PABLO — Rep. Greg Gianforte’s (R-Mont) decision to run for governor of Montana instead of seeking a second term as Montana’s lone representative in the U.S. House of Representatives created a slice of “decision time” for Kathleen Williams. The Democrat narrowly lost by 4.7 percentage points to Gianforte in the 2018 election.
Following November’s general election in which she took five months off to rest and reflect on her narrow loss in the opportunity to become the second woman in Montana’s history to represent the state in the U.S. Congress. The first was Janette Rankin, who was elected to the House of Representatives more than 100 years ago in 1916. She served one term and then ran again and won in 1939 and eventually left office in 1943.
Williams said she is “absolutely ready” for another run at Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“This has been a very important year. I am absolutely ready for another run,” Williams said. “After a five month break from the election, I evaluated my chances for another run. I lost the closest House race in twenty years. I feel good. It’s an open seat. I have a good foundation to run on. I am an honest independent voice with proven service as a legislator. I’ve come too far not to continue. I am the best choice for Montana.”
Williams has served three terms in the Montana Legislature and two as a staffer in the law making body. She embraces diversity and the exchange of ideas it brings to the body-politick.
Williams has a “three big buckets” of concern she wants to fill.
• Fixing the healthcare system is her top priority. Williams has developed a detailed plan to give all citizens affordable, quality care that includes the protection of Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
“I am for comprehensive healthcare including physical, behavioral and preventive healthcare,” Williams said.
• Williams plans to improve Montana’s economy by bringing in more high-paying jobs, and helping farmers and ranchers stay on their land. In the Montana Legislature, she helped Montana recover from the recession and passed bills that created hundreds of new small businesses.
“I will promote economic development in the state, especially for rural Montana,” she said, adding that value-added agriculture products, alternative energy development, recreation and tourism should be promoted for the state and its lagging rural economies.
• Williams would also protect Montana’s outdoor heritage. She will keep public lands public, fight for clean air and water, and work to ensure a bright future for all Montanans.
“Montana has a strong outdoor heritage and I will work to protect the air, water, wildlife and access to public lands,” Williams said.
Protection of the lands includes holding mining companies accountable financially for the clean up of the damage done by mining. In Montana it is usually the taxpayer who ends up paying for mining reclamation when the companies fail to meet the costs of reclamation. Quite often that means reclamation efforts are next to nil due to state finances.
Williams is not anti-mining. “I want to make sure if there is mining in the state we need to make sure we protect the water, impact the community as little as possible and make sure the jobs are safe for the miners,” she said.
Williams is not a lone wolf; she tends to walk her talk but is flexible enough to work across the aisle.
“I have always been an independent thinker. I strategize then make the decisions to get things done,” she said. “I am good at the legislative process. I can work with all political perspectives.”
The latter is needed in today’s turbulent political atmosphere.
“President Trump thrives on divisiveness and that is not good for the country. We’re not creating a better world for our children,” Williams said. “We need a productive leader, one who promotes the American ideal that success is available to all who work for it.”
Williams said she understands, promotes and will protect Indian sovereignty, and favors the tribal Federal Reserved Water Rights Compacts including the Flathead Nation’s. As a legislator and vice chair of the Water Policy Interim Committee and member of the Compact Commission, she worked on the Flathead water compact and introduced it in the Legislature for educational purposes.
She says the Flathead Nation’s compact is solid in its environmental protection, increased water supply access on and off the reservation, rehabilitation of the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project, and, among other things, legalization of wells drilled on the reservation since 1996. It will also be a big kick to the local and regional economy.
Williams is also a proponent of quality education as it is a good cornerstone from which to build futures on. She feels it is somewhat in peril. “Education is the great equalizer that increases opportunity across the board,” she said. “Public education should do that if the efforts to erode it stop. We should begin public education at pre-Kindergarten. It’s never too early to get an education.”
The 2020 race for the lone Montana seat in the U.S. Congress House of Representatives is a crowded field for the primary election.
On the Republican side, primary candidates include: rancher Joe Dooling, chair of the Lewis and Clark County Republican Party; Timothy Alan Johnson, superintendent of Corvallis Public Schools; Matt Rosendale, Montana State Auditor; and Corey Stapleton, Montana Secretary of State.
On the Democratic side, primary candidates include: Rancher and Army veteran Matt Rains; Tim Winter, Montana State Legislature representative; and, Kathleen Williams.