Montana's 2nd Congressional District candidates on the issues
With less than a week left before Election Day, close to half of all absentee ballots have been returned. But if you're still mulling over who to vote for in the race for the state's new eastern congressional district seat, Yellowstone Public Radio asked all four candidates — Republican incumbent Matt Rosendale, Democrat Penny Ronning, Libertarian Sam Rankin and independent Gary Buchanan — to share their positions on several issues on voters' minds this election season.
Answers have been edited for length.
Where the candidates stand on abortion
Buchanan: Is pro-abortion rights and supports “a woman’s right to make her own decisions," as well as Montana’s constitutional right to privacy. He say the state’s role in abortion rights is important and there is a balance to reach between state and federal control. Should abortion return to the federal level, as U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has proposed, Buchanan says he would vote to codify Roe v. Wade.
Rankin: Tells YPR he “would vote for codification of a woman’s right to choose with no government interference.” In an email, he clarified that means he supports the right to choose, “However, if there is legislation with a few narrow restrictions, I would support that legislation, which typically includes the third trimester.”
Ronning: Is pro-abortion rights and says her "position is, and always has been that government does not have the right and should not have the right to make medical choices over someone's own personal body, that that type of a choice is the individual right.”
Rosendale: Is anti-abortion rights. He agrees with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson, overturning federal abortion rights under Roe v. Wade.
“Montana now has the authority over these issues and puts it much closer to the people that are going to be impacted by it and to their legislators, and that is exactly where it belongs," he told YPR.
Where the candidates stand on inflation/economy
Buchanan: Says both parties "have got to watch their spending" and that he would be "very conservative in that area."
“This is where I disappoint some of the Democratic Party. The stimulation of the economy has got to stop here that you can't have one part of the government fighting the Federal Reserve's effort to maintain inflation. When I was chairman of the banking board in the '80s, we worked with banks to restructure loans to adjust interest rates between the creditor and the debtor and the bank. That's the approach that I would take on student loans, you know, adding $600 billion to the economy right now, when we are in a serious inflationary spiral…it is timed wrong.”
Rankin: Says Congress “has practically zero influence on what inflation is. Inflation is driven by supply and demand, period. And for congressmen to think that they can, you know, stop, inflation or, or start it or anything else is erroneous. … The only two people in Montana that have any influence on inflation, that is any matter, and even that's minor, is [U.S. Sens.] Daines and Tester because they get to vote on the Secretary of Treasury, or confirm Secretary of Treasury, and the Federal Reserve Board.”
Ronning: Says Congress should pass legislation that prevents companies from increasing prices excessively. “I think those are things that we can address. They've been addressed before historically by Congress and we can address them again. I think that there is a need sometimes for government to come in and say to corporations that they cannot gouge folks in times of stress.”
Rosendale: Says he and his fellow Republicans are working to lower inflation with lower energy prices and lower government spending. “Republicans have introduced 8 bills [in the last 20 months] to increase oil and gas production and to make it easier to permit pipelines to start to bring down the cost of energy,” he said. He adds that the other focus of bringing down inflation is stopping what he calls out-of-control spending in Washington.
Where the candidates stand on election security/false claims of election fraud
Buchanan: “I think every way and every lawsuit that investigated the 2020 election has come up with nothing. The Secretary of State in Montana, said, and I believe her, that we had a safe and secure election. So all of bellyaching, particularly from winners, that one, I think is nonsense. And I think it's leading to attacks on election officials, and we're losing some very good election officials.”
Rankin: Says Biden won “fair and square … no question about that,” but says he doesn’t think “there's a way that a congressman is going to alleviate that fear” of election fraud. “How can people believe that after 50 states and all these different people filtered up through the county election bureaus up to the state, and certified the election? I don't know if a congressman can do much. You know, I don't know if there's a law you can pass because then you're in the weeds, then you're fighting a stupid scenario that isn't true.”
Ronning: Says she believes the election was secure and Pres. Joe Biden is legitimately in a position of power.
Rosendale: Says Joe Biden was elected president. “I attended his inauguration," he said. Rosendale says election integrity has to be addressed at the state level.
Where the candidates stand on gun laws
Buchanan: Is against confiscating guns, "period," but would support a compromise and red flag laws.
“I support the Second Amendment. I own sporting firearm arms… I still carry a license for hunting. But there are senators and our congressman, Senator Daines, and Congressman Rosendale should have at least supported a compromise gun bill. It wasn't to confiscate guns, and I'm not for confiscating guns at all…if we support a confiscation of weapons in Montana, we would have a civil war. It's not the way to go. But a strong Second Amendment supporter, which I am, would also look at background checks."
Rankin: Is a gun owner himself, wants more police training on de-escalating mental health crisis situations. He says he supports red flag laws and calls the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act a “big step” for regulating firearms.
“When you first mention the word guns, most people think of the NRA. And if most serious gun owners, I think, would be able to come up with some gun safety resolutions that would be comfortable for the country and, and if the NRA would stop really the rage machine whenever they hear anything talking about guns, that would help.”
Ronning: Believes in "responsible" gun ownership. “All amendments in the Constitution, whether it's the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the 13th Amendment, the 14th Amendment, the 19th Amendment, they all deserve the same respect and they deserve the same type of protection, but with amendments that have been adjusted or altered or they've had, through periods of time additional amendments added to them. I think that's how we have to look at the Second Amendment as well, is we have to look through a period of time and say, is this amendment protecting our country or is how we're interpreting this amendment harming our country? And we need to be able to study that as a country and honestly look at that.
“I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, just like I support the First Amendment. I do think that we as a country have the ability to protect the Second Amendment as well as protecting second graders. … In Montana, hunting is normal. So gun ownership is normal, especially in states like Montana. What should never be normal is gun violence.”
Rosendale: “The 2nd Amendment is extremely clear. Our founders used the most basic language that they could. I really believe it was an intentional act to make sure that people understood that the 2nd Amendment was not to be encumbered. And I think that my job is to make sure that we have adequate mental health treatment for people that are committing these tragic violent crimes. And that is where we need to go.”
Where the candidates stand on public lands access
Buchanan: Says he is "absolutely against the federal transfer of lands to the state. I think most landowners in the state are responsible hunters and anglers. And it's always a few and many of them are out of state that violate the ability for hunters and anglers and landowners to get along. So I have a strong belief in stream access, et cetera."
Rankin: “I think that the federal government should never give up any control over the land to state legislatures. State legislatures have a terrible record, and they do not, and cannot stand up to corporate interest. … I think the federal government's doing a great job and I don't think we need to turn over any land or decrease their classification uses.”
Ronning: “We've had generations upon generations, upon generations of folks that have taken care of our land," she said. "We have extraordinary public spaces, and we've done well at protecting those public spaces and managing those public spaces. So, I do believe that federal land should be federally managed.”
Rosendale: “We’ve had that discussion with many people across the state and they want to make sure federal lands remain in federal ownership,” he said. “I embrace that.” But, he says federal land is not being managed properly and that here needs to be litigation reform. He says currently there are 28 timber sales tied up in litigation. He says that is not healthy for the economy, or the forests.
Where the candidates stand on environmental issues
Buchanan: Says the U.S. needs energy independence, "particularly with the war in Ukraine," and believes in climate change. “I've been in business for 43 years, I have agricultural clients across the state. I used to hear from climate change deniers. I do not hear that. I think if you talk to the great majority of farmers and ranchers, they know something's up and it's called climate change. We’ve got a long ways to go in terms of climate change. And I think that denial days are over. And so supporting bills that would help climate change ... are the way to go. And I think Republicans and Democrats and independents understand that.”
Rankin: Says he wants to see climate change be considered in any bill. “That's gonna get all of us. Nobody's getting away from it in the whole world. Doesn't matter if you're Republican or Democrat, or anywhere in between. It's not my main issue, and I won't die on that shield, but it's gonna be an undertow of everything.”
Ronning: Believes in climate change. “We need to start aggressively working for the future in future generations to make sure that they have a healthy climate, that they have a healthy world to live in ... We’re seeing family farms and ranches really addressing soil issues. We're seeing them address biofuels. And I think in Montana, our ag industry is really taking the lead on climate change.”
Rosendale: ”It’s critically important to allow the people who are experts in the field in technology to continue to innovate and research and develop new technologies that are able to produce energy cleaner. And that is happening every day without the federal government doing anything.”
Where the candidates stand on oil, gas and coal
Buchanan: “I think we need to produce oil and gas for a while. Especially now as we enter the winter. So moving towards more of a renewable energy environment, we still have major responsibilities to responsibly drill oil and gas.”
Rankin: Says he would advocate for clean energy, and that the extractive caring industry’s “days are numbered.”
“I mean, [clean energy is] coming. Even the carbon industry, you know, carbon extractive industries realize it's here. You just have to drive around the state. You see the wind farms, you see acres and acres of solar panels, and it's coming. The only thing I'm saying is that there should be the government and I would be willing to support a limited time, issue to support the people at work in the infrastructure or the extractive industries now, but not the executives.”
Ronning: “We have a great opportunity in Montana to bring in renewable energy and take advantage of that, whether it's wind, whether it's solar, we have the opportunity to work alongside coal and oil and gas. I'm not one that believes that we shut down coal and oil and gas immediately. I do think that we are seeing both of those industries really work at improving their impact on the climate. The reality is that we don't have renewables in place, so we still need to be addressing coal and oil and gas as that's the type of energy that we're using.”
Rosendale: ”I believe there is enough innovation and technology that we can utilize coal and we can utilize natural gas. And these are things for producing energy that maintain that base load that we absolutely have to have . Because renewable energy sources that are available right now don’t provide the baseload.”
The candidates on issues they want to address in rural communities
Buchanan: “I've really been involved lately with learning what some of these local economic development organizations are doing. And getting new businesses started helping people with entrepreneurs. A lot of it's ag related. But I think that we're going through somewhat of the beginning of renaissance of, of, of people moving to smaller areas with skills that can be converted to business locally, or participate in businesses internationally.”
“I think facilitating in businesses that make things I'm seeing more furniture being made in smaller areas, that always has been the access that the Internet gives to markets, allows craftsmen to have their products sell nationally and internationally”
Rankin: “I think telemedicine is a big new area that we should, that I would be willing to fund. And so the medical community, with the telemedicine is probably, I don't think we're gonna be talking to hospitals or doctors in those areas, but make it a lot easier for access for the older people in those areas.
“The Native American community, you know, any of the block grants that come from the federal government, they hit the state Legislature and they typically try and dilute 'em to the … tribal sovereignty nations, which I don't agree with. And so I would be willing to somehow have oversight to make sure that the money that comes in a block grant to the state gets a fair allocation out to the Native tribes. And rural teachers, that's an area that's definitely hurting. And I'll tell you the answer to that is, and it's one simple answer, and that is they need more money.”
Ronning: Says the agriculture industry is synonymous with economy, and she wants to support small rural operations. “It's reducing the control of those four big meat packers, those four big corporations. It's reducing the control that they've got on the agriculture industry and giving our family farms and ranches a fair shot. It used to be the family farmer, they would get to designate the price of their product, but now it's the big meat packer will tell the family rancher what they're going to pay for the product. And it's taken the power of that business owner to determine the price of their product that they want to sell.”
Rosendale: Says inflation, interest rates and prices are high but investments and retirements are shrinking. He says when he talks to the farmers and ranchers they complain that fertilizer prices, parts for their tractors and combines are all getting harder to find and cost more when they actually do find it. “They just want someone who is going to be fighting for them."