HELENA — Four Montana Republicans seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Steve Daines sparred over abortion but agreed on most other issues in their first debate ahead of a June 3 primary.
Monday’s forum in Bozeman featured state Sens. Elsie Arntzen of Billings and Matt Rosendale of Glendive, and former state Sens. Ryan Zinke of Whitefish and Corey Stapleton of Billings.
Lee Newspapers reported Tuesday that a fifth Republican seeking Daines’ seat, real estate investor Drew Turiano of Helena, was not invited.
The forum was sponsored by the MSU College Republicans at Montana State University.
Daines, a Republican, is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Democrat John Walsh. Walsh was appointed to the seat after Max Baucus’ confirmation as U.S. ambassador to China.
Zinke insisted Monday he is anti-abortion but that he does not believe legalized abortion will be overturned. He advocated steps to reduce abortions including education and parental notifications.
Arntzen asked Zinke why an abortion-rights group supported him when he was a state senator. Zinke replied he’s currently endorsed by an official of Montana Right to Life.
Rosendale said he was the only candidate who opposes both abortion and the death penalty. Stapleton said opposing the death penalty “is not a Montana value” but rather “an East Coast value that (Rosendale) brought with (him) from Maryland.” Rosendale grew up in Maryland.
The four candidates agreed on most issues, including more resource development.
On the Democratic side, former Baucus aide John Lewis and former state Rep. John Driscoll of Helena also seeking Montana’s U.S. House seat.
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