House District 9: Newcomers Vie to Represent Evergreen, North Kalispell

With no Democrats in the race, the winner of the GOP primary will join the Montana Legislature in 2023

By Micah Drew
Election officials gather absentee ballots at a drive-through ballot drop off point outside the Flathead County Election Department in Kalipsell for the Montana primary on June 2, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

With no Democratic challengers filed for House District 9, which covers Evergreen and a section of north Kalispell, the final vote tally in the June 7 Republican primary will determine who will spend 90 days in Helena next year.

The open seat was served by Rep. Brian Putnam during the 2021 session, but he opted against running for re-election this year, opening the door to a three-way primary race between Tony Brockman, David August and Constance Neumann. 

Brockman grew up in Evergreen and currently works for a digital marketing company. He previously ran for a seat on the county commission in 2020, losing by fewer than 100 votes. He serves on several local boards including the Evergreen Rural Fire District, Flathead County Sheriff’s Citizens’ Advisory Board, the Flathead Food Bank and the Flathead Area Young Professionals. 

“Because I serve on so many boards, I have a lot of discussions with local citizens,” he said. “Three topics kept coming up — community safety, jobs and strengthening local infrastructure. These are all areas the legislature can have a huge impact on.” 

Brockman says he’s seen a decline in the number of people volunteering to serve in rural fire departments and EMS services, which he attributes to limited incentives and a difficulty convincing employers to let their employees run out the door when needed. 

“Our state really relies on these rural emergency services,” he said “The people who are willing to run into burning buildings need to feel support so they will keep doing it, and the legislature can strengthen the incentives the state has.”

Pointing to the new Applied Materials plant in Evergreen, Brockman said manufacturing is becoming a bigger part of Montana’s local economies and he wants to see the state strengthen support to community colleges to better offer the next generation of workers the skills needed to funnel directly into the workforce at big tech companies as well as smaller local businesses. 

When it comes to infrastructure, Brockman said the state needs to mobilize funds available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and invest in critical projects.

“That means doing things as non-sexy as widening Reserve [Drive], or upgrading our wastewater treatment systems,” Brockman said. “None of these are easy to do, but they’re so important, so necessary and the legislature can really move the needle on them.”

While all three candidates are running on traditionally core conservative ideals — limited government, lower taxes, anti-abortion, pro Second Amendment — they are separated along that ideological spectrum. 

According to David August, the previous representative was a “RINO” (Republican in name only) who voted for Democratic party initiatives too often. To that end, August is running to ensure Putnam’s replacement is not a RINO. 

“I am the only constitutional conservative candidate in this race and I won’t lie to my constituents on where I stand on every vote,” August said. “Montana is and always has been a liberty-oriented state, and people believe in their freedoms and our state constitution protects those.”

One of August’s legislative priorities would be to put limits on property taxes statewide to ensure Montana residents are able to stay in their homes without worrying about breaking the bank. One idea he has is to limit the ability of school districts to request more funding from voters. 

“My view is that unfortunately we need to rein in the school districts,” he said. “Here in the Flathead we’re having referendums on spending every year, and if not enough people are aware of that and vote, their property taxes are going up.”

August also spoke about increasing Second Amendment rights on school grounds — both on college campuses and for educators in public schools, citing a Florida law that allows some teachers to be armed after undergoing training. 

In addition, August said many laws passed by the Legislature last year were thrown out by judges or are still tied up in the court system, which he believes is an impetus for making future judicial elections partisan. 

Election integrity across the board is a priority for August, one he shares with Constance Neumann. Both candidates believe Montana should have closed primary elections and support eliminating mail-in voting; however, Neumann goes one step further, adding that elections should return to exclusively using paper ballots. 

“There’s too much at stake to trust technology with components manufactured by China, being our enemies,” she said. “We saw massive corruption in our last election, and my understanding is there were irregularities locally, but I haven’t seen that evidence. It’s imperative that we have very secure elections — that’s the whole basis of our freedom.”

There has been no evidence that election fraud or other irregularities occurred or played any role in the outcome of the 2020 presidential race, and election officials in dozens of states have rebuked former President Trump’s portrayal of a fraudulent election.

Neumann and her husband own a small business that manufactures firearm components, and she says between that experience and her bachelor’s degree in constitutional law she will bring a full spectrum of experience to Helena. 

“I’m the only candidate who understands how small businesses work and can draw on that to promote the economy,” she said. 

“We’re seeing way too much overreach with the administrative agencies and various things on the federal level, some of which are unconstitutional,” she added, specifically calling out mask and vaccine mandates. “It’s imperative that the states stand up for their constitutional rights. Montana’s been a leader on that and it’s one reason people are flocking here.”

Asked about their thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court’s leaked decision about possibly overturning the Roe v. Wade case establishing a woman’s right to an abortion, Brockman reiterated his anti-abortion views, but said it wasn’t prudent to comment on a leaked draft opinion.

Neumann has been an anti-abortion activist for many decades and claims to have been arrested and jailed for her activist work in Texas. 

“I know how to stand up to the courage of my convictions,” Neumann said. “I would really like to see Montana become the pro-life state.”

With that, Neumann said the Montana Constitution could be improved upon, especially by defining life as beginning at conception. She added that while there may be rare exceptions, such as with rape and incest, she said she believes that conception does not occur in the majority of incidents involving trauma or assault — a statement that is not supported by any scientific or medical evidence.

August maintains a more nuanced approach on abortion, saying that “Montana safeguards abortion, and I believe we should keep the service legal for certain reasons, for the health of the mother or things of that nature. I believe this is kind of a crazy double-edged sword and that might not resonate for some people.”