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Three Political Newcomers Vie For Open U.S. House Seat

Montana Television Network

Absentee ballots will be put in the mail beginning today to start the special election to fill Montana’s vacant U.S. House Seat.

The three candidates seeking the state’s lone seat are all outsiders, having never served before in elective office.

They faced off Saturday night in a “live” televised debate sponsored by the Montana Television Network.  It's the only debate preceding the forthcoming May 25th special election.

Republican Greg Gianforte is perhaps the best known among the House candidates as he most recently tried unsuccessfully to unseat Democratic governor Steve Bullock last fall.

Gianforte touted his success as a high-tech entrepreneur. He didn’t back down from his wealth even though his opponents raised it as a campaign issue.

“Let me say clearly, I can’t be bought and my only allegiance is only to you. I am a fan of prosperity,” said Gianforte.

The Bozeman businessman said he wants other Montanans to prosper as well. He co-founded RightNow Technologies with his wife Susan and sold the company to Oracle for $1.5 billion in 2011.

Musician Rob Quist co-founded the Misson Mountain Wood Band. He said there are enough millionaires in Congress and Montana needs someone who can represent everyday Montanans.

“I understand what it’s like to live life on the ground,” Quist said. “I’ve faced the same kinds of issues that the people of Montana from health care issues and Social Security and Medicare and health care and understand the importance of women’s issues.”

The Democrat said as a life-long Montanan he has represented residents through his poetry and music.

Libertarian Mark Wicks is a farmer and rancher from Inverness. He said it’s time to quit the partisan politics.

Wicks offered this analogy, if the candidates were cars, Gianforte was the luxury car ; Quist is the ½ ton pickup with a good sound system but only six cylinders.  Wicks called himself the work truck.

“I’m the guy when you’re pulled over on the side of the road and you’re broke down you want to see that big pickup pull up behind you that has the tow rope, the chains, the tools, everything to get the job done and you know you’re going to get home that night,” said Wicks.

Republican Greg Gianforte, Democrat Rob Quist, and Libertarian Mark Wicks are on the ballot in the upcoming May 25, 2017 special election to fill the vacancy in the U.S. House.

The three men debated issues from health care, to taxes, immigration and coal during the nearly hour-long debate, sponsored by the Montana television network.

The vacancy was created when Congressman Ryan Zinke stepped down to become U.S. Interior Secretary on March 1, 2017.

Saturday’s event was the only one the candidates agreed to in advance of the May 25, 2017 special election. The unusual daya Thursdaywas chosen by Governor Steve Bullock.  Under state law, the governor has 85 days to set a special election to fill such a vacancy.  Bullock chose the minimum amount of time allowed.