A Kalispell pastor is the third Republican candidate running to represent Montana’s new congressional district.
Mary Todd filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, making official her candidacy for a district that will likely include most of the western portion of the state.
In a phone interview Friday, Todd said she believes she has a better grasp on foreign policy issues facing the country than her opponents do, focusing her comments what she views as the threat of China's rising influence globally. Within the United States, she said she believes the Chinese government has had a hand in the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as President Joe Biden's recently announced policies to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees of certain types of companies and federal agencies.
"There's something behind all of this that is related to the undermining of our country," Todd said. "I believe that is partly the Chinese Communist Party."
She is the sixth announced candidate for the state’s second congressional district, a field that also includes three Democrats.
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Former Montana representative and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and former state lawmaker Dr. Al Olszewski are also running for the Republican nomination. The Democratic candidates are Rep. Laurie Bishop, a state lawmaker from Livingston; Monica Tranel, a Missoula lawyer and former Public Service Commission staff attorney; and Cora Neumann, a nonprofit executive from Bozeman.
A state redistricting commission is still hammering out how to draw the line that will divide the state's two congressional districts. The commission on Thursday narrowed down their choices to two possible maps — one submitted by Democrats on the panel and one from Republicans.
Todd said she's never run for public office previously, but has been motivated to seek a congressional seat after years dealing with the aftermath of her son's 2012 death in Singapore.
Todd said she believes that her son, Shane Todd, was murdered after resigning as an engineer at an electronics company in the Southeast Asian country. The company had ties to the Chinese government, she alleges in a video posted to her campaign website, and her son had refused “to assist with the illegal transfer of technology to China.”
“We were so relieved when Shane found a job in Virginia and had purchased his ticket to fly home,” Todd states in the video. “But on his last day of work, I received a call from Shane’s girlfriend she found him garroted to death in his Singapore apartment.”
Singaporean officials ruled his death a suicide, according to a 2013 Daily Inter Lake story about the incident. But the family said their son had expressed concerns that his company’s work could compromise U.S. national security, and later worried that his life was in danger.
At the inquest into Shane Todd’s death, officials presented evidence that he had visited suicide websites on his laptop and written suicide letters to his family members and loved ones. But at the time, the Todd family told the Associated Press they believe the evidence was faked.
She said Friday said the experience gave her a firsthand glimpse into the potential danger posed by China, and reiterated that federal authorities offered her family little help after her son's death.
Todd's website emphasizes her dedication to the Second Amendment and opposition to abortion. On Friday, she added that she received a 30-day jail sentence in Los Angeles in the 1980s for her actions during a protest against an abortion clinic. She said she was charged with trespassing.
"I ended up on murder row and had a wonderful time," Todd said. "They offered to have me pay a $500 fine to get out of it, but I felt like I had to serve, and that's what I did."
Todd's campaign website lists her support for completing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, “ending funding for critical race theory” and ensuring “that Montana’s public lands remain public.”
Todd said she moved to Montana with her family 10 years ago after multiple trips to the state, starting with her honeymoon in 1977. She said she previously lived in California and, as a teenager, in Mexico.
In a video posted to her campaign website, Todd describes herself as “an unapologetic America-first conservative."
“I will fight to revive the value of work, cut taxes, fight corporate cronyism and big tech monopolies, put an end to radical classroom indoctrination, stop Biden’s inflationary policies and protect Montana’s forests, wildlife and public lands,” she says in the video.