Campaign Watch: Candidate Debates in Flux

A look at the week's most interesting and important developments in Montana's election campaigns

By Lisa Baumann, Associated Press

HELENA — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Amanda Curtis proposed ideas to help those with student loan debt as she, her Republican opponent Rep. Steve Daines, and U.S. House candidates Republican Ryan Zinke and Democrat John Lewis campaigned in all corners of the state. A look at the week’s most interesting and important developments in Montana’s election campaigns:

CURTIS ANNOUNCES IDEAS FOR STUDENT LOAN DEBT

Curtis, a high school teacher, appealed to college students and graduates this week with ideas to help reduce student loan debt. She proposed a plan that would include allowing those with student loan debt to refinance at a fixed rate of 4 percent and give low-income students receiving Pell Grants automatic cost-of-living adjustments. Her ideas also include forgiving student debt for Native American graduates who return to their reservation to work, expanding financial counseling for students, investing in career and technical schools, and expanding tuition benefits for veterans. Daines responded to the plan indirectly, saying he has voted for legislation to remove the threat of doubling interest rates on student loans and that he’s working on “common-sense policies” that grow the economy and help small businesses create jobs for recent graduates.

CANDIDATE DEBATES IN FLUX

With little more than two months to go before the general election, the only U.S. Senate candidate debate that had been scheduled in Bozeman by Friday was in question. Montana Television Network News Director John Stepanek said Daines can’t attend on Oct. 4 and more coordination is needed before details would be confirmed. Other debates are in the works in eastern Montana and towns including Missoula, Kalispell and Helena. Zinke has declined to participate in debates in Great Falls and Billings, and officials with the Billings debate said Lewis will receive an hour of televised airtime for a panel discussion on Sept. 29.

ZINKE CAMPAIGNS WITH NRCC CHAIRMAN, LEWIS HITS THE HI-LINE

Republican U.S. House candidate Ryan Zinke had campaign help this week from Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm. Zinke and Walden toured a Bozeman business and discussed developing technology in Montana. Zinke’s Democratic opponent, John Lewis, campaigned in Havre and Wolf Point before heading to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation for a powwow.

DAINES, CURTIS CROSS THE STATE TO CAMPAIGN

Daines continued his tour of the state this week, meeting with business owners from Shelby, Kalispell, Libby and Great Falls. Among other stops, he toured the proposed Montanore mine expansion project in Libby and held a discussion at the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce on how regulation and federal policies affect the economy, tourism and natural resource industries. Curtis visited the University of Montana in Missoula to present her education plan, visited Kalispell for a meet-and-greet stop and also met with members of the Blackfeet Tribal Council.

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