Gubernatorial Candidate Greg Gianforte On Business, Health Care And Campaign Funding
This week we are airing conversations with some of the candidates running for Montana governor as the June 2 primary approaches.
Republican Greg Gianforte has been Montana’s U.S. Representative since 2017. He spoke with YPR New’s Jess Sheldahl this week about why he came to Montana, his business experience, and the Affordable Care Act.
SHELDAHL: You were elected as Montana's sole U.S. representative in 2017. Can you tell us a little more about your background as a politician and businessman?
GIANFORTE: I grew up in Pennsylvania. I first came to Montana 44 years ago and as a as a student. And I knew at the end of that trip that this was going to be home. So my wife, Susan and I have been married 32 years. We've raised our four children in Bozeman. This is where we started Right Now Technologies. Since I've been in Congress, I've been focusing really on trying to get health care costs down. Expanding access to rural broadband and working to improve the economy by lowering taxes. Reducing regulations to bring the American dream back so that people can prosper and we can protect our Montana way of life.
SHELDAHL: You've supported the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which Medicaid expansion is based on. Would you support the repeal of Montana's expansion? And how would you work to improve access to health care for Montanans as governor?
GIANFORTE: No, I would not support the repeal. I think once it's in place, people are relying on it. I'm concerned about how we pay for it long term. I believe we do need a safety net for people that can't take care of themselves. In Congress. I've introduced or co-sponsored 16 bills focused on three primary things in health care. One, getting costs down. In fact, I had a bill passed Congress in December that requires pharmaceuticals to publish a pricing for drugs to get the costs down. I've been a champion of rural health care, particularly telemedicine and funding for a rural critical Assa Access hospitals. And finally, we need to protect people with preexisting conditions that I voted consistently to make sure we do that.
SHELDAHL: The sources powering Montana's energy market are shifting. The latest example is the closure of two of the coal strips coal fired power plants, four units. What energy sources do you think can best meet Montana's needs?
GIANFORTE: Well, I'm a fan of all of the above. I don't think the government should be picking winners and losers in the energy market. I am supportive of traditional sources of energy as well as solar and wind. We should be pursuing all options.
SHELDAHL: Some of your opponents in the race for governor have criticized the level at which you've loaned money to your campaign. So far, you've loaned your campaign half a million dollars. How do you respond to their criticism?
GIANFORTE: Well, we've had unprecedented financial support from people. All over the state. In fact, you know, our direct fund raising from individual Montanans has nearly exceeded all the other candidates combined. And I think that's a strong indication that people want business leadership in the governor's office and it doesn't matter, Democrat or Republican.
SHELDAHL: It's interesting that you bring up that business experience. Whitney Williams on the Democratic side also has her company, Williamsworks. How does your business experience differ from hers?
GIANFORTE: Our business, we started in an extra bedroom in our home in Bozeman with just $5,000. And over a 15 year period, we grew an organization with over 500 good paying jobs here in Bozeman. Over 1,100 jobs around the world. We also had a very entrepreneurial environment. I'm proud of the fact that this high tech sector that has our fingerprints on it. Can't claim credit for the whole thing. There is now over a 100 high tech firms in the Bozeman area, 80 in Missoula. We've had a hand in getting started. High tech is now the fastest growing sector of the Montana economy, growing nine times faster than the overall market, creating jobs that are nearly double the state average.
SHELDAHL: It's difficult to talk about your current campaign without addressing the most infamous moment of your campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. When you assaulted a reporter the night before the election, you pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in relation to the incident in 2017. How has this moment affected you personally and as a politician?
GIANFORTE: Well, I'll say I we've done over 200 events since I announced for the governor's office last June, and it doesn't come up.
SHELDAHL: If elected, you'd be the first Republican governor in Montana since Judy Martz, who left office after the 2004 election. Why do you think your best suited to lead your party's attempts to regain the office?
GIANFORTE: After Oracle purchased our business in Bozeman, I had a big life decision to make, do I start a sixth business or my wife and I our family's been incredibly blessed and I felt a real conviction to give back after having lived the American dream. And I'm hoping that through our leadership in Helena, working with the Legislature, bringing accountability to state government, we can help more Montanans prosper.