By Brad Molnar

In 1992 Marc Raciciot was the underdog against Dorothy Bradley in the general election to be Montana’s new governor. Instead of carpet bombing each other with mindless 30 second commercials they agreed to a debate in each of Montana’s 56 counties. That was cut short as all the questions had been asked and the press had covered the answers so the crowds dwindled. Compare that to today’s scenario where artful dodging of debates is considered political wisdom. After losing the election due to accepting debates Dorothy Bradley commented, “Honest debate helps reveal what candidates really believe, what’s important, what they will go to the mat for, and what kind of Montana leader they will be”.

Recent debates seem to showcase the panelists, and the answers serve more as launching pads to denigrate opponents; questions be damned. The primary season for Montana’s newly created congressional district was a long, loud, silence. Debates were often partisan centric with some candidates never showing up.

At the Yellowstone County Labor Day picnic I asked Councilwoman Penny Ronning (D) if I could ask a few questions for my column. She eagerly agreed. I also asked Gary Buchannan (I). He asked if I supported him. I refused to answer and he asked that I contact him at his office. He later called to say that he would not participate. He did not ask to see the questions. Sam Rankin (L) was emailed and called asking for his participation; no response. After reviewing the questions Matt Rosendale (R) replied. Answers were limited to 100 words.

1) How many debates have you been offered? How many have you accepted? Why did you decline the rest?                                                                                                                                                  Rosendale Campaign spokesman Shelby DeMars, “The campaign has received four general election debate requests— two that were declined due to prior commitments on the Congressman’s schedule that conflicted with the proposed dates of the debates and two that the Congressman has participated in (the MTN and PBS/YPR debates)” 

Penny Ronning (D), “I have accepted all offers for debates and town halls. Several were canceled. I assume because various candidates would not participate. For those that are yet to be held I hope all candidates participate. It’s important.

2) Is deficit spending a problem? If so, how would you address the problem? Penny Ronning (D) “Yes, it is a problem. It can be handled by investing in labor and productivity making products marked Made in America.

Cong. Matt Rosendale (R) “The out-of-control spending in DC is impacting our economy now, and will impact generations of Montanans for decades to come. Washington DC has operated without a budget for far too long. It is one of my top priorities to vote against irresponsible spending and push Congress to follow a budget. Sky rocketing inflation, increased housing costs, and the rising cost of food and other necessities—is the result of the government spending that has taken place since COVID and the massive spending packages passed by Congressional Democrats. We must rein in this spending and get our economy back on track. (Edited for length)

3) Everyone says they support public access to public lands. Would you favor changing federal grazing rules so that if a land locked parcel (defined as no access for 30 miles) is bordered by two or more private holdings, with one holding allowing public access, and one not allowing public access, then the one that will provide access shall be granted the lease?

Congressman Rosendale (R) “I think protecting our public lands is critical to preserving our hunting heritage and the abundant recreational opportunities that are central to our Montana way of life. However, I also believe in private property rights, and I don’t believe that grazing leases are a tool that should be used punitively.” 

Councilwoman Ronning (D) “Sounds like a simple business decision and solution”.

Brad Molnar is a State Senator (R), term limited State Representative and term limited Public Service Commissioner  


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