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Downing, Morigeau and Roots face off in auditor race: Shane Morigeau

Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, is facing off against Republican Big Sky businessman Troy Downing and Libertarian Roger Roots of Livingston in the general election in the race for Matt Rosendale's place as Montana auditor.

Rosendale, a Republican, is running for the U.S. House instead of running for re-election and faces former Rep. Kathleen Williams, D-Bozeman, in the race for that seat, being vacated by U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte.

Gianforte is running for Montana governor instead of running for his house seat and faces Democrat Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Libertarian Lyman Bishop in that race.

"The main purpose of the (auditor's) office is to protect Montana consumers and regulating insurance and investments ... it acts as an industry watchdog, protecting people from bad actors in those industries," Morigeau said. "... What should the office be doing more of? I think the auditor should be on the ground talking to people across the state getting more information from them to make better- and more-informed decisions, and regulations that this office is implementing."

The auditor also has a seat on the State Land Board.

The constitutional mandate is the number one thing he thinks they should be talking about when it comes to the State Land Board, Morigeau said.

He said he grew up in a logging community, in a logging family, in Montana, grew up in a town where a Plum Creek mill was located, so logging was important for him and his family, as well as attending school in Ronan.

He grew up in the public school system, in which public lands are managed to support it. The constitutional mandate is to regulate those lands for the school trust beneficiaries, he said.

"I think, obviously, we should be looking at how to manage our public lands to support school system and, mostly importantly, we should have the conversations with each community individually to determine on how to do that, so that's something I'm committed to whether we are looking at talking about a mine, or we're talking about a logging unit. Whatever we're considering, I think we should be having conversations with the community where those actions are being done," Morigeau said. "I would say that my decisions are going to be driven by the communities those decisions are impacting and not saying we should not do mining or any of those sorts of things. I think those options should be on the table for ways to raise funds for our school systems, and then we should be pursuing options that are allowing our public lands to be utilized in perpetuity in the future for resources as well."

He said a big piece of his priority on the land board is finding ways they can support agriculture in Montana, farmers and ranchers and the agricultural uses that come along those state trust lands - that is actually the No. 1 economic supporter or driver on the state trust lands for the school systems.

It not only has a ripple effect for the schools, but for local communities that work hard in those industries they should be supporting, he said.

"I think we really should have multiple uses on our public lands, managing them responsibly and working with the community members and making those decisions," he said. "I just reiterate the way of doing that is really important, but I specifically understand what that means. Growing up here my entire life, going to our public school system in Ronan and actually being a beneficiary to those funds. I recognize how important they are and my opponent wouldn't know."

Morigeau said Downing has said the Affordable Care Act should be repealed without any other option.

Morigeau said that would be devastating to thousands and thousands of people in Montana who depend on Medicaid expansion, and on protecting people with pre-existing conditions across the state of Montana.

"Can I admit the ACA needs work? Absolutely, I think it is far from perfect, but I think the net result of creating a system and the reason it exists is because people with pre-existing conditions were being dropped or not insured all together," he said. "People who actually qualified for Medicaid Expansion were actually the people with some of the greatest health care needs, which actually has a ripple effect on the ultimate premium cost associated with health insurance and the health care system altogether."

He said he thinks Medicaid Expansion should continue on.

"I am proud to say that not only did I work on that legislation and advocate for it, and it passing in 2015, but I also was on the committee that re-authorized it in 2019," Morigeau said. "I'm proud of that, because the net result of that legislation being passed resulted in premiums being lowered in the state of Montana. If the fact of Medicaid expansion did not exist, premiums would go up in the state of Montana, so I don't think that's an option for people, but at the same time, I'm willing to definitely say that our health care system needs a lot of work still and if I can be an advocate, be a resource and helping improve it I'm definitely there and I'm all in."

Right now, he said, Montanans are living through a crisis. People are being laid off, and, during a crisis, predators thrive.

  Predators come out, they take advantage of people and so Montanans more than ever need someone in the auditor's office who they can trust, who is going to step up and defend them from fraud and who is going to be proactive in getting out in their communities, he said. 

"I've committed to actually using my background as a prosecutor to take on cases in that office to step up and do my part in the office," he said. "I would say, budget-wise it is going to be interesting where we are at and during the budgetary constraints of the upcoming Legislature. I think it's a Montana value to step up and do your part to support our community in the state of Montana when we're in hard times. Our office will do more with less, I'm committed to inject myself and try to do as much as possible as I can."

Right now, he said, the state has an auditor - Rosendale - who has been pushing predatory injunction insurance plans in direct response to the pandemic.

He said he is not going to help insurance companies prey on Montanans, he is going to stop them.

"This is what the race is all about, is protecting people in Montana, making sure that people aren't being preyed on by insurance options that are not good for people and giving people a false sense of security and hope," Morigeau said. "I actually want people to have quality, affordable insurance. I want people to be protected when it comes to the finance side of things, investments and scams that come associated with that especially during the pandemic. I think we have a lot on our plate."

Morigeau said the fact that he is Big Sky born and raised, he grew up in Montana his entire life, affects his attitude.

He said he has a deep respect for the state's outdoor heritage, he went to the state's schools and knows how important the Land Board is to the school systems because he has lived it.

He understands the issues people are living through when it comes to hard times in affording insurance and health care, he said, adding that he has not only lived that himself with his family, but has seen people in communities struggle with affording health insurance.

"I've been here in Montana and watched people dropped from insurance with pre-existing conditions, and so for me this office is critically important because I have been here my entire life, I've watched people struggle with the health care system, getting access to affordable insurance and so that's one of the drivers in why I pursued this office," Morigeau said. "I also think my background as an attorney complements my work in this office, not only my prosecutor's background and the fraud side of this office, and the criminal justice agency piece of this."

He said as for the Land Board, he has a background in forestry and conservation; he was a wildlife firefighter here in Montana.

"I've shown that I can put parties aside and put Montanans first," he added. "I worked in the Legislature, the strengths and protections for child abuse victims to stop high-tech frauds, and keep public lands in public hands in Montana - I worked with both parties to do that and I'm proud of that," he said. "I'm proud of the work that I've done in the Legislature because I think it shows I can be an independent voice. I can put people over politics, I've been doing that. I can work across the aisle to reduce crime and defend consumers in the state of Montana, and I'm committed to stepping in and getting to work, getting the work done in this office to crack down on predatory injunction plans and to defend people with pre-existing conditions, and oppose inside deals for out of state investors that threaten our public lands.

"I think my record speaks for itself and the fact that I've been able to work with people and actually get stuff done in the state of Montana," he added. "I think I have a pretty well-rounded background, with my legal background, with my legislative background and my background of actually growing up here my entire life, and showing that I'm going to put people first."


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