Montana’s Congressional delegation has two members up for re-election this year, Democratic Senator Jon Tester and Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte. So, in this hyper-partisan climate, how does the three member delegation balance working together to represent the state and Montanans while at the same time campaign against one another?
At the recent GOP Platform Committee dinner in Billings, Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte referred to Senior Senator Jon Tester, the lone Democrat of the delegation this way.
“This other guy,” Gianforte said “he votes with Chuck Schumer all the time. You think about these votes and how they’ve not been for Montana.”
“Steve and I need somebody who’s on the Montana team who will vote for Montana,” Gianforte continued. “Matt, I look forward to serving with you.”
It was a reference to Matt Rosendale, who was on the stage with Gianforte, Republican Senator Steve Daines, and Donald Trump, Jr. Rosendale won Montana’s contested Republican June Primary Election. All spoke at the GOP Platform Convention in Billings in June.
“Look I know politics,” said Tester when asked later about Gianforte’s remarks. “You have to have a thick skin in politics.”
Tester has denied the charge he votes all the time with the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. A head-to-head comparison of their voting records compiled by the investigative service Pro Publica found that charge was not accurate.
“Sometimes I read stuff in the paper that I don’t really like to read about what either one of them has said but nonetheless that’s politics,” he said. “So, we have to work together for Montana and that’s what I try to do.”
Gianforte was asked about his comment later after he spoke at the Platform Convention. The high tech executive from said the personal animosity that gets represented in the media honestly doesn’t exist but he said the reality is there are different voting records among the members of Montana’s Congressional delegation.
“I would encourage Montanans to get smart on the issues and decide if they want someone who is going to work with President Trump to make the American dream more attainable or someone who’s going to work with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer against that agenda,” Gianforte said. “It’s a very clear choice. It’s going to be a campaign of contrasts but I don’t think we need to bring personal animosity into it.”
He said basically every Wednesday the delegation gets together for coffee. This is a tradition started by former Montana Senator Max Baucus for the delegation. The gathering is open to the public.
Gianforte agreed there’s no question all three of them love Montana, but there’s a different vision to take it forward.
While Senator Steve Daines, a fellow Republican, agreed there are different votes among the delegation, he mentioned the Trump tax cut proposal as an expample. But he said at the end of the day politics is about relationships.
“I think Montanans want to see civility in the discourse,” said Daines. “Unfortunately across our country we’ve lost a lot of that and so we need to model that as leaders.”
“I think what we need to do is not make it personal,” he said. “Keep it focused on the issues and not make it focused about personalities.”
He said it’s about disagreeing but not being disagreeable.
“What I’ve told folks all the time is I don’t know that you can pick any 2 people that agree on all the issues,” agreed Tester.
The farmer from Big Sandy said when it comes to Montana issues, the delegation works well together. He pointed to several pieces of legislation where there the delegation worked together, including the East Rosebud Wild and Scenic Rivers Act or the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act.
“I think the relationship is solid,” Tester said. “I certainly respect both of them and move forward and hopefully the campaign doesn’t get too crazy.”
And Tester on the stump and in campaign ads mention how he has worked at times supporting the President and when he doesn’t he said it is because he’s representing Montana. He has also pointed out that some of his bills, particularly those addressing veterans, have been signed into law by President Trump.
Regardless, all of the members of the delegation said they’re going to continue to work for the betterment of Montana and the country and leaving it up to voters to grade how well they’re doing that job.