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Election Preview: Candidate Interviews for U.S. House Race in Montana

On Tuesday, November 6, Montanans will head to the polls to determine who will represent the state at a Federal level. Montana’s Senior Senator Jon Tester faces off against Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale for one of Montana’s U.S. Senate seats. In the U.S. House race, Republican Greg Gianforte is running to retain the seat he won in a special election in May of 2017 to replace Ryan Zinke, who had resigned to become Secretary of the Interior. Gianforte’s challenger, Democrat Kathleen Williams, is a former Montana State House Representative.

Along with races for Federal offices, the November ballot will feature local and regional elections for city and county officials, State House and Senate offices, State Supreme Court Clerk and Justices, and Public Service Commissioners.

In addition, a number of ballot initiatives will appear on the ballot. LR-128 would renew the six-mill levy for the State University System. LR-129 supports banning persons from collecting the election ballots of other people. I-185 supports raising taxes on tobacco and extending Medicaid eligibility. The final initiative, I-186, supports new requirements for mining permits based on water quality standards. With so much on the ballot, voters have a lot to digest.

One of the most compelling of the season’s races on the ballot is that for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Montana is represented by one at-large congressional district, among the 435 in the U.S. House. The district is the largest U.S. congressional district by population, with just over 1 million constituents, and is also the second-largest by land area, after Alaska’s at-large congressional district.

From statehood in 1889 until the creation of two geographic districts in 1919, Montana was represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by members elected at-large. From 1919 to 1993 there were two seats still elected at-large and two distinct congressional districts, a western one and an eastern one, each elected by its own respective constituents. In the reapportionment following the 1990 census, Montana lost one of its two seats and its remaining member was again elected at-large. In 1916, Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress. She served one term and was elected again in 1940.

In 2018, Democrat Kathleen Williams is vying to be the next woman to serve in the U.S. House from Montana. She brings a history of State policy-making and consensus building to her campaign while incumbent Congressman Greg Gianforte has already marked a number of successes in Congress during his short time in office. The contest between these two Montana residents is one of the most politically interesting of the election season.

To get to know these unique candidates, Montana Press solicited in-person interviews about a month before the end of the campaign season. All participants were given a list of questions particular to their stated platforms and issues, along with follow-ups on information they had already shared with the public. Libertarian Elinor Swanson was also invited to participate.

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