HELENA – Veteran state legislator Kim Gillan of Billings announced Tuesday she will be running for Montana’s open U.S. House seat in 2012, joining two other Democrats and a clear GOP favorite on the Republican side.
The state’s lone congressional seat is up for grabs now that incumbent Republican Denny Rehberg has decided to challenge U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, the Montana matchup likely to draw the most attention through Election Day.
Gillan, known for her tenacity in state legislative debates, said she wants to be a “loud, clear” and independent advocate for issues important to Montana families.
“I am not a rubber stamp for anyone, and I am a rugged individualist,” said Gillan, 59.
Businessman Steve Daines of Bozeman has been the clear choice so far for among leading Republicans and has been raising money very effectively since late last year. Daines has made fiscal conservatism a priority in his campaign, although he also is a conservative on social issues.
Former Ku Klux Klan organizer John Abarr of Great Falls says he also will be running on the GOP side. But he has not been able to raise money or garner support from the Republican establishment.
The other Democrats seeking the office are state Rep. Franke Wilmer of Bozeman, who has touted fixing the federal health care overhaul so it can stay in place, and Missoula City Council member Dave Strohmaier, who has highlighted environmental issues at the start of his campaign.
Gillan, who works at Montana State University-Billings, has served in the state Legislature since 1997. She said she wants to take some of the lessons she learned there — such as having a balanced budget — to the federal level. She sad a bipartisan compromise on a balanced budget will ultimately be needed to cut through the politicking over the complex issue.
“There is no single silver bullet. We have to look at all the options, and growing the economy has to be a big part of it,” Gillan said.
Daines has made it clear, like Rehberg before him, that a balanced budget must rely on cuts alone and no tax increases.
Gillan, pointing to an issue that represents her politics well, said she would strongly oppose any effort to start cutting back on Pell Grants. Rehberg has said such reductions could be needed to due to large growth in the program. Gillan countered that the Pell Grants are crucial financial aid ensuring Montana families can send their children to college, and argued they should be taken off the chopping block.
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