secretary of state candidate.

"The reason I am so passionate about being the secretary of state is because they oversee our elections and they are the ones who make our democracy possible," Bennett said. "Which, as secretary of state, I am so committed to ensuring in our elections that every voice is heard and that every vote is counted.

Bennett said he wants to make sure the state of Montana will be held accountable for its elections and that its people will be able to trust a transparent, clear and honest state office.

He said he has been able to accomplish a lot during his nine years in the Legislature, including endorsing a bill that ensured becoming an absentee voter in Montana was a significantly easier process.

"Because we passed that bill, 72,000 Montanans got a ballot in 2018 that wouldn't have if we wouldn't have passed that bill," Bennett said.

Montana needs a secretary of state who is an advocate for voters about the power of their vote, he said.

State Auditor race

Republican Troy Downing and state Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, have both announced their candidacy for state auditor after incumbent Matt Rosendale announced a bid for U.S. House.

Shane Morigeau

Shane Morigeau, from Ronan, is the sole Democratic candidate running for state auditor.

Morigeau began his career as a lobbyist focusing on Medicaid expansion, which has helped him focus his goals on producing a health care plan that works for all Montanans.

Morigeau said that in his hometown the cost of health insurance can be the difference between putting food on the table and having to figure out alternative ways to feed one's family.

"One of the major jobs that the state auditor is tasked with is ensuring that people are protected from fraud, that people have affordable health care," Morigeau said.

He said as a state, all of Montana should have access to health care and should be trying to find ways to hold insurance companies accountable, but also that working with said companies is important to help drive down health insurance costs.

Morigeau served alongside Rep. Jacob Bachmeier in the Legislature, as the two started in the same session. He and served as the minority whip both legislative sessions.

Last session, he passed seven bills. Two of those bills involved the statute of limitations for child sex abusers, and he also carried the bill to protect students from predators in the school systems.

"I'm out here trying to do it for Montana, to protect Montanans, to better the lives of Montanans, and I think that this is what this job should be doing," Morigeau said.

 

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