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House District 12 candidates share views

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With Election Day on the horizon, the Valley Journal begins its coverage with Q&As of candidates for House District 12, an area that encompasses much of Polson and about two-thirds of Flathead Lake. Republican Greg Hertz, who currently represents the district, is running for state senate this year due to term limits. 

Gerry Browning, Democrat, website:

Gerry Browning spent 22 years working as a registered nurse in a variety of settings, including a stint in the Peace Corps, where she met her future husband, Joe. The couple moved to Polson more than three decades ago to be closer to her husband’s family and raise their three children. 

Browning left her nursing career in 1994 to open Terrace Flowers and Gifts on Main Street, and with her husband, transformed the Wolf Den bar into the Vine and Tap in 2015. Over the years she’s volunteered with many business and philanthropic organizations, including the Polson School Board, St. Joseph Hospital Board of Directors, Chamber of Commerce and Polson Business Community.

Browning says her work as a nurse, small business owner and community volunteer taught her to be a good listener and problem solver.

“We must be willing to look outside the box for new and innovative ways to fund education, health care and clean energy without overburdening our citizens,” she writes. “I know I have the passion, energy and skills to help solve the problems facing Montanans.”

1. If elected, what are your priorities for the next political session?

My priorities are no different from my Lake County neighbors’: we want affordable and assessable healthcare and to keep our local hospitals open, well-staffed and well equipped.   

Our environment is so very important to our economy and to our physical and mental health. Our clear blue skies, clean lake water and majestic mountains must be protected.

Finally, we all work hard for every dollar earned. We need to adequately fund the services our government agencies provide such as fire, police, streets, education and public health care. But funding must be done responsibly by using fact-based information not political sound bites. 

2. The COVID pandemic has clearly affected small businesses across Montana including farmers and ranchers. How can Montana’s Legislature help Main Street and rural Montana recover and thrive?

Lake County received $6,676,333 in Montana Coronavirus Relief Grant Awards. These include loan deferment, working capital and small business development program awards. I’m told the application process can be tedious but if done completely and accurately the funds are accessible and are reaching affected businesses.  

I owned a flower shop during the 2008 recession. Money was tight but I still had to pay the mortgage, insurance, taxes and utilities. I tightened my belt. The Coronavirus has hit us even harder. But even with government help, Montana farms and businesses will again have to tighten those belts to weather the storm.  

3. Likewise, public education and child-care resources have been strained by the pandemic. How can the Legislature support educators and other front-line workers?

Through the CARES funding, Governor Bullock has allocated $75 million to schools for COVID-19 related expenses. These funds can be used to pay for a number of items from sanitizing products to technological services. Additional funding has been allocated to accredited private schools. There is also an additional $30 million available through the Montana Public Health and Human Services to support eligible programs providing childcare for children 5-18 years old. These funds are badly needed and will greatly help to get our schools opened safely and our economy thriving again.

4. Do you consider working across the aisle a priority? And if so, how do you plan to accomplish that?

Most people I speak to consider themselves moderate Republicans or Democrats and are tired of the current situation. To find a solution to a problem you must first identify and agree on the underlying problem, then brainstorm solutions and do some research (read the literature, speak to those directly affected, etc.). Instead of demonizing the other party, work with them, keep an open mind, respect everyone’s opinion and most important truly listen. 

As a nurse, I was taught to work with the patient AND the family to obtain the best outcome. I will carry these teachings with me to Helena. 

Linda Reksten, Republican, website:

Republican candidate Linda Reksten was born and raised in Polson, as were her mother and father. Her great grandfather, Joseph Cline, arrived in 1909 and built Polson’s first flourmill and her grandfather, John Cline, owned Ford Motors in Polson. Her father’s parents, Gjert and Hilda Reksten, homesteaded in Irvine Flats. 

Reksten earned a bachelor of science degree from Eastern Montana College in Billings, a master’s in school administration from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, and a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles. 

During her 34-year career in public education, she has been a science teacher, elementary school principal, district administrator and served as Polson’s superintendent of schools. Over the years, she’s worked with hundreds of students and school employees, managed multi-million dollar budgets, helped teachers be successful, and worked cooperatively with parents of many ethnicities. 

“As a citizen born and raised in Polson, I care deeply about our community,” she writes. “I bring the skills gained over 34 years in public education as a problem-solver to address challenges Polson and Montana face.”

1. If elected, what are your priorities for the next political session?

• Reduce the tax burden on Montana citizens – Property taxes are high in Lake County in comparison to income. The Montana tax system should be reformed and taxes reduced;

• Make Montana a business-friendly state by encouraging business development that will increase wages of working people and increase state revenue;

• Provide solutions for the COVID health crisis and facilities infrastructure for cities, towns and schools;

• Strengthen community and family values, especially the right to life and defending police rather than defunding police, and protect our 2nd Amendment gun rights for hunting and self-defense.

2. The COVID pandemic has clearly affected small businesses across Montana including farmers and ranchers. How can Montana’s Legislature help Main Street and rural Montana recover and thrive?

We need to expedite the funding the federal government has given to small businesses in the state. Very little of the $1.2 billion has been distributed to small businesses … The withholding of emergency funding for political gain is a travesty. 

Additionally, our governor and legislature must eliminate obstacles to the recovery of these businesses by working with banks and credit unions. If regulations need to be cut, this must be done to expedite the help needed. The process must be transparent and collaborative.

3. Likewise, how can the Legislature support educators and other frontline workers?

State leadership must coordinate with education leadership at the local level to meet the needs of schools as well as frontline workers in hospitals and health departments. One size does not fit all school districts or hospitals. Rural schools and hospitals have different needs than larger communities. 

Then the legislature can act to support the coordinated plans with federal money. Testing must be readily available and results reported immediately to keep frontline workers, school personnel, students and parents safe. Procedures must be mobilized when COVID cases spike in communities. When the vaccine becomes available, vaccine planning must be done.

4. Do you consider working across the aisle a priority? And if so, how do you plan to accomplish that?

I support good ideas for Montana citizens no matter what their origin. One idea is to make Montana Beef a brand just as Idaho potatoes are a brand. Ranchers are losing money raising cattle that they send out of Montana for meat processing. We need our own meat processing in Montana to reduce the middlemen that are robbing our ranchers. Montana farmers can also benefit by supplying the feed. 

The Legislature can support developing the infrastructure to make this happen. My goal is to work with fellow legislators, regardless of political party, to develop policies that serve all Montana citizens. 

Voting begins Oct. 2

Lake County has opted to vote by mail this year, due to risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ballots are available at the Lake County Election Office as early as Oct. 2, and will be mailed directly to active registered voters and provisional voters Oct. 9. 

Regular voter registration closes Oct. 26, with late registration beginning Oct. 27. Voters must register in person at the election office, located in the Lake County Courthouse.

Voters may vote in person at the election office beginning Oct. 2, hand deliver their ballots to the office by 8 p.m. Nov. 3, or return ballots by mail with the enclosed prepaid envelope (ballots received after 8 p.m. Nov. 3, regardless of postmark date, will not be accepted).

To track ballots or check on their voter status, Lake County residents may log on to or call 406-883-7268. 



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