MTPR

Montana politics

In a debate that seemed as late as Friday not likely to happen, Republican Ryan Zinke met Democrat John Lewis in a statewide debate that focused on experience and education Monday night in Billings.

Montana PBS had already cancelled broadcast coverage after Zinke cited a scheduling conflict, but the Monday evening debate was available across the state on radio. You can listen to the debate from Yellowstone Public Radio.

Neither candidate has widespread name recognition – Zinke having served in the state legislature and Lewis as state director for former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus – so the debates are a vital piece of both men’s campaigns, according to University of Montana political science professor Christopher Muste.

I think Zinke will attack Lewis for being inexperienced and Lewis will attack Zinke for being out of touch and having extreme views on a number of issues,” Muste said in the pre-debate analysis with Montana Public Radio.

The debate, in the end, was largely a civil and substantive affair. Zinke stuck hard to the issues of education and energy independence, claiming that Montana “had enough coal to support the nation at peak consumption for the next 100 years.”

Lewis countered that Zinke would pursue oil and gas exploration at all times and criticized him for not support limits on energy exploration near Glacier National Park, a position supported by current U.S. Rep. Steve Daines.

On education, Zinke stated he rejected the increasingly controversial learning standards known as Common Core and wanted to boost more training for skilled labor.

Lewis focused his efforts in staking out support for higher education and reducing student loans. He said by financing student loans “much like you would a house” and ensuring continued access to Pell Grants, he could cut the amount of debt many Montana students have. He added that Zinke would cut support for higher education, making it more expensive for students.

The two meet again on Saturday for a debate in Bozeman.

This has been the most expensive fire season in Montana since at least 1999. Both the state and federal governments have spent a combined $378 million dollars so far battling blazes.

Voters cast ballots at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, May 25, 2017.
Josh Burnham

Montana's Republican Secretary of State Cory Stapleton and Democratic lawmakers continued their spat last week over allegations of voter fraud in statewide elections. Stapleton has made at least two claims of voter fraud in the special U.S. congressional election this spring. He's also concerned about the number of illegal votes in that election.

The Montana Attorney General will now have to clarify a ballot proposal intended to prohibit transgender Montanans from using the public bathrooms of their choice. The Montana Supreme Court has granted the ACLU of Montana’s petition challenging the sufficiency of I-183’s ballot statement and fiscal note.

MTPR News Director Eric Whitney: On Monday we took a look at the race for Montana's senate seat that's up in 2018. On Tuesday David Parker is back to talk about the 2018 House race. Parker is a political science professor at Montana State University. David Parker, thanks for joining us on Montana Public Radio.

Rice Ridge Fire activity in steep terrain.
Inciweb

Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte gave a keynote address to the Montana Association of Counties today.

It was the second stop in his “forest jobs tour,” and the congressman told county commissioners the best way to stop wildfires is to cut down more trees.

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