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Rosendale, Williams face off to take U.S. House seat: Kathleen Williams


Last updated 10/7/2020 at 3:29pm

Kathleen Williams

Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams, D-Bozeman, faces Republican candidate state Auditor Matt Rosendale in the race to take the seat of U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., in the U.S. House.

Gianforte, who won a special election in 2017 to take the House seat when Ryan Zinke left to become secretary of the interior and defeated Williams to retain the seat in 2018, is running for Montana governor this year. He faces Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Libertarian Lyman Bishop in that race.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock cannot run for re-election due to term limits and is challenging U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., in Daines' bid for a second term in the Senate.

Rosendale, who was a state representative 2011-12 and a state senator from 2013-16, lost to Zinke in the Republican primary in the House race in 2014, won the state auditor race in 2016 and lost to Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in the 2018 Senate race.

He is running for the House this year instead of running for re-election as auditor. Republican Troy Downing of Big Sky and Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, are running for that seat.

Williams, who served in the Montana House from 2011-16, said that how the federal government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic shouldn't be discussed in past tense as it is still trying to be handled.

"I'm frustrated that I wasn't successful in this office last time because I feel like I could have been much more helpful than our current representative - working to build a testing partnership between the federal, state and local jurisdictions working to ensure that our supply chains work and calling for transparency and targeting as we provide some assistance to folks that are both laid off, and the workers that are laid off and business that are struggling," she said.

She said she would have called for those three things back in early March.

"I really could have been helpful in urging more action from the federal government to help and to help effective and efficiently," she added.

She said the government needs to address the increasing deficit after the COVID relief packages.

The economy needs to get back on track, workers back working and consumers back spending, she said.

"We need to ensure that we're not passing down mountains of debt to our children and grandchildren," Williams said. "The tax bill that passed in 2017, that was a stimulus bill when the economy was already recovering, is racking trillions in debt and I questioned the wisdom of doing that then."

She added that stimulus policies should be done when the economy is in a downturn not when it is recovering.

"That was a debt we could have helped us from digging such a deep hole now if we would have been wiser about that," she said.

In the last three years the United States has enacted tariffs.

She said she was concerned about the tariffs President Donald Trump has enacted when she first heard about them.

"They didn't seem to have an end game or an exit strategy, and they are hurting our businesses and our farmers," Williams said. "I'm not seeing China capitulating, and so that is an example of rash economic policy that wasn't thought out, but we certainly need to address issues with trade and with intellectual property, and with China, but we need to be careful that the collateral damage isn't worse than the problem itself."

Williams said she doesn't support the possibility of repealing or revoking Affordable Care Act.

"There are hundreds of thousands of Montanans that are dependent on the changes that would go through the Affordable Care Act whether it's protections for pre-existing conditions - asthma, pregnancy or anything that we need to make sure insurance companies can't deny care for pre-existing conditions," she said. "It allowed us to expand coverage for 90,000 folks on Medicaid. It ensured that young people could stay on their parents insurance plan till they were 26 - that actually was a law already in Montana, but that strengthens that."

   Her opponent advocates for stripping that away and has no plan for what would replace it, she said.

People's lives, health and their future are at stake, she added.

"I think my priorities on the conversations I've had with thousands of Montanans over the last almost three years, and prior as I was a state legislator, really, what gets talked to about the most to me is three things: Fixing our patchwork of the health care system, fostering opportunities of economic growth, education and beyond, and protecting our outdoor heritage, which is public lands and clean air and water," Williams said. "Health care is what I hear most often and I'm ready to hit the ground running on those issues, building on my history in the Legislature of passing legislation of saving lives."

She said her opponent is advocating repealing the ACA, has taken money from insurance industry companies and let them off the hook in his office.

"He is just not a good fit," she added. "He's not recognizing what Montanans need related to health care." 

She said she has spent a lot of time listening to Montanans, and has crafted a platform that best responds to their desire for a true independent voice.

"(I'm) also someone who can go through bipartisanship and deliver on the things that Montana cares about and not someone who's just climbing the next run on the political ladder, that is following the dictates of far-right groups in D.C. that are backing him financially and that really can't come up with his own platform himself, but that is parroting the party talking points and the talking points of his far-right supporters," Williams said.

"I just know Montanans will vote for the candidate that they feel truly represents them, that they can trust, that has a history of success and isn't your typical politician that is going to Congress to be a public servant, to represent them, to be a true independent voice and work to fix things out there instead of just (heating up) the partisanship," she added.


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