By Jack Ballard, Democratic candidate for congress
(Editor’s note: After the 2020 Census Montana received a 2nd congressional seat, Matt Rosendale is the sole congressperson in Montana currently, in 2022 Montana will have two congressional seats with the district maps to be determined. Matt Rosendale is running in district one as a Republican and Jack Ballard has announced his run against Rosendale as a Democrat.
Ryan Zinke is running in district two as a Republican with Representative Laurie Bishop, Monica Tranel, Cora Neumann, and potentially former rep. Tom Winter and others running in district two against Zinke.)
I’m running to be eastern Montana’s next member of the U.S. House of Representatives because like thousands of other residents of this state, I’d like to see all branches of our federal government work cooperatively and effectively. This means actually doing the business of the country and prioritizing the welfare of its people over the personal ambitions of politicians or the aspirations of a political party.
Despite the seemingly unbreakable polarization of the political environment today, I know, from talking to friends who identify both as Republicans and Democrats, that people are hungry for a more sensible approach to running our government. They want representatives who will look them in the eye and offer honest answers to legitimate questions. A huge swath of the public is tired of the political posturing by representatives who only seem willing to placate one extreme or the other and repeatedly say “no” to rolling up their sleeves and crafting sensible solutions with members of the other party to address our most pressing concerns as a nation.
What does this mean? It means thinking about how policies and proposed laws affect the lives of working Montanans. Take jobs and wages. I support substantially increasing the federal minimum wage which stands at $7.25/hour and scarcely covers the cost of childcare for a single child in many of our communities, and certainly fails to provide for the basic necessities of food and housing.
It means addressing the cost of healthcare which will not occur without meaningful cost containment. Mammoth pharmaceutical companies continue to rake in record profits while vulnerable Montanans see their finances gutted by the cost of medication. Under-insured individuals with high-deductible insurance policies may face bankruptcy or see their credit devastated when they can’t come up with thousands of dollars to pay for healthcare related to an accident or illness. Every Montanan, like every other citizen of this country, should have access to quality, affordable healthcare.
And it means providing more federal support for public education. Our schools, especially in rural and low-income areas, are often housed in outdated, energy inefficient buildings urgently needing upgrades. They also struggle to attract and keep good teachers, due to a lower pay scale. Raising taxes on already strapped taxpayers in these areas to fund such needs isn’t an option. Federal infrastructure investments should include rural and low-income school districts and forgiveness of federal student loan debt could easily be tied to employment in such places.
Finally, I recognize that climate change isn’t a future threat. It’s happening now. The farm fields and ranchlands of my boyhood have changed. This year we witnessed the worst wheat crop in the state since 1988, due to extreme drought. Ranchers on the prairies are selling off their cattle herds because there’s no grass and hay is locally unavailable or too expensive. We saw stream flows so low that individuals employed in outdoor recreation lost money due to cancelled trips and fishing closures. The causes of climate change are many. It will take all the innovation and cooperation we as a nation can muster to slow its acceleration and reverse the trend.
It pains me to see our current Representative consistently ignore the state he was elected to represent. Matt Rosendale consistently votes “no” on bills that are reasonable regardless of which political party one belongs to – bills that would supply funds for infrastructure, provide help for Montanans struggling from Covid, and honor the police officers who protected him during the January 2021 insurrection at the Capitol. He’s chosen to align himself with around a dozen far-right outliers in his own party who have opposed legislation that passed unanimously in the Senate. No wonder his actions have been called “kooky” by one of the prominent leaders in the Republican party.
I pledge, if elected as your Congressman, I’ll vote for sensible solutions and show up to listen to all members of the communities I represent. You’ll get straight talk from me and reasonable, forward-thinking policies that benefit all of us. And if I forget that pledge, please do us both a favor and vote my sorry carcass out of Congress in the next election.
Jack Ballard of Red Lodge is running for the U.S. House of Representative seat for eastern Montana.