I believe in democracy, and I believe that every vote counts and every citizen matters. That’s why, in late June, I challenged Governor Schweitzer to 18 debates around Montana – to give the large majority of voters the chance to hear directly from myself and Governor Schweitzer about where each of us stands on the issues that matter. I believe this is one of the most important obligations we have as public servants: meet the people face to face, address their concerns and let them decide for themselves who they want to support.
The reason I suggested so many debates is fairly simple: I believe every Montanan should have a debate in their part of the state that they could reasonably drive to without losing an entire day of driving each way. Unfortunately, so far the Governor has only agreed to debates in five urban communities, where he received a large part of his support: Missoula, Butte, Helena, Great Falls, and Billings.
While these cities are important, so are places like Kalispell, Sidney, Dillon, and Miles City, and from day one of my campaign, I’ve made it a priority to visit as many communities in Montana as possible. I know the issues in the Bitterroot Valley aren’t necessarily the same as the issues in Butte; I know Missoula and Sidney have their own unique character and they’re impacted by different challenges. Apparently Governor Schweitzer doesn’t agree, but I believe you don’t need to have a Class AA school to matter. I believe you can have a real discussion on issues Montanans care about without a television camera being the most important thing in the room.
Unfortunately, some elected officials have an attitude that the smaller parts of our state don’t matter. Sure, they want to mine, drill and harvest while talking to everyone else in the country about the great resources towns in rural Montana can offer, whether its agriculture or energy, but when they refuse to return and answer questions about their decisions in office, the voters are losing out and that’s not democracy. Politicians need to remember that they are employed by the people and that the people can relieve them of their duties at any time.
I’m sure a lot of communities would like to ask the Governor why he touts their oil production, but opposed investing in infrastructure that has been impacted by new oil development. Or they might ask why he’s supported a federal power grab over water that threatens the private property rights of every single landowner in the state. Maybe they’ll ask him what he’s going to do to protect ranchers from the threat of brucellosis and how he plans to regain our brucellosis-free status. Or maybe they just want to ask about schools, healthcare, taxes, and spending.
Whatever the questions, it’s our job as candidates and elected leaders to show up and answer them, and the governor’s desire to avoid these questions and refusal to debate in these communities is disappointing and is a disservice to a lot of Montana communities.
Ultimately, as a candidate it’s your responsibility to make time for exactly this kind of activity. I’ve pledged to do that, and I’ll visit each one of the towns where I’ve proposed a debate to answer questions and address key area issues even if Governor Schweitzer won’t be joining me. It’s a matter of priorities, but for a governor who has garnered a lot of attention for trips to San Francisco or Louisiana, it only makes sense that he could find time to visit Sidney and Kalispell.
This isn’t about making a special trip or doing anything as a courtesy – this is about meeting the basic obligation that we have as candidates: value all voters equally, and give everyone the chance to hear our ideas and make an informed decision. I’ll be there to talk about the issues that matter in your area, and I hope you’ll join me in calling on Governor Schweitzer to do the same.
Roy Brown is the Republican candidate for governor
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