Havre Daily News - News you can use

Bachmeier announces he will not run in 2020

State's youngest legislator says will take some time off


January 20, 2020

Havre Daily News/Derek Hann

State Rep. Jacob Bachmeier, D-Havre, speaks to Hill County Democratic Party Vice Chair Susan Somers, left, and Havre Mayor Tim Solomon, right, Sunday at the Eagles Club after the Hill County Democratic Party meeting.

Hill County Democratic Party Chair and State Representative for House District 28 Jacob Bachmeier announced Sunday at the Hill County Democratic Central Committee meeting his resignation as the chair of the Central Committee and that he will not file this year for re-election.

"It's bittersweet," he said in an interview after the meeting. "I have loved serving in the Legislature. It has been the highlight of my life.

"It has been an honor getting to know my constituents, deeply and on such a personal level, and being able to go to Helena and represent the values they have communicated to me and then also being able to go back to them in the following election cycle and say. 'These are the values you communicated with me and this is what we did to help you," he added. "It's just been such an honor to represent people on such a personal level."

Bachmeier was elected in 2016, as the representative for House District 28. The district, after redistricting went into effect in 2012, essentially contains all of Havre and little or nothing outside of the city.

His election turned the seat blue after being held by the Republican party for about a decade. He was also the youngest legislator ever to be voted into office in the state, 18 - he had to wait until his 18th birthday to file for office.

Bachmeier received national attention with his youth as a candidate and after he was elected.

He said he will be finishing up his second term as representative, which will end in January of 2021 when a new legislator will be sworn into office. He added that he has been considering not running for re-election for the past seven months and made the final decision in November. Since he made his decision he has been working to recruit someone to be his replacement as the Democratic candidate for the 2020 election.

No candidate for the seat was announced Sunday.

"There were a lot of reasons why I was considering not running for re-election," Bachmeier said.

He added that with his educational pursuit and working his full time job at Big Sky 55+ he felt he could not ethically commit as much time as needed to be in the Legislature. Bachmeier said that he is only taking a break from running for political offices and by no means does this mean he will not continue to be involved with politics.

"The deciding point for me is that in Montana we have term limits. I have burned up two of my terms out of four terms, and there is so much I want to do in the House based off of the conversations I've had with the constituents," he said. "There is so much I have yet to work on, and right now I don't feel like I have the time to commit to effectively representing my constituents in the way I feel they deserve to be represented.

"I have so much legislation I want to carry but not enough time to draft the legislation, find co-sponsors and lobbyists to help me pass the legislation and get it through to the governor's desk and signed," Bachmeier said. "I take that seriously. I don't want to spend the next four years in Helena pressing a green button or a red button. I want to be a critical player in the process, and right now, I need to recognize that I need to take a step back for a couple of years and come back when the time is right."

Bachmeier works full time with Big Sky 55+, a non-profit organization which does political work advocating for issues involving Montanans who are 55 and older. He said that through Big Sky 55+ he plans to stay involved with politics and looks forward to the unique opportunities in the future.

He added that he has learned a number of lessons from working in the Legislature for the past four years, and one of the key lessons he learned was to listen first and talk second.

"One of the reasons I ran for office initially is because I felt like, as a young person, people were not listening to what I cared about or the perspectives I had and I wanted to be heard," Bachmeier said. "What I quickly learned by knocking doors is that I'm not the only person who doesn't feel heard. It's a chronic thing that people don't feel heard in politics, and what I sought to do was listen to people and ask good questions and just show up. I think because of that I have learned a lot about people and I've learned a lot about this community and I have learned a lot about how to approach life."

"I don't think I have any regrets," he added. "I do think that this whole experience has been a learning opportunity."

He said it is difficult to be a citizen legislator because it is a difficult job that requires a large amount of time and commitment out of everyday life. Legislators have full-time jobs or other commitments outside of the Legislature and it is a delicate balancing act, he said.

"It takes a toll," Bachmeier said. "It's really hard to manage all of the responsibilities that come with being a legislator as well as the other responsibilities of day-to-day life. It's difficult, but that's the life of the citizen Legislature."

He added that he was glad for the time he has spent in the Legislature and some of his biggest victories are shared victories with his fellow legislators, such as passing Medicaid expansion and the comprehensive infrastructure package last legislative session.

He said he is also proud of passing House Bill 726, which was written and sponsored by both Bachmeier and state Rep. Mary Caferro, D-Helena. HB 726 was written at the request of Andrea Melle, divorced mother of two adults with autistic spectrum disorders, and would extend the period of child support obligations for children with disabilities when the custodial parent is the caregiver.

"I think that is absolutely one of my biggest accomplishments in the Legislature," Bachmeier said.

After he is finished serving his term, he said, he plans to finish his bachelor's degree in criminal justice within the next couple of years. When he was first elected, Bachmeier planned to get a degree in education, but after serving in the Legislature his interests have shifted to criminal justice. He said that after graduating he hopes to get into law enforcement.

He added that he also plans to get into graduate school either for law or to become a licensed clinical professional counselor so he can council law enforcement officers and or people who have been through the criminal justice system and help them through rehabilitation. He said he also hopes to run for office again in the future.

Bachmeier said that he is confident whoever takes his seat for House District 28 and is confident in the voters in the district will hold whoever takes office accountable. He added that whoever takes the office needs to keep in mind they need to communicate with their constituents. 

He also wants to see more people get involved with politics, he said. In the future, he said, he would like to see more youth and a more diverse groups of people get involved with politics, such as minorities and people of a variety of income and backgrounds. 

The Legislature needs to be a reflection of those who are in the state, he said. 

"I think it's important that we have a political system that reflects the values of everyone," Bachmeier said.

He added that Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," and if a state is without a diverse political system, it makes it easy to have injustices. 

Bachmeier said he is looking forward to the future.

"I hope that this is not a 'goodbye,' but a 'see you later,'" he said.


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