General Election 2020: House District 3

Democrat Debo Powers fields challenge from Republican Braxton Mitchell

By Micah Drew
House District 3: Debo Powers (D) and Braxton Mitchell (R)

Rep. Debo Powers is running for reelection to the state House seat she was appointed to in 2019, representing the “spectacular gateway communities into Glacier.”

Powers knows the economy of her district is heavily fueled by the environment, landscape and proximity to the park.

“One thing we need to do is preserve our beautiful public lands here and preserve our clean air and clean water,” Powers said. “So many businesses in HD3 are based on our outdoor recreation and tourism, and we need to manage the influx of people and keep the economy healthy.”

With a background in education, Powers is an advocate of quality public education and considers it the “basis of our economy and our future.” She plans to fight for the district to receive its fair share of public school funding from the state.

Faced with a low-revenue budget due to the COVID pandemic, Powers will be drawing on experience.

“As a principal of a school during the Great Recession when budgets were cut, we figured out how to make do with less money,” Powers said.

There should be a “shared sacrifice” to ensure no group carries the entire burden, according to Powers, who plans to look at retiring tax breaks given to corporations that don’t need them, since “tax breaks are revenue not coming in.” She also plans to look at the tax structure to make sure there is an equitable distribution, noting that she believes people who are financially well off should pay a higher tax rate.

Powers intends to ensure any budget changes will not cut vital services to working Montanans who have been hit hard by the pandemic, and has been studying the revenue reports for the state to prepare for the next session.

“Having a rainy day fund and all the good financial management we’ve done puts us in a good position compared to most states in the U.S.,” Powers said.

Columbia Falls native Braxton Mitchell believes the Legislature should be representative of all ages and backgrounds. At 20 years old, if elected, he will be the youngest-serving member in a state legislature in the U.S.

Mitchell’s priorities as a legislator will focus on the lack of high-paying jobs in his district and the limiting the scope of government at the state level.

“Montanans do not need the heavy hand of government to tell them how to conduct themselves or run a small business,” Mitchell said in an email.

He has noted that the local economy is highly dependent on tourism and public lands and wants to ensure Montana lands are managed by Montanans.

Restricting the emergency powers of the governor and adding additional checks and balances by the Legislature are essential, according to Mitchell.

When is comes to balancing the budget in the upcoming legislative session, Mitchell will not consider any new or increased taxes. Montana’s budget was in a dire state prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Mitchell, with too much reliance on the federal government.

To make cuts to the budget, Mitchell plans to look at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, which he considers the “greatest bloat in state government.” Overall, he sees Montana’s government as too big and unaffordable, and will identify government spending he considers wasteful that can be cut without negatively impacting Montana’s small businesses.

He also thinks that the emergency funds given to the state by the federal government via the CARES Act have not been adequately dispersed.

“Small businesses and families have had to carry the burdens of this economic crisis, and the governor has not made any cuts to state government,” Mitchell said.

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