Voting and Leadership Matters

By Beacon Staff

A conservative U.S. Supreme Court transformed Montana elections into spending sprees. Suddenly secret, corporate and unlimited dollars flooded Montana with negative political advertising.

Sharla Tester wrote, in an email about her husband Sen. Jon Tester: “But in this election, he’s not only running against an opponent – he’s fighting against outside special interest spenders who don’t know, or care, anything about Montanans. They’ve already spent $8 million attacking Jon.”

With such huge amounts of secret money spent on elections, someone has one big agenda for the next Congress.

Jon Tester is the only working farmer serving in the U.S. Senate. Both Jon and Sharla Tester still work the land and grow food.

Tester routinely seeks political compromise with balance. But people who eat real food will simply trust Tester, an organic farmer, on policies like the quality of beef served in public school cafeterias or whether genetically engineered products are labeled at grocery stores.

Tester helped Montana students gain better college loans with lower rates. He advocates for working family equalizers likes Pell Grants and Stafford Loans.

Pearl Jam, which includes Tester’s friend Jeff Ament, played at the University of Montana campus for Tester. Ament said, “Jon is the real deal.” The rock star’s message was clear: Tester wins if people turn out to vote.

Two years ago, only 53 percent of Flathead Valley voters chose to participate in statewide elections and select representatives for the 2011 Montana Legislature.

The ensuing Legislature was tagged “bat-crap crazy” by Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

The tea partiers of that Legislature had an agenda. They pushed ideological policies like seceding from the union, guns in public schools, spear hunting, nuclear power plants for the Flathead Valley, and an end to all federal funding of Meals on Wheels or health services for women.

Schweitzer used his veto pen on a historic amount of “kooky” legislation, rebuffing more bills than previous governors. Schweitzer’s vetoes totaled 130 for the 2011 session, including 78 outright vetoes, four line-item vetoes cutting spending and 48 amendatory vetoes changing bills.

Should this January’s session of the Legislature perform a 90-day repeat of their last Helena performance; let’s hope that the next governor has the fortitude to veto bad bills.

Ed Lieser is a lifelong forester working to represent Whitefish area people in the Legislature. Lieser is trusted among Whitefish locals who enjoy outdoor recreation like skiing, biking, hiking, and hunting or fishing.

Lieser is a longtime community member who has earned trust the old-fashioned way, by listening and using a no-nonsense approach to problem solving.

Public servants and politicians are clearly not the same. Leadership still matters. Just as leadership matters in the lives of our kids and family, leadership matters to Montana.

Termed-out from seeking re-election, Schweitzer proposed allocating some of Montana’s $450 million in budget surpluses to freeze student tuition.

Attorney General Steve Bullock said that if elected the next governor, he will follow through with the tuition freeze. Similarly, Bullock wants to return $100 million of budget surpluses to homeowners.

Bullock said, “When it comes to higher education, last year, when the Legislature didn’t adequately fund it and tuition was increased, that’s a tax on every working family.”

On issues like tuition, to recreating on public lands, to women’s health care, to libraries, or to jobs the resulting policies reflect the values of people who chose to vote.

People like Tester, Bullock, or Lieser can offer good leadership, but voters choose.

Voting still matters. The margins are often mere handfuls but the winners determine our laws. Citizens will either garner political compromise or retain gridlock.

People should vote in person or can mail ballots today. It takes 5 minutes and is great for democracy, our liberties and freedoms.