House District 7: Primary Features Republican Contest Between Sprunger, Ingram

Courtenay Sprunger faces Dave Ingram to replace termed-out Rep. Frank Garner in central Kalispell’s legislative district

By Maggie Dresser
Election stickers at the Flathead County Fairgrounds. Beacon File Photo

Two Republican candidates are seeking to represent the residents of House District 7 in central Kalispell in the Montana Legislature next session as GOP lawmaker Frank Garner reaches his term limits and cannot run again.

Republican candidates Courtenay Sprunger, 40, and Dave Ingram, 64, will face off in the primary race. Neither have previously run for office and the winner will face sole Democratic candidate Angela Kennedy in the general election in November.

While both candidates are running on a conservative platform, Sprunger is focused on private solutions that solve workforce development and education, infrastructure, and public safety while Ingram is passionate about election integrity, property taxes, housing and education.

Ingram, who is a retired anesthesiologist, supports parental transparency in education and he would like to see a law like the parental rights in education bill that was introduced in Florida this year. The bill prohibits school districts from withholding information from parents and prohibits a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels.

“I want to empower education,” Ingram said. “Gender fluidity and sexual issues are not appropriately taught outside the family. I think our children’s innocence should be protected and cherished.”

As a member of the ImagineIF Library Board of Trustees since last year, Ingram suggested removing the graphic novel “Gender Queer” from the library, sparking discussions that lead to a controversial environment in the library’s organization.

With Sprunger’s business leadership experience as the founder and CEO of Big Sky Public Relations and past chair of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, she wants to bring businesses and educators together to create workforce development opportunities.

“Workforce training is that beautiful crossroads where we bring our businesses and educators together to create opportunities for our kids and employers and our community that’s targeted to what’s available here,” she said.

For example, Sprunger was recently involved in BUILD Montana, a pilot program that paired students at Flathead High School with Schellinger Construction based out of Columbia Falls to introduce them to construction careers.

“Our employers get the benefit of training a workforce that’s targeted and potentially bringing these kids into future jobs,” Sprunger said. “As a legislator, it’s a critically important role in working year-round to bring these kinds of solutions.”

Housing and childcare are also important issues to Sprunger, and she is working to launch a new initiative called 1,000 Doors to bring attainable housing to employees.

“As a member of the chamber, I’ve heard a lot about housing and childcare for the last several years and we need to look for private solutions,” Sprunger said. “We need to look for ways to empower our employers to be part of private solutions.”

Ingram believes adding more housing supply will help alleviate prices and he is an advocate for deregulation to allow more development. While he supports more housing, he does not support inclusionary zoning.

Rising property taxes are a major issue to Ingram, and he says the legislature has not effectively addressed the tax growth and property owners are not able to budget adequately with rapidly rising taxes.

Ingram also supports so-called voter integrity bills, including laws that require photo identification and signatures and he does not support same-day voter registration.

As a former healthcare professional, Ingram supports healthcare freedom and he believes there should be more health insurance options to prevent rising prices.

“Most people have much higher deductibles than in the past and it’s crucial that they can comparison shop and see where their best deals are,” Ingram said.

Through Sprunger’s work in public relations, she frequently communicates with state agencies like the Montana Department of Transportation, where she’s learned the importance of functioning infrastructure in a rapidly growing region.

“It’s not just an efficiency problem, we need to get people to where they want to go safely,” Sprunger said. “I don’t want to see people getting into crashes because our infrastructure isn’t suited to deal with the growth that we are experiencing.”

Public safety is important to Sprunger as crime rates and mental health issues spike, and she hopes to support bills that direct state funding to local law enforcement.