House District 7 Offers Choice Between Two Political Newcomers

Courtenay Sprunger faces a challenge from ‘fiscally conservative’ Democrat Angela Kennedy

By Micah Drew
Montana State Capitol. Beacon file photo

In June’s Republican primary, House District 7 candidate Courtenay Sprunger was targeted by the local Flathead Country Republican Central Committee as one of three primary candidates who did not represent “Republican Values, Conservative Principles and Republican Voters.” She triumphed over her primary opponent anyway and has her mind set on representing central Kalispell in the Montana Legislature.

“In the end our party needs to work together and the voters were clear with who was the right conservative candidate for them,” Sprunger told the Beacon. “Once we get to really know each other better, it makes it easier to work together.”

Sprunger, 40, is the founder and CEO of Big Sky Public Relations and past chair of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, which has given her more than a decade of experience in the business world and in the Kalispell community. She has four main priorities she would like to focus on should she end up serving in Helena — community safety, housing, infrastructure and education.

Defining her community safety plank, Sprunger said she believes the state needs to look for practical ways to aid law enforcement and increase investments in mental health care. She also has ideas to form a partnership between Flathead Valley Community College and the Montana Law Enforcement Academy to conduct training in the county.

As Montana residents reel from the effects of skyrocketing housing prices, Sprunger said she wants the state to improve and streamline the process of approving building permits to get projects underway more quickly.

“Time is money and every day we have unnecessary delays, we increase the cost of housing and the costs to society,” Sprunger said. “It’s not sustainable for people to spend half or more of their monthly funding on housing.”

Angela Kennedy and Courtney Sprunger. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon 

Angela Kennedy, a PMP-project manager, also believes in the need to address housing across the state, including by changing approaches to property taxation.

“This issue is on everybody’s radar right now. If you bought your home years or decades ago, you’ve had to deal with this drastic spike in property taxes,” Kennedy said. “We’re in such a tourism-rich area, it would be interesting to think about a tax based on addressing the visitors who come and use our facilities and services.”

Kennedy, who campaigned as a “fiscally conservative” Democrat, says she decided to run for a seat in Montana’s House of Representatives to gain new perspectives within the state, saying it was especially important following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

“That decision was even more of a reason to keep pushing for new voices in the legislature,” she said. “We have a privacy clause in the Montana Constitution that protects interactions between individuals and their physicians. I don’t want that to change — I don’t want Montana to become Texas and lots of constituents I speak to don’t either.”

Sprunger says if elected she will defend the state’s constitution in its entirety, but is also adamant about her anti-abortion stance, though she supports exceptions for incest and to save a mother’s life.

“I’m pro-life, but I believe that meaning goes beyond birth,” she said. “Healthy families and healthy kids for life means looking at mental health care and ensuring the working poor have access to the care they need.”

Sprunger also wants to focus on infrastructure efficiency statewide as well as investing in education, such as bolstering trade and manufacturing learning opportunities. She cites her father’s career as a teacher in Kalispell as key to her commitment to ensuring education is the “gateway for all.”

“For me, serving in this role is the next opportunity to do more for the people and community I’ve loved my whole life,” she said. “My experience and commitment to this community is the most important part of my platform.”

Kennedy said that her professional experience as a project manager and business analyst will be invaluable to working together with other members of the legislature and finding efficient, long-term solutions to the problems facing Montanans.

“I’m approaching this with a roll-up-my-sleeves mentality,” she said. “We have a chance to make Montana as beautiful or as commercial as possible, and to be good stewards of our land requires restraint and thinking through the investments we’re making.”