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Four Democratic candidates for Montana's eastern Congressional seat square off in ag debate

Yellowstone Public Radio
From left to right, Ming Cabrera, John Driscoll, Kevin Hamm and Steve Held

Montana's June primary election is now one month away and four Democrats are squaring off to represent central and eastern Montana for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Montana Farmers Union hosted a debate Friday night in Great Falls featuring just the Democrats, following a debate in Havre earlier in the week focused on Republican candidates.

In the Friday debate, debate moderator Mike Dennison quizzed the House candidates on subjects including monopolies within the food and agriculture industry.

The four candidates are former healthcare sales representative Ming Cabrera of Billings, retired businessman and former energy regulator John Driscoll of Helena, IT business owner and Montana Pride organizer Kevin Hamm of Helena and business owner and rancher Steve Held of Broadus.

Among the subjects candidates addressed was meatpacking, agriculture and the pressure of monopolies on small operations in Montana.

Ming Cabrera spoke first and said consolidation is hurting those smaller businesses in the state.

“They are not transparent on their costs out there. We need to make sure that those acts that have gone before Congress are enforced,” Cabrera said.

Next, John Driscoll talked about his 12 years of regulating electricity monopolies on the Montana Public Service Commission to contextualize how he would push back against companies that dominate the food and agriculture industry.

“So there’s a combination of things, but basically it means bring qualified staff to the existing antitrust statutes,” Driscoll said.

Kevin Hamm recommended the state direct more funding toward its small businesses.

“It’s not like we go in and say hey, we’re gonna break up the meat production companies, but we can invest in small producers, we can invest in farms and ranches in Montana,” Hamm said.

Finally, Steve Held said antitrust laws are already in place.

“So, the first thing we need to do is muck the halls of congress. We gotta stomp down on insider training and these insider deals that don’t follow the law,” Held said.

The primary election is June 4. The winner will face the Republican nominee for the seat currently held by Republican U.S. Representative Matt Rosendale, who opted not to run for reelection.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.