Hill, Steinmetz square off in race for House District 28: Krystal Steinmetz
Last updated 9/30/2020 at 11:48am
Democrat Krystal Steinmetz is facing Republican Havre School Board Member Ed Hill in the race to replace state Rep. Jacob Bachmeier, D-Mont, as the representative for House District 28 that encompasses most of Havre.
Bachmeier, who is in his second term, did not run for re-election this year.
Steinmetz said she supports what the state has done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think Gov. (Steve) Bullock has done a good job of helping keep our state safe," Steinmetz said. "I struggle, and I'm sure anyone does in office, with when is it an appropriate and safe time for us to gather together again and to maybe loosen up some of the precautions that we're taking, but I do feel like our state has done well."
Now, presently, the state is struggling and cases have gone up, she said.
She said Montana is one of the top states for case increases and that is worrisome.
"I do think that the direction we're getting from the government so far in our state has been good," she added. "I don't know how good everyone is at following the safety precautions that have been put in place to protect public health."
She said she believes the federal government has failed the country in their response to COVID-19.
"Perhaps, never before has it been so obvious to me why we need competent leadership, why we need effective leadership, why we need leaders that care about us, that care about our health and are willing to do whatever they need to keep us safe," Steinmetz said. "I think the federal government took a hands-off approach and just left the states on their own. I think Montana has done well, but I know other states haven't fared as well. It is disappointing, for sure."
She said she thinks the state's elected officials next year are going to have a lot of hard decisions to make.
The elected officials need to look at public health, she said, and see where the state is at.
"A lot of things can change between now and January when the session convenes," she added. "I just want to make sure who we put in office is going to make decisions that are best for everyone, because the public health and economic security of our state depends on it."
Steinmetz said meetings being held by the Republican members of the legislative Joint Rules Committee aren't legal and appropriate.
She said she doesn't know a lot of the backstory of this, but said it sounds like the meetings aren't being run correctly, they aren't mandating face masks and things that follow the guidelines that have been put for the public to follow.
"It seems ridiculous to me that that's going on, and this is not a time for partisan politics," Steinmetz said. "We are facing a lot of challenges and we need to work on them together."
The Montana Democratic Party - and the Democratic members of the committee - say the meetings are being held in violation of state law, which says the committee cannot meet out of session until after the election and party caucuses have been established.
Steinmetz said she is absolutely in support of construction bonding bills for the state.
She worked as a community planner at Bear Paw Development for several years, she said, adding that she knows that money is vital to helping Havre and other communities across the state improve their infrastructure.
"We're talking about water, sewer and sanitation systems, and bridge repairs, amongst others," Steinmetz said. "Reliable infrastructure is the foundation of a strong community."
She said she was proud of the state's Legislature for passing Medicaid expansion.
She added that it allowed many uninsured Montanans and hard-working families to be able to get the health care they deserve and need.
"I am worried about what things might look like in the next session at the state level, depending on what happens at the federal level," she said. "I do think that our elected officials at the state level made the absolute right choice in passing Medicaid expansion, and it's helped not just Montanans get health coverage, but it's also helped our rural hospital and our health clinicians. I want to make sure that stays in place and that we can maybe, potentially, expand it."
Whoever is going to Helena is going to have a number of challenges on their plate right away, she said.
The big one is how to deal with the pandemic, she said, how it has been dealt with, what the implications are, what the economy looks like, what public health looks like and more.
"We need to elect people who are ready to hit the ground running, who understand how government works, who understand how funding works, so we can make sure that we are getting the help out to communities as quickly as we can, whether that's funding packages or however that needs to happen," Steinmetz said. "I do think we need people in there that understand the process. That's one of the reasons I'm running. Actually, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of how public funds work and how they can benefit our community and our state. I think that is going to be imperative going into this next session, is understanding funding mechanisms and also knowing we are going to be faced with some challenges as to how to help pull our country out of this recession caused by the pandemic."
Her professional experience such as as a middle-class worker and journalist living in Havre since 2004, working at Bear Paw Development Corp. and now the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line led her to running for this race, she said.
She added that she never anticipated that she would run for a political office, but she thinks her education in journalism and working as a journalist increased her knowledge about how government works and how government can help.
She said she has 11 years of nonprofit work between Bear Paw and the Boys & Girls Club.
She was raised in a middle-class family, she said, her father a railroad engineer and her mother a stay-at-home mom until all five of the children were in school, and then she was an educator.
"I'm a really good listener, part of that I think comes with being a woman, also a journalist, and that in my jobs as a community planner that is what I did," Steinmetz said. "I was trying to build consensus, I was working with people from different backgrounds that wanted different things and in the end you have to work together. Consensus has to be reached in government, and it doesn't mean everyone is like, 'This is my favorite idea, this is the best thing ever.' Sometimes it just means, 'I can live with this, like this is an OK decision, I can live with this and this will help Montanans.'
"I think I have the ability to make those decisions without always putting partisan politics first - I don't think that benefits anyone," she added. "Our state has a long history of working together, both sides coming together to help our communities and I want to ensure that continues to happen next session."
She said she wouldn't be running for the office if she thought someone else was running who could represent the district better.
"I think that I not only encompass what our values are here, but I also understand a lot of the challenges that people are facing. I'm facing some of them myself and I want to help and make a difference - that is what I have devoted my life to doing and I'm excited to hopefully get into Helena and continue to fight for our families here," Steinmetz said.