HD82: Newcomers vie for open seat

2012-10-11T00:00:00Z 2012-11-06T15:51:43Z HD82: Newcomers vie for open seatBy SANJAY TALWANI Independent Record Helena Independent Record
October 11, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Editor’s note: Over the next few weeks, the Independent Record will present brief profiles of the candidates in 10 area legislative races.

A relative newcomer to Montana politics is taking on another newcomer with a familiar name in the race to represent House District 82, now held by Democrat Mike Menahan.

Democrat Jenny Eck, 33, garnered 53 percent of the vote in the three-way June primary, beating longtime labor leader Don Judge and attorney and school board trustee Donald Jones.

Sam Hunthausen, 24, ran unopposed in the Republican primary. He’s second-cousin to Democratic Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Andy Hunthausen and great-nephew to former Ray Hunthausen, who was president of Carroll College, bishop of the Helena Diocese and Archbishop of Seattle.

Menahan, a longtime deputy county attorney, is running unopposed for the district judge position being vacated by Dorothy McCarter, who is retiring.

HD82 includes parts of Helena’s west and south sides and areas north to Lincoln Road and west to the Continental Divide.

Here are there unedited answers to questions from the Independent Record.

Sam Hunthausen

What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?

House District 82 needs a problem solver — not an idealist. My opponent’s answers to our challenges are grounded in the rhetoric and politics of the far-left; my solutions are based in economics. A healthy economy would help fix many of our problems, and I believe I am the candidate who is committed to expanding opportunities for all Montanans by making sure this state is an attractive place to do business.

Views on policymaking are important, but I also think that a sense of place is an important thing for a legislator to have. I’m a Helena native. I was a student in and an employee of our school district. I have worked for the City of Helena and St. Peter’s Hospital. I know this community, and I want to serve it by representing its values.

If elected, what will be your top legislative priority?

My top legislative priority will be taking steps to stabilize and then reform problems facing the state’s public employee pension programs. This problem gets less attention than public employee pay raises, but a solution is critical for the welfare of our state employees and stability of our local economy. Employee’s retirement plans and taxpayer dollars are on the line. At present, the unfunded liability of these systems is several billion dollars and expenditures are increasing faster than revenues. An injection of cash from the projected general fund surplus would help that problem.

What can and should the Legislature do to promote economic development in your district and across Montana?

The Legislature needs to ensure government regulation is clear and predictable. One way we can make regulation more predictable is by streamlining the state permitting process. It shouldn’t take four years to obtain a permit for a power line. When our permitting process is long and chances of obtaining a permit are smaller, businesses are less likely to invest capital and create jobs in Montana.

We should promote renewable and traditional forms of energy development. Montana is rich in energy resources and has a natural, competitive advantage over other states. Good-paying energy jobs enable employees to raise families here in Montana. Energy production and transmission generate significant tax revenue for the state, and since House District 82 contains much of the capital city, this development would stimulate our local economy.

Montana employers have to deal with too many frivolous lawsuits. The businesses aren’t the only losers in these suits: consumers pay for these suits through higher prices and fewer choices. We need tort reform.

Jenny Eck

What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?

As a public employee and as a mom, I know first hand the challenges and responsibilities facing working families in Montana. I address these challenges every day. I know how difficult it is to juggle paying for childcare, a mortgage, school loans, and medical bills. I am running for this seat because I believe that the concerns and perspectives of ordinary Montanans need to be better represented in our Legislature.

As a consumer advocate with the Montana Attorney General’s Office, I have traveled to every corner of our state educating senior citizens, high school students, and other consumers on how to protect themselves from fraud. I have visited all seven tribal nations in Montana, and met with each tribal council, as a member of a Department of Justice delegation.

I am also a Land Board staffer to the Attorney General. I attend all Land Board meetings and look at how state lands are managed to meet our many land use needs while also ensuring public access to our state lands for outdoor recreation, hunting, and fishing. I also serve as a voting board member with the Montana Financial Education Coalition and the Intergovernmental Committee on Change for Women.

I believe that these experiences and responsibilities make me the most qualified candidate to represent House District 82.

If elected, what will be your top legislative priority?

I am passionate about education. We cannot have a functioning democracy, let alone a thriving economy, unless we ensure equal access to a quality public education for all of our children. Our schools are underfunded and higher education is becoming increasingly inaccessible and unaffordable to Montana families. I support a tuition freeze for our state colleges and universities as well as increased funding for our K-12 schools.

I am very interested in improving consumer protection laws, including increasing penalties for financial exploitation of the elderly, which is a form of elder abuse. I would also like to see a bill that would require out-of-state banks that are trying to foreclose on a person’s home to participate in a face-to-face mediation first.

Moreover, we need to fulfill our commitment to retired public servants by making sure that the state pension fund is solvent.

What can and should the Legislature do to promote economic development in your district and across Montana?

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and the engines behind our local economies. Currently, multi-national oil and gas corporations receive a 12-18 month tax holiday. I favor ending that holiday and instead investing in Montana’s businesses. If elected, I would vote to eliminate the business equipment tax for small businesses, including farmers and ranchers, with less than $1 million worth of equipment.

By investing in Montana’s infrastructure, including our two-year colleges, museums, libraries, and other places of learning, we can immediately create thousands of jobs across our state as well as promote the education of our future work force.

I have talked to thousands of voters over the past year and am grateful for everything that I have learned from you ... it has truly been a wonderful experience. I would be honored to serve as your next representative.

Copyright 2016 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. 5thgen
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    5thgen - October 11, 2012 4:49 pm
    What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position? That was the question.
    So Sam Hunthausen answers the question comparing himself to his opporent and the Ms. Eck supporters start posting how he isn't qualified because he pointed out their differences. Interesting, they both seem like fine candidates and the voters need to decide based on who they think will do the best job for the State of Montana. With all the balony being thrown on the air waves, junk mail, and T.V ads by both parties about each others candidates from the President race on down, Sam Hunthausen comments seem pretty tame. And just so you don't think this is a post supporting Sam Hunthausen, I really haven't made up my mind on this one. But to disregard a candidate because he pointed out a difference, wow, you folks won't have many to vote for in November, can't vote for President, Senator, House of Rep. etc. and I'm sure a lot more, if these type of comments were a disqualifier.
  2. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - October 11, 2012 4:02 pm
    oops, I meant to say as far as rhetoric, left continually wants to spend without hindsight where the money is going to come from. At the end of the day, both candidates are playing to their respective party.
  3. dietz1963
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    dietz1963 - October 11, 2012 3:58 pm
    I don't see any qualifications that really "stand out" to me for either. Mrs. Eck has more working experience obviously, she's older. I agree with jgrdh11, folks around here already balk when levy goes up and without the $$ she's going to do what exactly? Tax raise is the only way to get the capital. As skooter pointed out about repeated left rhetoric, I see right rhetoric, spend spend spend. Money has to come from somewhere and, wheres the money? Plus it always turns me off to read in addition to qualifications the statement.....and as a mom. Ever read from a guy...and as a dad? Being a mom or a dad doesn't necessarily equate to understanding. Each family is different.

    Conversely, just being a Helena resident all their lives also doesn't equate understanding. Particularily at age 24, not a lot of experience here....So do we have another candidate?
  4. Sam Smiley
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    Sam Smiley - October 11, 2012 3:37 pm
    Like a few others here have pointed out, it's telling that in the first chance to talk about himself, Mr. Hunthausen goes on the attack about "rhetoric," but then does nothing with the rest of his profile but spout right-wing rhetoric. If jgrdh11 wants to hammer Ms. Eck on being "out of state" then he better disqualify the GOP's top ticket, Rick Hill, who also was born elsewhere. Who cares where people come from? It's about what they're doing here and now. Ms. Eck is a highly qualified candidate who has decided to raise her family here in Helena. She best represents the values that Helena's House District 82 embodies, and she will do a tremendous job in the Legislature, just like she has in her current role in the Department of Justice. I'm a moderate Democrat. Like the majority of voters in my district, I lean Democrat but don't always vote the straight party ticket. I vote based on the issues and based on the candidate. Ms. Eck has been by my door many times over the past year. She has shown me that she truly cares about my voice and that she has a mature understanding of the issues facing Montana today. I wish I knew more about Mr. Hunthausen, but he hasn't once knocked on my door to engage me. I'm therefore left to wonder what he really stands for and who he really is. Being a person who looks deeper into the candidates than a 500-word self-written profile, I've also scoured both candidates' websites and read the very telling interview with them both in the Helena Vigilante (which was much more informative in my opinion). The contrast between the two candidates is clear, and my vote will definitely be going to Ms. Eck, the more highly qualified and better candidate.
  5. jgrdh11
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    jgrdh11 - October 11, 2012 12:32 pm
    Hmmm, let me summarize the out of state Ms. Eck's responses. More regulation, spend, spend, more regulation, spend. Sound familiar???
  6. skooter
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    skooter - October 11, 2012 9:18 am
    Highly recommend Ms. Eck. She's good, no great, people...smart, caring and hard working...and the kind of hard working that's about doing things for everybody not just her particular side of the political spectrum. She's got a ton of related experience as well.

    I gotta tell you, Sam seems like a nice guy - but he answers the 1st question about what makes him qualified for this office not by talking about HIS qualifications but by taking shots at Ms Eck – especially for idealism and repeated left rhetoric. And yet his answers are chock-fulla of the right's jargonism - a just as oft repeated melody of repeated themes...dereg, tort reform and attacking the opponent rather than proving yourself.

    Again, nothing against the guy...but we've been there and done that for a good long period and it got us just starting to poke our heads out from the hole the right dug for us. Let's not let rhetoric, oblique and un defined plans and false promises take us back there. There are real signs of life to this economy - including a re-emergance of our local housing market - and we should pick someone who can help smartly manage that and take advantage of the growth for smart spending that helps real montana families.
  7. Brightsky5
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    Brightsky5 - October 11, 2012 9:07 am
    I think that Sam has a better grasp of the real issues facing his District than Ms. Eck. She wants to build museums and other infrastructures, but I ask "Where will the money come from?" The answer is from higher taxes at a time when the tax burden will increase by about 4,500 Dollars next year for a family if Obama care is not repealed. Can you afford to pay that burden?
    Sam also, shows that he has as much contact with the people of this area as Ms. Eck and is willing to tackle some of the less popular but still vital issues for Montana and for the tax payers. He would have my vote if I were in his district, as I know that besides his grasp of the issues, he is an energetic, engaging and more than competent young man.
  8. GreenGirl02
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    GreenGirl02 - October 11, 2012 8:56 am
    I am very impressed by Jenny Eck. She seems highly intelligent and wise beyond her years. She is extremely active in the community, and appears to have a genuine focus on our future. I noticed how in Sam's first few words- he has to take a shot at Mrs. Eck! And I also noticed, that not once in her responses, she doesn't mention the opponent. That is so great to see. It truly makes a difference when the candidates state THEIR case, and not waste time and breath on the other side. Her responses were very informative, and I think she is exactly what we need. The future of our children depends on leaders who are focused on just that... the future... and not political warfare.
  9. shortie
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    shortie - October 11, 2012 8:06 am
    I see Mrs. Eck did not mention the health care act. She talks about job building in Montana, well first you have to be against the health care act, small businesses have this fear factor of huge cost. Here we go again, top priority is spending for infratructure when the number one is jobs, gas prices, property taxes and our nations debt. You got to have money, too much is taken out of the taxpayers pocket. When she talked to the people these are the questions, not well lets build another school, lets pave this road. She talks about putting money into libraries, museums, schools. Well all that is good, but our teachers have to be the ones for kids to get that excellent education and if they can't hire the ones that will, get rid of this ten year and you will see. This is what us famlies think about jobs, gas prices, taxes, debt and excellent teachers. This our world Mrs. Eck.
  10. tiredofthelies
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    tiredofthelies - October 11, 2012 6:18 am
    I think it is great to see these two running for office at such young ages. We've got to get these younger generations involved in shaping our future ... right now we are leaving our children and grandchildren a horrific debt that they will have to repay. It sounds to me like Sam understands this ... he has my vote.

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