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Candidates discuss issues, priorities

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POLSON — A candidate forum sponsored by the Polson Chamber of Commerce drew a crowd of about 80 people on Saturday night. 

The event was held at Polson High School, and Polson Chamber members submitted questions for the candidates.

Candidates attending were: Jay Doyle, R, and Dan Yonkin, D, candidates for Lake County Sheriff, Bill Gallagher and Ken Toole, candidates for Public Service commissioner, Janna Taylor, R, and Cheryl Wolfe, I, candidates for HD 11, John Fleming and Dan Salomon, HD 12, and Edd Blackler, D, and Verdell Jackson, R, running for SD 5.

First candidates had two minutes to talk about themselves and then received questions, such as why they were running for office, what were their major priorities and why they were the candidates to choose.

Doyle mentioned his 20 years of law enforcement experience. He also said he had formatted a one-, five- and 10-year plan for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and invited the audience to look at the plans in the lobby. 

Yonkin said he “loves this place (Lake County).” He would like to improve communication within the department. Yonkin said one of his strengths was pulling people together. 

Jackson was concerned about water rights and water quality and invasive species, such as the Zebra mussel and Quagga mussel.

Another concern is good paying jobs. He sees too many workers going to Montana and North Dakota for good-paying natural resources jobs.

Jackson said, “Montana’s future is in natural resources.”

Blackler, Jackson’s opponent, explained his issue with the big political influence of money. Blackler noted he won’t accept campaign contributions and won’t spend money. 

He thinks people should “elect statesmen instead of bought and paid for politicians.”

Fleming and Salomon both had concerns about property taxes and reappraisal and the way taxes are hitting people in their district.

Fleming said writing a bill to mitigate taxes will be difficult since the rest of the state wasn’t hit as hard as western Montana.  

Salomon would like to see agricultural land reappraised. Also he said it’s tough when a property that used to be valued at $300,000 now is worth over a million.

Taylor and Wolfe also voiced their concerns about property taxes and reappraisal. 

Taylor said the wording of the constitution needs to be changed to revamp the appraisal process so “vote for a constitutional convention.”

“The rest of the state is just as happy as can be,” Taylor said, agreeing with Fleming on property taxes.

Seniors and low-income people particularly need help with property tax situations, Wolfe said.  

She also said lowering the business equipment tax to zero would increase the burden on regular and business taxpayers. 

The Department of Revenue needs the tools to do their job, Wolfe added.

Bill Gallagher, running for Public Service Commission, reiterated his position, “Get your hands out of our pockets. It’s not your money.”

Gallagher said utility law is part of his practice so he is familiar with the regulations.  

Incumbent Ken Toole said he worked hard to oppose electric deregulation in the '90s. He also has a “clear record of working for small consumers.”

Rich Forbis from Anderson Broadcasting emceed the forum, and timer Brett Matson kept the candidates to their two-minute answer period.

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