Get to know your legislators running for office

Primary election ballots were mailed to Montana residents on May 10.

The Pathfinder reached out to the 12 candidates running for state House and Senate seats that are relevant to Seeley-Swan area residents to ask them a handful of questions to help voters better understand their prospective legislators.

After the decennial redistricting, new maps were drawn by the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission in 2023. That prompted a new district for Seeley Lake, which now lies in House District 76 with Ovando, Phillipsburg and Deer Lodge, but not Condon or Greenough. Along with that House District, HD 92 (East Rattlesnake, East Missoula, Greenough, Condon), Senate District 38 (Seeley Lake, Ovando, Deer Lodge, Phillipsburg, Boulder) and SD 46 (East Missoula, East Rattlesnake, Condon, Greenough, Ronan) will be on voters' June ballots.

The primary election is on June 4. Ballots must be dropped off at election offices by 8 p.m. The United States Postal Services recommends allowing seven days to mail a ballot. If mailing less than a week ahead of election day, county officials recommend dropping off ballots in-person. Voters are able to register to vote on Election Day. A map of polling places in Missoula County can be found at https://gis.missoulacounty.us/elections/voter/

Since Montana has open primaries and voters do not have to register with a party, voters will receive four ballots this primary election for the Republican, Democrat, Green and Libertarian Parties. According to county officials, voters should only fill out one ballot and if a voter returns more than one ballot, none will be counted.

HOUSE DISTRICT 76 - SEELEY LAKE, OVANDO, DEER LODGE, PHILLIPSBURG

John Fitzpatrick, Republican, current HD 77 representative

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

I served one term representing HD 77 (Deer Lodge and Granite Counties) in 2023. Prior to election I worked as a professional lobbyist with the Montana Legislature for 40 years. I also have past experience as Deputy Budget Director for the State of Montana.

I am particularly well qualified for this job given my 42 years of legislative experience where I successfully managed hundreds of pieces of legislation. I am currently a member of the Appropriations Committee, which develops the state budget. Like Seeley Lake's current Representative Mike Hopkins, I am a member of Appropriations Subcommittee F, which allocates funding for a variety of state grant and loan programs for local government infrastructure. I understand state finance.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

Inflation has increased the cost of living by 20% since the end of the Trump presidency. In a peacetime economy, inflation is almost always caused by federal fiscal policy (Bidenomics), which poured too much money into the economy, increasing prices. Unfortunately, the State of Montana has little capacity to affect inflation.

Yes, property taxes are too high, but contrary to what you've been hearing from the various pundits, there is no simple solution for this problem. Every proposed fix that I've seen to date is nothing more than a plan to shift taxes from one class of taxpayers to others. Property taxes fund local governments and schools. They set the amount of the tax levy. The governor has convened a task force to examine this problem and I look forward to its recommendations.

Wastewater infrastructure is the most important issue in Seeley Lake. It needs to be addressed in a cost-effective manner, as I discuss below.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

I welcome communication from my constituents. I want to know their thoughts and concerns. I plan on continuing the communication program that I initiated during the 2023 session, which includes a weekly column in the district newspapers apprising voters of what's happening in the Legislature; meeting with local officials, service providers and constituents on at least a weekly basis; and campaign by knocking on doors to meet the electorate face-to-face and visit with them about their concerns.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

In my lifetime I have been involved in numerous development projects, the smallest of which was a concession stand/restroom facility for the youth baseball program in Helena. I have also successfully permitted four major mining operations, four subdivisions and a power plant.

The Dave Gates Generating Station near Anaconda was developed by a two-person management team. My associate was responsible for engineering and I oversaw permitting and the acquisition of water rights. The process took about 10 months (incredibly fast) and led to the investment of $186 million in Deer Lodge County. The plant is the largest taxpayer in the county.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

A practical, functional, cost-effective solution to its wastewater woes. Until that issue is successfully addressed, it will be difficult to build homes and attract small businesses to the area.

To do that, a plan needs to be developed addressing the best way to install a wastewater treatment system and find a much more cost-effective way of installing septic systems in locations that are not appropriate for the sewer system.

Once that plan is in place, it will be possible to move forward and seek funding assistance from the state to construct the system. Every dollar in grant money received by the community is a dollar local residents don't have to pay.

Dave Kesler III, Republican

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

I was born in Deer Lodge in 1972 and have lived in the Philipsburg and Deer Lodge valleys for most of my life. I've spent the majority of my 51 years living and working in the timber, ranching and construction industries. I am a good fit for the HD 76 seat because I am deeply connected to this district. My family lives here, we have depended on the land and the people for our own livelihood and I want to ensure the prosperity of the future for my daughter and the generations to come. I want to represent the people of Powell and Granite Counties well. Such community leaders such as Sherm Anderson and the Parke family have endorsed my campaign. This district means everything to me, and I'll fight to protect our way of life from intrusion by the lobbyists in Helena.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

I've always been good at getting to the root of an issue and addressing the problem directly, rather than just addressing the symptoms. We absolutely need to address infrastructure projects like wastewater, water supplies, upkeep of county roads, etc. and the state currently has plenty of revenue to address these pressing matters. However, nothing will change until we cut out the fraud and wasteful spending occurring at the administrative/agency level of the state. We can trim the budget and reduce taxes without cutting necessary programs, and this will free up funds to help complete worthy projects that will improve our quality of life and ability to sustain our communities. I would also like to see property taxes limited to 1-3% of the purchase price of one's property, not what the resort-seeking visitors paid for the house next door. I will not support any legislation to increase our taxes.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

My lines of communication are always open - phone: (406) 491-2650, email: KeslerforMontana@gmail.com, mailing address: PO Box 42, Philipsburg, Montana. 59858.

Or, swing by and visit me. Nobody has all the answers, least of all me. I need to hear from my neighbors throughout the district to know what we want and need. I aim to update my website throughout the session to highlight the bills I like and the bills I can't support. I'll need the support of all the constituents to address our collective concerns. I'm running to help us preserve our way of life that's slowly eroding before our eyes.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

I have participated in the Legislative process for several years now and on my own dime. I've worked with legislators to help pass some critically important laws that protect our families and rein in tyrannical, governmental agency overreach. I have known this overreach personally, as my own family has been harmed by agency abuse of powers. A few years back, Senate Bill 400 gave parents the ability to hold bad actors in the state public health department to account and to better protect our children and families. House Bill 90 also provided protections for our families in a big way. Regardless of the outcome of this election, I'll continue to work to protect our families and children. I work hard and will always be among the first to arrive and the last to leave when there is work on the table.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

I live in Philipsburg, so I won't claim to tell Seeley-Swan what it needs, but just like the rest of us, I understand Seeley needs some economic stability beyond tourism that will provide sustainable, healthy jobs for parents and young adults to thrive. I would love to see manufacturing and innovative businesses that don't rely on government stimulus to survive to develop in all our communities. We need sustainable jobs to keep our communities alive. I'll fight to cut the red tape and unnecessary restrictions that keep us from advancing into the future. We can design our own future and improve the quality of our lives.

Elena Gagliano, Libertarian

*Gagliano will appear on voters' general election ballot, not the primary ballot.

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

I was born in America, raised in New York and Montana. I've been a Montana resident since 1981 and a resident of this district (Granite County) for 32 years. I've spent most of my adult life advocating for less government bureaucracy, and more accountability and transparency from all three branches of government, right down to the local government level.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

First off, let me say that as a legislator, I won't be just representing HD 76, but all Montana, as we are all having similar issues and concerns. I will always promote less government intrusions and spending while protecting our rights.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

I'll constantly have open two-way communication. Constituents' concerns and questions are what matter. That will be how I'll scrutinize the bills and resolutions. Once they pass that initial test, then each would be judged on its merits. To give you an up or down answer to any one specific issue would be doing an injustice to my oath of office.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

Locally I've been involved in the concerns and issues regarding hydroelectric projects, water and property rights, aging infrastructure and lack of government transparency and respect for constituents. The ridiculous property taxes and not getting what we're paying for aren't our only gripes. People are starting to pay attention and actively becoming involved. So much so that they are now seriously considering the local government review ballot option.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

Public officials, elected and appointed, who will listen to them. Not to special interests groups, or lobbyists, or regulatory agencies bearing gifts and using our money while tacking on the proverbial "sticks and strings."

HOUSE DISTRICT 92 - East Rattlesnake, East Missoula, Greenough, Condon

Ted Morgan, Republican

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

I live in Condon with my wife, Julia. We have a couple dogs, chickens and a cat. I serve on the Swan Valley Community Council as its youngest member. My background is heavy in marketing and sports, where I've been lucky to work with world champions and organizations, from the UFC to the MLB. I believe I am the right choice for this position because I am a grassroots candidate willing to work with anyone when it comes to creating better opportunities for Montanans. I am not a party politician, I am a constituent-first Condonite, and am not done listening or learning from the people we have here in HD 92. I am running so my generation can live the American Dream many others have experienced. Let's get back to the basics of funding our rural infrastructure, lowering resident property taxes, bettering rural student proficiency, creating affordable housing and higher paying job opportunities.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

Seeley specifically is dealing with a wastewater issue. The community needs to make the choice that is best for them. Our bridges and roads are an issue we all share. While the city of Missoula soaks up large amounts of county funding and federal grants, we are left in the dust of our own deteriorating roads and broken bridges. If our county can't fix our issues, I will fight to bring state dollars back to HD 92 and complete the much needed repairs and upgrades to rural infrastructure. I will support all legislation that provides income tax cuts to families raising children and combat excessive mill levies on all taxpayers. With one third of homes in Montana owned by non-residents, a small fee or a slightly higher tax rate on these properties could provide funding for more property tax cuts and affordable housing for residents. I am against a sales tax.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

I am here to serve you. In order to do that, it takes open governance. I plan on using old and new methods to reach those of you in HD 92. We have so many talented people in this district, and legislation should come from the people, not politicians' personal opinions. Attending community council meetings, community events and visiting local businesses are the in-person ways to get your ideas. I will also be available for phone calls and respond attentively to your emails. On top of this, I plan on posting every bill that requires a vote to social media and my website, keeping all constituents informed and listening to all suggestions. I will also keep my shift at Liquid Louie's when not in session, making it easy to come speak in-person and enjoy a cold drink at Condon's oldest bar. Feel free to reach out via email at Ted4montana@gmail.com or through my website http://www.ted4montana.com.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

I serve on the Swan Valley Community Council, a non-partisan local government position. I served on the SVCC when we fought to stop the corporatization of Condon and Holland Lake. My first calls were to representatives, my next were to law firms in Missoula. I got in contact with Ferguson & Coppes. Their lawyers answered questions from our community, and helped us understand what we could do to secure our valley. Through the next couple months, our council and community focused on questioning the Forest Service, POWDR representatives and more on their true intentions for our valley. In the end we got the result we fought for. Our community put politics aside and came together as one to defeat a large corporation. Even being a little part of this David vs Goliath battle showed me how strong our community is together. I believe Helena needs that voice to be heard.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

Unfortunately it is impossible to put one issue first. One important question that needs an answer is rural school proficiency. Right now, many of the rural students in HD 92 are not reaching proficiency, with some elementary and high schools having less than 30% proficiency in English, math and science. Some elementary schools in the city of Missoula have over 70% proficiency, with a large percentage being advanced. I believe we need a Rural Proficiency Task Force. This could allocate state funds to catching rural schools up in proficiency by sending specialists to these schools monthly. These specialists can help students and teachers gain more tools. We also need more vocational opportunities for students. Many kids I have met in the Seeley-Swan have a passion for the trades, from building to learning diesel mechanics. Let's empower these kids and foster our next generation of skilled workers.

Connie Keogh, Democrat, current HD 91 representative

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

Growing up on a ranch south of Billings near the Beartooth Mountains, my Dad said, "If there's a job to do, just do it!" That meant getting up late at night to bring a new calf to the barn or spending the day in the hayfield on a tractor. I've taken that work ethic to the Legislature the past three terms. With my 40-year career as an educator and through volunteering as an advocate to protect our land, air, water and working landscapes, I show up, do the job and understand the legislative process. I work together with all stakeholders, take time to learn issues and fight for my constituents. With redistricting, it's my honor to include the rural portions of the Seeley-Swan Valley (excluding Seeley Lake proper and area over to Clearwater Creek) in HD 92 that I'll serve when elected for my fourth term.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

Public infrastructure, like wastewater systems, is key to the area's economic success and vital for the health of rural communities. Clean water is a huge issue in the Seeley-Swan. We need to work together at the community, county, state and federal levels to secure funding to protect our water, secure our economic future and ensure that homeowners can afford to get clean drinking water. Homeowners are rightly concerned about rising residential property taxes. I'll fight for homeowners to ensure that property taxes are fair and don't fall so heavily on them to fund vital public services. It's not fair to cut property taxes for big corporations and raise taxes on homeowners. Montanans are feeling the pinch of the cost of living, and low- and middle-income workers can't find affordable places to live where they work. Everyone should pay their fair share, and homeowners shouldn't get taxed out of their homes.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

During my three legislative terms, it's been my priority to be responsive to constituents when in Helena and at home. I work hard to build relationships by establishing routines to monitor email, phone messages, and social media so that I can respond promptly to constituents' concerns. We work for you - you're our bosses and we represent your concerns in the Legislature. I always provide opportunities to meet constituents - either one-on-one or in group settings. I attend community meetings and other events where I can visit with my constituents so I can listen and learn. I believe it's important to help my constituents understand the legislative process so I can represent them and they can be effective during the 90-day legislative session.

Please contact me with concerns, questions and suggestions:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/keoghformontana

Phone: 406-298-0985. Email: Connie.keogh@legmt.gov or keoghforhd92@gmail.com.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

For the past two sessions, I have had the honor to work on legislation for children that are deaf or hard of hearing from zero to nine years of age. Working together with parents, professionals, members of the deaf community and others, we've navigated the legislative process to effectively establish what is called LEAD-K - Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids. It is a national effort to pass state legislation that ensures that children who are deaf or hard of hearing have a strong language foundation for success in school. HB 619 was signed by the governor, and the work has begun to assess students on their acquisition of language and provide resources for families. It's been my privilege to work together with all stakeholders and across the political aisle to successfully prevent language deprivation in all children.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

The housing market in the Seeley-Swan is very limited - workers can't afford to live here. Affordable housing will help a local labor force fill local jobs. Navigating growth, protecting working landscapes and ensuring a strong economy are key to the valley's future. Residents are proud of their community and want to ensure that future generations can enjoy its rural nature, tight-knit communities and outstanding wildlife. Valley residents want a say in their future. Condon-area residents are now working on community planning. We must continue these efforts in which local communities secure their futures by developing a vision with the help of community councils, county government and other groups. I'll promote these efforts and offer state help to ensure regulatory processes don't limit economic development and protect our valley. I'll help community members advocate at the Legislature for resources to accomplish their goals for the Seeley-Swan Valley's future.

SENATE DISTRICT 38 - SEELEY LAKE, OVANDO, DEER LODGE, PHILLIPSBURG, BOULDER

Becky Beard, Republican, current SD 40 senator

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

Representing five generations of family-living in Montana, I'm originally from Central Montana. I spent a good deal of time recreating outdoors, especially in the Missouri River Breaks. I relocated with my family to Helena in the early 1970s, then to Elliston in 1996.

I received a B.A. in International Relations from Carroll College, and in 1997 founded a consulting firm, partnering with my husband, Alden, a civil engineer. We provided funding administration for rural communities constructing water and wastewater improvements across Montana. I navigated the myriad of state and federal infrastructure regulations to achieve project cost efficiencies and compliance.

I was first elected by residents of HD 80 in 2017. In 2019, I was elected by my peers as a Majority Whip, and was assigned to the House Taxation (serving as Vice-Chair), Agriculture, Education and Rules Committees. In 2021, I chaired the House Taxation Committee while retaining my previous committee assignments. I also served on the Revenue Interim Committee (as Vice-Chair in the past interim), and chaired the Forest Lands Taxation Advisory Committee. Just ahead of the 2023 Session, I was appointed to fill a recently vacated SD 40 seat. I am currently chair of the Revenue Interim Committee (RIC).

My four-session voting record is documented on the State of Montana's legislative website (https://www.leg.mt.gov). I remain committed to my campaign platform, to strengthen fiscally and socially conservative values while advocating for smaller government. I maintain a respectful and responsive manner of communication, conversing with peers in the Legislature, with the executive branch, and most importantly, with constituents.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

Because tax revenue resources are finite, I scrutinize competing demands on revenues, including income tax (I sponsored a bill last session decreasing the income tax rate from 6.5% to 5.9%). We, as your legislators, must address pressures on skyrocketing property tax rates by examining a variety of constitutionally appropriate options to drive them down, especially on the state's residential classification. RIC is looking at the drivers of accelerating property values, primarily because the demand for limited real estate opportunities is extremely competitive, including in Seeley Lake.

My 20 years of experience in the private sector assisting rural communities' water and wastewater systems gives me a well-informed perspective on both the financial and regulatory challenges involved. Rate impacts are always critical, particularly during periods of economic downturn. Leveraging all potential funding sources, coupled with cost-effective engineering addressing far-sighted regulatory compliance, is key. And costs remain the primary focus for getting public buy-in on projects. The Legislature typically renews standing programs for financial assistance biannually through the Montana Department of Commerce and DNRC, and federal options such as USDA Rural Development can often provide assistance as well. A well-reasoned, comprehensive funding strategy is the appropriate project launch point.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

Looking forward, and if elected to the newly drawn SD 38, it will be my continued honor and privilege to serve the voters. I will represent my neighbors in Powell, Jefferson and Granite Counties, along with those from individual precincts in Lewis and Clark, Anaconda-Deer Lodge and Missoula counties during the 69th Legislative Session. My current constituents have experienced my engagement and responsiveness first hand. I can always be reached at 406-479-3048, or becky4sd38@blackfoot.net.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

During the 2023 legislative session, I sponsored SB 296, the Senior Care Facility Access and Stabilization Act, revising the method of calculating room and board costs for assisted living residents. Even though the bill had broad support in the Legislature and among Montana's facility providers, it was ultimately vetoed. Because there is continued support in affirming the importance of our most vulnerable older Montanans who need a bit of help with quality residential long-term care services close to home, family and friends, we plan to resurrect it in the 2025 session. These people have served their communities - been our teachers, our soldiers, our ranchers and farmers, our moms and dads, our loved ones. This should rank as a high-priority for our state's services to these citizens who've given so much.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

Like most of Montana's rural communities, we expect long-term, stable and good-paying jobs so our families can thrive. These include sustained opportunities in our traditional Treasure State sectors such as agricultural and natural resources. Outside pressures and market influences can erode these opportunities, as Seeley Lake knows too well. But sound legislation to keep regulatory burdens bearable, to promote reinvestment in local businesses and industries, and to minimize tax burdens, including curtailing unnecessary state spending, are crucial to the community's long term growth. These remain my own legislative priorities.

Gregory Frazer, Republican, current HD 78 representative

Candidate was unable to respond to questions by deadline.

Jeremy Mygland, Republican

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

I was born in Chester, Montana and raised on a small family grain farm north of Hingham, Monatna. I am a fifth generation Montanan.

I am a good fit for the state senate because I am not a politician. I am a blue collar Montana that has no interest in politics but am left with no choice but to get involved. The unconstitutional covid-19 lockdowns were a direct threat from the government on me, my family, my business and my religion. My most effective quality is leadership. I have had over 20 employees for quite some time now. If you have ever run a business, you understand what it takes to be successful. With the mass division in politics today, including within the parties, it will take leadership to bring people together to move our state forward. Past voting records will matter very little this next session if we cannot come together in a positive way.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

It is extremely important for Seeley Lake to get wastewater infrastructure installed and I will offer all the help I can at the state level. The best solution may be a resort tax as Seeley has become a well-known destination for tourism. Unlike other communities, like Phillipsburg, I do not see a resort tax having much negative effects on local business. The one hurdle for infrastructure I am very aware of as a developer and plan on addressing is DEQ. They have gone off the rails with overreaching their authority. I plan on addressing overreach with all elected and unelected positions.

Property taxes are one of my main concerns. There are many ideas floating around to fix the tax assessment but the most important and proven one is a Montana version of Proposition 13. It may take a constitutional amendment but it changes the way we assess property from market value to an inflation rate.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

To be heard and represented takes involvement. The best way to get involved in the upcoming session is to reach out. Since I have started my campaign there has not been a single person that I am aware of that I have not gotten back to. Once the session starts it will be a little different due to pure volume. I have reached out and visited with many city and county council members and made sure they know how much I intend on relying on them for issues that matter on the local level.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

I supported the southwest veterans food pantry and Impact Montana. We go to and donate to several organizations including private schools, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, 4H auctions, FFA fundraisers and fundraisers for individuals that are going through horrible circumstances and need a little help. I have paid for many power bills, mortgages, food and clothing for people just needing a hand up, not a hand out.

What I am most proud of is taking part in protecting our freedoms. I sent two trucks on the convoy to DC during the unconstitutional covid-19 lockdowns. I wanted to be the first one to do it and set an example, so on the 2,139-mile trip home I planned and organized the Freedom is Non-Partisan rally at the state Capitol. Shortly thereafter the state of Montana and our governor stepped up and we are still living the results of all restrictions lifted.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

The top issue across the state is property taxes. I hope to lead the way on the push for Proposition 13. There are many other ideas on how to decrease the tax load but the first step is always to stop the bleeding. I am very willing to hear possible solutions from both sides and could care less where the final solution comes from. I have spent some time with accountants already trying my best to get a grasp on the best direction to accomplish this goal.

Jeffrey Benson, Democrat

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

I have been an advisor and consultant to large and small companies throughout the Western United States. I have held leadership positions and launched operations in new territories. More importantly I was entrusted to help people reach their goals and offer meaningful solutions to the problems encountered.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

There were multiple opportunities to invest Montana's $2.4 billion surplus into infrastructure, education, affordable housing, etc. Instead, Republicans and the Governor felt it was more important to give $1 billion of Montana's taxpayer money to high-net-worth individuals and multi-billion dollar out of state corporations. In the meantime, rural communities suffer while attempting to fund critical systems, utilities and infrastructure. Continued neglect by the state hurts the small communities, where tourists and nonresidents pull on services locally, which are cost prohibitive to provide.

I support the Rural Community Development Plan that provides grants and assistance to rural Montana. I will also commit to roll back the property tax increase on Montana taxpayers to pre-2023 level and peel back the tax cut on corporations. In addition, I would offer protections to our senior population by proposing a property tax freeze on property until the owner sells their home.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

In my professional life, I didn't work to stand out or for applause. I believe Montana wants their state senator to represent Montana, not a political party, special interest or for some other state. Montana wants someone who can lead and protect Montana values. Having said so, I have put others' issues and needs above my own. As a servant to Montana, I am open to all. The public can contact me through my email, social media page and phone. When practical I will meet with our constituent's face-to-face to hear what concerns our Montana residents.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

One of my rewarding projects involved the development of a community service project for a major company. The company wanted to assist local government in addressing the neglect of parks and recreational opportunities for children. My responsibilities included working with local government and services and creating an outline and project specifications, including budget. I had to coordinate local, state and county resources as well as private enterprises to stimulate interest. Lastly, I developed mutual benefit for the project and outlined schedules, organized contractors and incorporated community standards that were created by parents and the benefactors of the project.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

Two significant needs standout for the Seeley Swan Valley, providing more affordable housing and providing a cost-effective wastewater/sewer system that is affordable to the residents. I would partner with organizations that can help, design and underwrite these developments and projects. I would spearhead legislation to create funding to direct Montana's surplus to create funding to help our rural and smaller communities and towns build affordable homes. Along with this I would commit resources from the state to assist our communities and expand the infrastructure and water and utility services. Funding for these developments can be acquired from Montana's surplus as a future investment into Montana's communities and rural towns.

SENATE DISTRICT 46 - EAST MISSOULA, EAST RATTLESNAKE, CONDON, GREENOUGH, RONAN

Jacinda Morigeau, Democrat

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

I was brought up to be a hand-raiser, hand-shaker and hugger. My dad, the late Dane Morigeau, was a 20-plus year volunteer firefighter and EMT in Arlee. Every day, he modeled how to show up for our neighbors and lend a helping hand when needed and he instilled in our family a drive to do better for the community. I am running for SD 46 because I believe in the power of community and the importance of representation. As a Bitterroot Salish woman from Arlee, I have seen firsthand the challenges our communities face, from healthcare access to funding public education and increased residential property taxes. I am running to be a voice for those who are often marginalized or overlooked and to bring a fresh perspective to the state senate.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

The recently approved wastewater treatment feasibility study is a positive step. Local residents must voice their opinions and gather information, but we must also acknowledge that growth will continue and the current septic system cannot be sustained. Therefore, the best path forward is one where comprehensive information is gathered to inform decisions. I am committed to reforming the property tax system to ease the burden on homeowners. I believe in a fair and equitable tax system that ensures adequate funding for essential services while not overburdening residents. To address the cost of living in Montana, I will work to promote policies that increase economic opportunities, affordable housing options and access to healthcare.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

I will prioritize communication and accessibility. I will hold or attend regular town hall meetings and listening sessions, and I'm going door-to-door to hear directly from folks. Additionally, I will be responsive to emails, calls and texts and make myself available at in-person meetings. My goal is to ensure that every voice in our community is heard and that I am accessible and accountable to those I represent. Please feel free to reach out to me at jacinda@jacindaformontana.com or 406-298-3416 (texting is preferred) with any questions, concerns or ideas.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

In my role at TRIO Upward Bound, I ensured the academic success of my high school students, many of whom were first-generation, low-income and from diverse backgrounds. I worked closely with them throughout the academic year and summer program, providing support and guidance to help them stay on track for college. By the end of my time with UB,I saw these students not only successfully complete their academic goals but also gain the confidence and skills they needed to continue on their path to higher education. It was a labor of love that I'm proud to have been a part of, and I'm committed to bringing that same dedication to my role as your senator in Helena.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

The number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now is property tax reform for residential homeowners. Many homeowners have seen their taxes increase by more than 20%, impacting their ability to afford their homes. This is due to a legislature and governor prioritizing the wealthy and well-connected over everyday Montanans. These tax increases directly affect public services and education in the seeley-Swan Valley. As your representative I will work tirelessly to reform the property tax system to ensure that it is fair and equitable for all residents, relieving the burden on homeowners and ensuring adequate funding for essential services.

C.B. Pearson, Democrat

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

I have lived in SD 46 for 35 years. I have a master's degree from the University of Montana in Environmental Studies, and I have been endorsed by both Montana Conservation Voters and 3.14 Action, which supports Democrats with a science background. I have been in private business as the Senior Vice-President and Montana Office Director for M+R Strategic Services for 21 years. Now, I have my own consulting business working on public health and tobacco disease prevention and the bus system in Gallatin County. I have been a lobbyist for various public interest nonprofits. I know the legislative process and have the endorsement of Mike Cooney (D), Montana's former Lieutenant Governor and former Secretary of State Bob Brown (R). I have been endorsed by all three Missoula County Commissioners. I have the skills, experience and drive to get our Montana back.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

Governor Greg Gianforte and the Republican Supermajority failed Montana voters. These three problems could have been effectively addressed at the last session, but Republicans gave big corporations a huge tax break and did not adequately fund infrastructure needs. Rural communities suffer most from this intended neglect. We must invest in smart growth that anticipates critical infrastructure: clean water, sanitation and transportation. We must address our flawed property tax system - and make it fair. Large corporations and the wealthy should pay their fair share. End the state tax on Social Security - Montana is one only 10 states that taxes Social Security. Image if instead of giving Northwestern Energy huge tax breaks we invested in our local rural infrastructure.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

My background is in community engagement and community organizing. I will engage with voters through multiple channels. I will make sure my phone and email are readily available. I will identify key events and communication opportunities in each of the 13 precincts that make up SD 46 and actively pursue engagement with individual constituents and organizations as well as elected representatives. I will do regular constituent emails and community meet-ups. My experience is that Montana voters are not shy but need effective channels to communicate.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

Since I have been active as a professional and a volunteer for the public interest, I have several campaigns to point to as success stories. One was the effort to cap interest rates for payday loans. I was the campaign manager for Initiative 164 - 400% Interest Is Too High - Cap the Rate Campaign in 2010. After three legislative attempts we won this consumer protection with a vote of 72% support. I am a defendant along with Republicans and Democrats to overturn SB 93 which undermines Montana's direct democracy power. I was a lead campaigner for Montana's Clean Indoor Air Act. I was a campaign manager and consultant for both the Missoula County Open Space Bond and Parks and Trails ballot issues. Both help preserve our open space and our recreation areas including Fort Missoula.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

Like most of Montana, housing and property taxes are critical, followed by education and helping our seniors. I will sponsor legislation to remove the tax on social security - Montana is one of only 10 states that taxes these important funds. We must adjust the rate of taxes on property. Governor Gianforte and the Republican Supermajority failed Montana voters. We need to make sure folks can stay in their homes. We need investments in workforce housing. I believe in public education, vocational and higher education including support for early childhood education. Smart investments in proven strategies for all of Montana yield high returns and a better future.

Charles Headley, Republican

Describe your background. Why are you a good fit for the position you're running for?

I have been a volunteer firefighter for 10 plus years , four years with Arlee Fire as the Fire Chief. My decade of service in volunteer firefighting demonstrates a deep commitment to serving and protecting my community. This firsthand experience gives a unique perspective on the needs and challenges facing the residents of SD 46.

Wastewater infrastructure, property taxes and the cost of living in western Montana are three big things on Seeley-Swan Valley voters' minds right now. If elected, what will you do to support the communities you represent in these areas?

I'm currently the general manager for Arlee Lake County Water and Sewer. The concerns within the Seeley area have been the same in Arlee before the sewer system was funded and created. I have three years experience with the wastewater system and what it takes to get grants and state funding. If elected I will use my experience and networking abilities to help guide communities with wastewater concerns on how to get assistance and push for more infrastructure funding for rural communities struggling with infrastructure needs.

How will you make your constituents feel heard while representing them in Helena?

I believe you have to show results and communicate to your constituents even if it is with hard conversations. Lack of communication leads to assumptions and misleading information. I feel I can make the argument and gain bipartisan support needed to pass critically needed bills.

Briefly describe a situation where you took on a community project or focus - maybe in a past legislative session, a local meeting or a labor of love - and followed all the way through. What was the result?

Candidate was unable to respond to this question by deadline.

What's the number one thing the Seeley-Swan Valley needs right now and how will you work to make that a reality for its residents?

The most pressing need in the Seeley-Swan Valley right now is improved infrastructure, particularly in terms of transportation and connectivity. Enhancing roads, bridges and communication networks could significantly benefit residents by improving accessibility, safety, and economic opportunities. To address this need, I would collaborate with local government officials, community leaders and relevant stakeholders to assess the current infrastructure and identify areas for improvement. This would involve conducting feasibility studies, securing funding through grants or partnerships and implementing strategic plans for infrastructure development.

Additionally, I would prioritize community engagement and transparency throughout the process, ensuring that residents have a voice in decision-making and are kept informed about progress and developments. By fostering cooperation and coordination among various stakeholders, we can work together to enhance the infrastructure of the Seeley-Swan Valley, ultimately improving the quality of life for its residents.

 

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