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Senate District 47 candidates share priorities

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The Valley Journal continues its election coverage with Q&As of candidates for Senate District 47, where incumbent Dan Salomon faces challenges from Democrat Chase Porter Gay (who did not respond to several requests for input) and Libertarian Devin Braaten. The district runs east and south of Polson to the northern edge of Missoula.

Dan Salomon, Republican, website: dansalomon.com

Dan Salomon, who was born and raised in the Mission Valley, is running for re-election to Senate District 47. A graduate of Ronan High School and Montana State University, he has worked as a farmer and dairyman his entire life. He and his wife of 40 years, Janey, have three daughters and seven grandchildren.  

Salomon served on the Ronan School Board for 13 years and the Montana House of Representatives for three terms (six years) before running for the state Senate, where he’s completing a four-year term. 

“I want to represent the residents of the Mission Valley and now also the Missoula Valley as an advocate for agriculture, business development, education and now state budgeting,” he writes. 

Salomon cites experience as his best qualification for the job. “I have an understanding of how the process of the Legislature works so I can be effective,” he writes. 

He was able to pass 13 bills last session, and over the years has developed relationships with legislative staff, state agency and department staff and other knowledgeable sources. That know-how “is invaluable when it comes to the research needed to deal with all the bills that are presented during the session.” 

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

My first priority is a balanced budget. I serve on the Senate Finance Committee and state revenues are expected to be down during the next budget cycle. This will lead to some tough choices. Montana has very good budget reserves right now thanks to some good legislative priorities last session. The biggest question mark is can we maintain the budget or how deep and where will cuts have to be made.

Education is a major priority. I have chaired the Senate Education Committee the last two sessions. Funding of education will be key. I am looking at some changes in special education funding and at the funding formula for community colleges.   

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? 

Many small businesses have struggled and some are not going to make it. The outcome of many of the government programs that were set up to help, i.e. grants, loan forgiveness and deferrals, is still up in the air. 

The governor has struggled to get relief out to citizens, local governments and businesses with his $1.25 billion dollar slush fund. Congress is looking at another relief bill. Until the results of these moves are known, it is tough to make a definitive plan for legislative help. 

Agriculture wants markets for their products to return. Best thing for business is if the government to just get out of the way.  

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

Half of the school year will be done before the legislative session begins so any legislation will be for next school year. Preschool will be front and center next session. The cost issue is the big hurdle. 

Working with the education community and supporting school districts as they navigate online vs. classroom learning is important. The biggest concern is how to enhance student achievement, which has suffered due to school closure last spring and the switch to online classes. 

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

Working not only across the aisle but with staff, the governor’s office, state agencies and departments, industry representatives and concerned citizens is not the easiest way, but it is the best way to get things done. This is something I’m known for. 

Having the ability to have these conversations doesn’t mean we always agree, but having the facts and any other factors involved in an issue front and center helps take any conflict out of the equation.    

 

Devin Braaten, Libertarian, website: DevinForMT47.com

Devin Braaten, who is originally from Haines, AK, works as a CNA at St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson. He loves beekeeping, gardening and hunting. 

Braaten acknowledges that many voters may not be familiar with the Libertarian Party and encourages them to learn more by reaching out to him directly via his website or at lp.org. “You might find that you like us better than your current political party,” he writes. “Whomever you vote for, please just vote.”

He describes his philosophy as “servant leadership” and contends that today’s leaders “have lost that vision.” He says he’s running for office “to grow a valid third-party option to help heal the two-party divide that is plaguing our country.”

As a healthcare worker, “I care for people every day and I will use that same attitude to represent the people of the Mission Valley and North Missoula in the state Legislature.”

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

My priorities are to protect everyone’s freedoms that are being violated by both main political parties and to foster civility and healing in a divided and hurt country. I also want to dismantle farm-to-market barriers, look at criminal reform and protect everyone’s inalienable rights.

     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?

Montana’s Legislature can help Main Street and rural Montana thrive by getting out of the way of the free market. Regulations and legislation further burden Montana businesses when they are already struggling. I want to end business regulations that prevent real positive growth in the free market and Montana’s economy.

     3. How can the Legislature support educators and other front-line workers?

As a healthcare worker having to work through this pandemic, I understand the strain that it has had. I feel that each school/entity is more adept at making their own decisions independent of the government. I would advise the educators and other front-line workers to adhere to public health recommendations to protect yourselves and others. It will be a day-by-day process but we have been and are working through this terrible disaster.

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

As an Independent and a Libertarian, I will make reaching across both sides of the aisle a priority. I am for bipartisan legislation and helping to heal the awful divide that is ruining this country. Let’s bring civility back to our conversations and listen to hear instead of listening to respond.

 

Chase Porter Gay, Democrat, website: www.facebook.com/Chase4Montana/

According to information available online, Gay is a resident of Missoula County and a law student at the University of Montana. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Oklahoma City University and served as an executive officer with the Montana Democratic Party. The candidate did not respond to the Valley Journal’s request for information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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