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Candidates face off for seat in House District 15

As the June 8 primary election quickly approaches for House District 15, two Democrats, incumbent Forrestina “Frosty” Calf Boss Ribs and newcomer James Steele Jr., make the final push for the chance to run against lone Republican candidate Joe Read. 

Joe Read, 55, is the lone Republican running for the House District 15 seat. An emergency firefighter and farmer, Read was born and raised in Ronan. He and wife Jill have five grown children — three sons and two daughters. 

Read has worked at Flathead Lumber Company in Polson; owned and operated an auto repair shop in Ronan for 20 years; taught welding and mechanics at Kicking Horse Job Corps; farmed and ranched for parents Doc and Angie Read and himself for 28 years; owns and operates a small band saw mill; and has been dispatched on large fires and disasters by the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire for 20 years.

Read has been local disaster chair of the Red Cross, was a Scout Master in Ronan, president of the Montana P.O.A. (Pony of America), and regional (four states) president of the Northwest P.O.A.  Currently, Read is an alternate on a Type I Incident Management Team (Washington/Oregon) in the planning section.

If elected, the house seat would be Read’s first political experience at the state level, but “most every fire is a political experience because of local, state and federal laws, jurisdictions, and all the different agencies involved,” he said. “Every hurricane is an intense political endeavor.”

Read believes the top three issues the new legislature should address are the budget, the judicial system and state sovereignty. 

“Montana’s deficit is a result of the attitude, ‘I have, therefore I spend,’” Read said. “Reevaluating and closing unfilled state positions is a start toward a balanced budget.”

Read said while he’s been a “slave to the lender” in his personal life previously, he now knows the freedom of no debt. But Montana’s budget deficit, to some degree, has put him “back in bondage,” and he and other Montanans had no say-so in the matter. The situation is unacceptable, Read said, and he “stands for the working person’s freedom and will make the hard choices.”

As far as judicial reform goes, Read said he believes that Montana Supreme Court judges are not doing the state of Montana justice.  

“Thurgood Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States, said, ‘I make the decision; I wait for the law to catch up,’” Read explained. “This mindset does not work for the citizens on a federal or state level. The legislature makes the laws and the courts are supposed to carry them out; jury members have the right to question the law and what goes on in court.” 

Montana needs to reaffirm its state’s rights as outlined in the U.S. Constitution, Read said. 

“Just say ‘No!’ to more wildernesses, start the process of moving federal lands in Montana into state ownership — state management of land is far better than federal — and effectively maximize the use of our natural resources and regain control of our electrical power production, putting Montana citizens back to work in the process,” he said.

Forrestina “Frosty” Calf Boss Ribs, of Heart Butte, is the incumbent Democratic candidate for House District 15. She and husband Pat have been married for 36 years, and have four children.

Boss Ribs grew up in East Glacier and Browning, and has been a schoolteacher in Heart Butte for 26 years. 

Boss Ribs is a leader of the Rural Systemic Initiative in Heart Butte and serves on the Blackfeet Community College Board. She’s also a minority committee member of MEA/MFT.

Boss Ribs said education is her top priority for the next legislative session. Providing quality education is important even in tough budget years, she said, and “without strong schools, Montana’s economic recovery is at risk.” 

“Beyond the economy, every Montana child is guaranteed a quality education in our constitution,” she added. “I know first-hand how important our schools are, and I will fight hard to make sure that schools and teachers have the resources we need so that every child has a chance to succeed.”

As the state will most likely face a budget deficit next year, Boss Ribs said it’s important to ensure that out-of-state corporations and big businesses pay their fair share of taxes.

“I support going after tax cheats who aren’t paying what they owe, leaving average citizens to pick up the tab,” she said. “I support the governor’s program to ask public employees how they can save money and do their jobs in a more cost-effective way. There have been major cost-savings as a result.”

Boss Ribs also said she believes there will be more oil development in Montana after the recent off-shore oil spill. 

“Oil development is good for our communities and our schools. I also support wind powered fuel generation,” she explained. “Conservation creates jobs and saves energy and money, especially in our schools and public buildings. I’d like to see that emphasized and funded.”

James Steele, Jr., 42, is a Democrat running for House District 15. Steele is a Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council member and consultant for the tribes.

Steele’s work experience includes positions as a Tribal Health Alternate Resource Specialist, Tribal Law and Order Detention Officer and census worker for 1990 and 2000. He’s been a Tribal Council member since 2004, and served as chairman from 2006-2010.

Steele has also been a member of the Flathead Basin Commission, Upper Clark Fork Advisory Council, Community Service Council, and Chairman of the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council.

Steele said the state budget, job creation/care for natural resources and education are three major issues facing the new legislature.

“The state budget will be one of the top priorities in the next session, and it will be my intent to make sure that the taxes are fair and used properly,” Steele said. “We need to insure that the education, jobs and health of our citizens is not jeopardized in the next session, but we also have to make the tough budgetary decisions that will be facing the next legislative session.”

With the economic downturn facing the state, Steele said there will be more demands placed on Montana’s natural resources, but he will work to “make sure that those efforts are balanced with the important environmental needs of our state.” 

“As a member of the Upper Clark Fork Advisory Council and the Flathead Basin Commission, I understand the impact of mining in our state and the damages it causes, and yet the need for increased income and the need for our families to have jobs in this tough economic time,” Steele added.

On education, Steele said, “I believe we need to protect the funding for our educational institutions and insure that each Montanan has the opportunity to receive a good education with well-supported teachers and staff (and) with good school buildings to learn in.”

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