This year’s special congressional election has been particularly unfair to Montanans.
Back in November, the people of Montana elected Republican Ryan Zinke to serve in the state’s at-large U.S. House District for two years. Zinke was chosen through a fair and equitable process, first running unopposed in the primaries -- where anyone who met the minimum qualifications had a chance to compete for the public’s vote -- and then soundly defeating his Democratic and Libertarian opponents in the general election.
Zinke was supposed to be in Congress through 2018. But he has stepped down to serve in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, leaving Montanans with no representation in the U.S. House, and now they must select someone else for the same seat just six months later.
But this time it’s different.
The candidates in the special election were not selected by an inclusive public process, but by a few nominating committee members from their respective political parties. And we’re not so sure those committee members picked the candidates that most Montanans would have chosen.
As a result, the voters’ options have been limited to three (four if you count the write-in candidate). And now they have a tough decision to make.
We believe Republican Greg Gianforte is the best of those options, even though we are not 100 percent supportive of his views.
Neither one of the major-party candidates has ever before held political office. While that can be a good thing in many ways, it also means either one would have a steep learning curve if elected to Congress.
However, as a highly successful businessman who grew RightNow Technologies from a small startup in his home in 1997 to a company that sold for $1.8 billion in 2011, Gianforte does have negotiation, finance and management skills that give him a leg up in this area.
While some view Gianforte’s business accomplishments as bad things, we see them as evidence that he knows how to get things done. And the hundreds of high-wage jobs and expanded tax base he created in the Gallatin Valley have not hurt Montana one bit.
Gianforte has advocated for a balanced approach to protecting the environment and preserving the timber, coal and outdoor recreation jobs that sustain so many Montana families.
And though we don’t believe it’s necessary for our state’s congressional representatives to be avid sportsmen, Gianforte’s long history of hunting and fishing gives him an intimate understanding of why this lifestyle is so important to Montanans.
We do have some concerns about Gianforte, however, and several of them truly involve matters of life and death.
His opposition to the U.S. refugee resettlement program, for example, threatens to leave hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who are trying to escape unspeakable horrors in their home countries with nowhere else to turn.
While Gianforte says the U.S. has an obligation to help, he does not believe our country’s refugee vetting procedures are sufficient. But instead of seeking to scrap the program altogether, we hope he will do whatever he can as a congressman to bring those procedures to a level he deems appropriate.
We are also concerned about his support for a plan that could cut health care coverage to 70,000 Montanans who may be depending on it to keep them alive. No one can say the Affordable Care Act is perfect, but we’d like to see Gianforte commit to finding a solution that works for low-income Montanans.
Despite these concerns, we believe Gianforte’s ideology most closely matches the views of the majority of Montanans. And though electing Gianforte would do nothing to help achieve the important balance between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, he is the candidate most likely to get the attention of the president and Congress on issues of importance to Montana.
We encourage our readers to consider casting their vote for Gianforte. And we encourage Gianforte to do the right thing for our state and our country if he is fortunate enough to become Montana’s next congressman.