Special Election

Mackenzie George, Editor In Chief

They don’t call it a “special election” for nothing. With Ryan Zinke appointed Secretary of the Interior, Montana is in the midst of a political race to fill Zinke’s seat in the House of Representatives. It’s not just the timing that makes this election interesting. The two main party candidates could not be any dissimilar, and it is important for Montanans to do their homework before filling in their ballots.

Part of what makes the people of our state great is their ability to vote based on policy, not party. Though presidentially we are as ruby-red as they come, we have a Democrat — Steve Bullock — for governor, and polls from the 2016 presidential election show a huge swing between a Feel-the-Bern primary and making-America-great-again finale. In this special election, the same concept must hold true.

Breaking down the two frontrunners is like analyzing night and day. Greg Gianforte, the millionaire who lost in a gubernatorial bid in November, carries conservative values and has supported ideas such as charter schools, defunding Planned Parenthood, and cutting federal agencies that manage public lands. The Democratic candidate is Rob Quist, a pro-choice member of the Mission Mountain Wood Band who opposes the American Health Care Act and privatization of public lands. Neither has held an official public office post.

While experience — or lack thereof — is an issue for both candidates, each comes with their own slough of problems, too. Gianforte’s personal beliefs will no doubt come into play when making decisions that will affect women, environmentalists, and the LGBT community. He has personally lobbied for businesses to be allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples. Especially troubling for Montana as a state is his ideas about the handling of public lands (read: blocking access to East Gallatin River).

Quist isn’t an ambitious politician already engrossed in plans for our state. In fact, he has admitted he was chosen because he does not fit that stereotype. While it’s admirable that Quist has no visible agenda, his lack of tenacity is troubling. Montana is already an underdog in D.C. It would be beneficial to have someone with some initiative representing our state. Gianforte at least has expressed a drive for change — even if that change doesn’t coincide with certain Montana values.

If voters understand what each candidate represents, it shouldn’t be a difficult choice at all. If I was 18, I would be filling in my ballot for the progressive candidate with community values. But I’m not a literal interpreter of the Bible.