In Bozeman, Democratic senatorial candidates scramble for a chance to challenge Daines
BOZEMAN – Democrats in Gallatin County hosted a Senate Candidates Forum at the Bozeman Emerson Center for Arts and Culture on February 21. Candidate John Mues took the opportunity to suggest that the nomination of one of his fellow general election candidates would give incumbent Republican President Steve Daines a “free pass” to re-election.
The hardball assessment stood out against the backdrop of an event that was less of a real debate than an introduction to the candidates, and an opportunity for the Gallatin County Democratic Central Committee to solicit funds to support the slate.
Mues was the only one of five fishing Democrats to challenge Daines who presented an aggressive case for himself, in particular, as the candidate best positioned by experience and expertise to overthrow the incumbent, whom several candidates for the evening described it as “existential”. threat.”
Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins made the same request for eligibility, but without much effort to present a specific case. Cora Neumann, a Bozeman-based State Department veteran and health and economic development nonprofit founder, made a strong case for her expertise in healthcare policy and s ‘is focused on the importance of “overthrowing the Senate”. Michael Knoles, of Bozeman, has emerged as the most systemically radical and emotionally excitable of contenders, claiming in a closing statement that “we are a parasite on this earth and we are destroying it because we do not understand the consequences of our actions. ” Bozeman’s fishing guide Josh Seckinger, who had entered the race two days earlier, rarely used his allotted minute to get answers and promised to leave in two days to visit the 56 Montana counties and win the nomination “with gas and coffee and cheap motel rooms. He argued that he was a great guy to share a boat with.
Mues’ effort to transcend the crowded field risked colliding with the all-in-one vibe of an assembly that reserved its most approving responses to attacks on Daines and the now-turned Republican House candidate. Governor Greg Gianforte. Half a dozen times, Mues, a Navy veteran, former teacher, rancher and energy engineer who lives in Loma, has made a variation on the claim that he was “the only candidate on stage. With the right combination of small town pedigree, farming know-how, military credentials, and business acumen to defeat Daines. Neumann’s casual eye in response to the claims was the only sign that any of the other four candidates might challenge him directly on this matter.
The event was moderated by former State Senator and Montana Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat, who presented questions each candidate had 60 seconds to answer. The format did not allow for much in-depth political discussion, but it did give candidates a chance to articulate their positions and priorities.
PRICE OF HEALTH CARE AND PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
The candidates largely agreed that health care should be considered a human right, and promised to protect both the Affordable Care Act and Montana’s Medicaid expansion from Republican attacks. Nuemann, with the personal story of his father’s potentially preventable death in a sawmill accident and a doctorate in public health, named healthcare his number one priority and called Daines’ opposition to the ACA a ‘”Inadmissible”. Mues, whose baby is recovering from an illness that has generated tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, said healthcare is a national “crisis” that requires immediate legislative solutions, then a macro-level reset . Knoles presented the problem as one of the corrupting influence of drug company money on politics.
MINIMUM FEDERAL WAGE
Neumann proposed a phased pay rise linked to local markets. Knoles caused a row for having said that talking about minimum wages “misses the point”, before proposing the counter-solution of a universal basic income, in the manner of the former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Seckinger and Collins have both expressed support for a federal minimum wage of $ 15 an hour, and Mues agreed, noting that he doesn’t think it’s a winning question. Mues predicted that Daines “would strike every answer here mercilessly, and he’ll get every small business owner to agree with him and we’ll lose the election.” Mues proposed government grants to help business owners adjust to the increased costs that a minimum wage hike would entail.
The candidates have unanimously vowed to wholeheartedly support women’s rights in a Trump-appointed justice system that appears poised to roll back Roe v. Wade. Seckinger, acknowledging his mother, received one of the biggest applause of the evening for further suggesting it was “time” to finally ratify the equal rights amendment. Mues said the Senate must re-authorize the federal law on violence against women, which expired in 2019, and pass gun withdrawal laws. Collins personally argued for the coexistence of Christian values and choices. Neumann located the threat on the “dangerous” direction of Daines, who has expressed support for an overturning of Roe v. Wade, and U.S. Representative and gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, who she said would impose a religious agenda on abortion rights in Montana.
AFFORDABILITY OF HIGHER EDUCATION
Seckinger, who said he dropped out of school because of the prospect of “crippling” debt, advocated a debt-free college, noting that “Republicans seem to find a way to pay for everything” they want, so why can’t the Democrats? Mues forwarded a split plan for college debt repayment, with a third lightened, a third assigned to student liability, and a third repayable through national service. Noting that she still has $ 80,000 in college debt, Neumann expressed general support for various forms of education debt relief and highlighted the difficulty of recruiting healthcare workers for jobs. in rural Montana, when larger markets offer better opportunities to repay student loans. Collins said he supports presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s plan, which offers a wide range of debt cancellation strategies. Knoles said the fundamental solution lies in policies such as universal basic income that “discourage poverty”.
Mues touted the economic return on investment of universal child care, promoting it as a pro-business proposition. Collins agreed. Neumann, as she did several times during the evening, pointed out that Congress had already passed on a series of beneficial proposals currently blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The solution, she reiterated, is for Democrats to get a majority in the Senate. Seckinger offered general support for paid family leave and universal child care, and Knoles returned to the promise of improving the Universal Basic Income.
ENERGY POLICY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Collins said Helena would start moving towards 100% renewable energy on “Monday,” an apparent reference to a resolution to be considered by the municipal commission this week. He also said he would work for the United States to join the Paris climate agreement. Neumann focused on Montana’s wind resources. Knoles advised seeking advice from indigenous peoples. Seckinger proposed a nationwide ban on new mining activities and an increase in drilling rental fees to fund reinvestment in affected communities. Mues called for a comprehensive approach in collaboration with allies and increased investment in energy storage and smart energy grids.
Asked to define the most pressing foreign policy problem facing the United States, Neumann clarified climate change. Knoles said the United States must restore international confidence in its government. Seckinger called for the repeal of the 2002 Use of Military Force Authorization, which gives presidents wide leeway to carry out military strikes without congressional approval, and was recently deployed as a legal justification Trump’s drone assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Mues agreed with Seckinger, explaining the global rise of government authoritarianism and the US abandonment of the Kurdish people in Syria. Mues called Daines “weak” on foreign policy and national security. Collins called President Trump “our greatest threat.”
Describing himself as a millennial who expects to “never see” the benefits, Knoles suggested that universal income and universal health care could better compensate for the potential demise of the program. Seckinger agreed that young citizens “will probably never see” the benefits, but said the program should be protected. Mues and Neumann both pledged to keep Social Security solvent, and both criticized Daines for supporting Trump’s tax bills that increase the deficit while undermining social safety nets. Collins and Neumann agreed that wealthy Americans, whose contributions to the program are limited by a Social Security payroll tax cap, should pay a larger share.
The Senate candidates were followed by a forum with Mike Cooney and Whitney Williams, the two main Democratic candidates for governor.
For more information on all of Montana’s current candidates for a statewide office, see the Montana Free Press Election Guide 2020.