Incumbent, Veteran Lawmaker and Newcomer Battle in Senate

By Beacon Staff

In the Senate District 6 Republican primary, two candidates are touting their accomplishments in the Legislature while a third candidate says he’s running largely because of the failures of the Legislature.

Carmine Mowbray, the incumbent from Senate District 6, says she would like to continue the progress made in the 2011 legislative session on creating jobs and improving the state’s business climate. Specifically, Mowbray pointed to the Legislature’s work on reducing the business equipment tax and reforming the workers’ compensation system.

“I’m proud of the progress we made in the last session,” Mowbray, 59, said.

Janna Taylor, who is term-limited in the House after four sessions and is aiming for her first Senate seat, is similarly proud of the Republican-controlled Legislature’s track record on the economy. Taylor served as the House’s speaker pro tempore during the last session.

“In this next session, it’s going to be all about the economy and jobs again – well-paying jobs,” Taylor, 63, said.

But Michael Larson, who chaired the Lake County Republican Central Committee in the late 1980s, said he was dismayed by the session’s hyper-partisanship. He was also discouraged by a number of Republican bills he felt were frivolous and pushed through on ideological grounds despite being destined for the veto pen.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to make some kind of compromise to collaborate to get the people’s work done,” Larson, 60, said. “We can’t go to Helena to play political games.”

The winner of the Republican primary will be the default winner of the general election, as there are no candidates from other parties on the ballot.

Mowbray, who lives in Polson, has spent 38 years in business, including 17 years owning and operating the Lake County Leader. She was appointed to the Senate District 6 seat in January 2011 after fellow Republican John Brueggeman stepped down.

Senate District 6 encompasses an area running from St. Ignatius through Polson all the way up to Kila and Marion.

Mowbray’s committee responsibilities have included serving as chair of the State-Tribal Relations Interim Committee. With the Flathead Indian Reservation located within her district, she said “positive relations with the tribes while protecting non-tribal rights” is paramount.

As a longtime businesswoman and former owner of a community newspaper, Mowbray said she has worked with all facets of society, from business owners to various government entities. The Montana Chamber of Commerce honored her voting record.

“I was very glad I had that business background,” she said. “It earned me the respect of my Senate colleagues. They recognized that I have a deep and broad experience to draw from to make judgments and speak out on what I believe in.”

Taylor, who is from Dayton, runs a farm and ranch operation with her husband. In her four terms in House District 11, Taylor has received top ratings from both the Montana Family Foundation and Montana Chamber of Commerce. She also received the Paul Williams Stewardship Award from the Flathead Basin Commission for her work protecting Flathead Lake. Mowbray is a member of the Flathead Lakers.

Taylor has served two sessions on the House appropriations committee.

“I understand how we budget and how we can budget more efficiently,” she said.

Like both of her opponents, Taylor says Montana needs a less restrictive regulatory climate in order to spur the economy. In addition to pressing economic issues, Taylor believes the Legislature should address family-value concerns. Last session she voted for a bill that aimed to keep “radical sex education” out of schools.

“Family values are very important to me,” Taylor said.

Taylor points out that Mowbray was one of two Republicans to vote against the sex education bill. But Mowbray said Taylor “misunderstood the bill” and in fact the legislation would have passed control from the parents to the state, while adding that it’s untrue “there is graphic sex education” being taught in schools.

“I voted to preserve parents’ right to opt out of sex education,” Mowbray said.

Mowbray and Taylor also differ on the death penalty. Taylor is for the death penalty while Mowbray favors life without parole because she said the death sentence takes too long and is ultimately more costly for taxpayers.

Larson, who owns the commercial furniture company Business One, describes himself as a fiscal conservative who is generally more liberal on social issues. Like Mowbray and Taylor, he says the economy is at the top of everyone’s priority list right now and he believes trade schools and community colleges should be utilized to their full potential to create jobs.

“They don’t export a lot of those students,” Larson said of community colleges. “They’re generally preparing those students for the local market.”

Larson, who lost a Lake County Commission race in 2008, said he represents a break from the status quo, which he believes is refreshing in these times of deadlocked two-party politics.

“I call myself a sensible conservative,” he said. “For true leadership, you have to be a good listener and a persuasive communicator.”

Senate District 6 candidates were asked the following three questions:

1. What can the Legislature do to encourage economic recovery and job growth?
2. Besides the economy, what do you think is the most pressing issue facing the Legislature?
3. Given that the Legislature appears to be starting with a surplus, what would be your budgetary approach heading into the session?


Name: Janna Taylor
Age: 63
Occupation: Farm/ranch/orchard business
Years in the valley: Bought a ranch in the Proctor Valley in 1981

1. Look at our neighbors. Personal income is up 78 percent in North Dakota. Wyoming teachers are among the highest paid in the nation. In those states a permit means hire workers; in Montana it means hire lawyers. We need to streamline the permitting process, limit frivolous lawsuits, eliminate the business equipment tax and lower workers’ comp.

2. We need to fix the unfunded liability in the public employees’ retirement systems. The plan administrators would like me to reintroduce is my bill from last session that had a partial dollar solution. Also, Montana needs to opt out of federal mandates, especially Obamacare. My malpractice reform bill from last session would have helped reduce medical costs, but it got the governor veto.

3. When Montanans paid their taxes they did not say keep the change. I’d like to see part of the money used to remove the 95 mills that goes to the state on everyone’s property tax bill. Around $7 million needs to go to education for the required inflation adjustment that was lost when the governor vetoed HB316. If there is anymore left over, give it back.

Name: Carmine Mowbray
Age: 59
Occupation: Retired publisher; now communications consultant and commercial property manager in Lake and Flathead counties
Years in the valley: 29 years

1. As a successful small business owner, I understand the hard work and sacrifice that goes into growing a business. Government should facilitate enterprising Montanans. Our natural resources are a valuable export; permitting and regulations need to be less punitive and more competitive with neighboring states. State agencies need to facilitate value-added industry. We made progress last session by reducing workers’ compensation rates while still taking care of our workers. Unemployment insurance needs to be addressed to reduce fraud that burdens business.

2. Our budgeting process encourages ever-increasing spending. I want to see performance-based budgeting. Public employees’ and teachers’ retirement funds face a $3 billion deficit. We need to make the funds sound. Regarding my district, I have worked for positive relations with the tribes while protecting non-tribal rights. My district has seen a spike in property taxes. I will work on ways to retain our desirable agricultural/residential land balance at fair tax rates.

3. Continued conservative fiscal responsibility. We’ve proven that government can get by with less. Let Montana taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money to spend on their homes and families. I am proud of the progress we made last session toward improving Montana’s business climate. The Montana Chamber of Commerce honored my Senate voting record. Our Republican caucus has identified more ways to boost Montana jobs and I am looking forward to continuing my work to make Montana a better place to live, work, raise a family and prosper.

Name: Michael “Mike” Larson
Age: 60
Occupation: Owner of Business One, a commercial furniture company
Years in the valley: Since 1985

1. (1) Take a very close and careful look at any and all restructuring of the tax system. What can be changed to effectively attract the types of businesses that provide well-paying jobs and will result in increased revenue to the government? All incentive tax programs should be seen as how they can have a positive effect on reducing property taxes and help pay for education. (2) The obvious reduction of regulations and the time necessary to meet requirements to harvest and extract our natural resources. (3) Promote the trade/tech/community schools, so that the needed trained individuals match the programs providing the training. This will greatly increase good-paying jobs and keep most of the trained people in Montana doing Montana jobs.

2. One extremely important issue is the complexity of water rights. No room for error. The decision in the next session will have a longtime, if not forever, impact on our water usage and ownership. Really big deal.

3. Separate the surplus money from the budget. Remember whose money it is – the taxpayers’. Clean up fiscal issues left incomplete that both sides see as necessary and look seriously at the employees’ retirement fund and then return the balance to the taxpayers. Begin the new budget session with the former surplus out of the picture. Tighten the fiscal belt and move ahead, “Doing the People’s Business.”

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