Bigfork Lawmaker Won’t Seek Re-election

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – Rep. Bill Jones, R-Bigfork, announced he will not seek re-election next year, saying his beliefs on issues such as health care and education conflict with the party’s.

“My party has pushed a lot of people like me out of the party,” Jones said Tuesday. “Since after (Gov.) Marc Racicot, they’ve made it uncomfortable for people like me.”

Jones, 68, said he wants to work as a volunteer lobbyist at the 2009 Legislature for groups that advocate for low-income residents, for education and for health care. He said he would like to run as an independent for what will be an open Senate seat in Flathead County in 2010.

Jones, a dentist, took some flak from some Republican lawmakers and Flathead County residents over his outspoken support for expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program and all-day kindergarten.

“I think I represent a lot of people that have a moral compass, that feel there are legitimate functions of government and oppose government waste.” Jones said. “With all of our jobs exported, we need a higher quality of education. Health care is maybe not an absolute right, (but) it’s not a privilege for the affluent only. There has to be an underlying safety net.”

Bigfork Republican Bob Keenan, a former state senator, expressed interest in running for Jones’ seat next year.

“He did a great job. He’s so quiet, so shy, with so much pent-up emotion. Everything he says comes right from the heart. He’s no politician. He’s a wonderful compassionate, caring person,” Keenan said.