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27 minutes | 8 months ago
While the MT Lowdown is on hiatus, Montana Free Press, Montana Public Radio, and Yellowstone Public Radio have teamed up to bring you a new podcast about the real issues behind the campaign rhetoric. Equality of opportunity. The blessings of liberty. A clean and healthful environment. These are the values codified in Montana’s constitution, values candidates in the upcoming 2020 election say they’re most prepared to defend. But behind the political promises and rhetoric, there are actual policies up for debate. What do candidates mean when they stump about “Montana values?” Who is that promise for? And how do those unspoken values shape Montana’s politics? From what it means to be a “real Montanan,” to voter access, to public land, to rugged individualism, Shared State will bridge history, politics, and the daily reality of Montanans as we approach a landmark election. This is Shared State.
17 minutes | 10 months ago
Uphill Part 2: “This is like dust in the air. We all breathe it.”
Amid instances of animosity and tension, and the broader environment of racial strife in America, organizers are seeking to protect their own mental and emotional health as they work to establish a sustainable movement for racial justice in Montana. In part 2 of Uphill, reporter Mara Silvers examines how community groups in various towns across Montana are pushing local governments to invest in social programs rather than policing, how organizers are calling on businesses to implement anti-racist policies and practices, and how some are even collecting bail funds for people in county jails and detention centers.
19 minutes | 10 months ago
Uphill Part 1: “Does anyone know who’s watching us right now?”
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis, Black Lives Matter protests have surged across the country. Montana has been no exception, with residents planning rallies and marches in several towns and cities over the last few weeks. In the first of two special audio reports, Montana Free Press reporter Mara Silvers explores the challenges of organizing protests against police brutality and racism in a state that is roughly 90% white and 1% Black.
38 minutes | a year ago
2020 primary results, and a preview of the path to November
Last week Montana election officials tallied ballots in the June 2 primary. The fields are now set for November’s general election, and voters are already getting a taste of the nominees’ strategies as they march toward November. This year’s primary was notable for being the first election in Montana history to be conducted entirely by mail-in ballot — a safety precaution in light of COVID-19. The all-mail balloting set a new state record for voter engagement in a primary election, with 65% of registered voters casting votes. Republicans may be particularly pleased with the turnout, as some 74,000 more people cast ballots in the GOP primary than voted in Democratic races. But that’s not to say Republican candidates are a lock in the general election. Montana has a long history of ticket-splitting, with voters often choosing general election candidates from both parties. This week, Montana Free Press published a series of articles profiling the matchups for U.S. Senate and U.S. House, statewide races for governor and attorney general, and the primary results’ implications for the balance of power in the state Legislature between conservative and more moderate Republicans. MTFP capped off that reporting with a roundtable discussion with reporters Eric Dietrich, Mara Silvers and Alex Sakariassen, with editor-in-chief John S. Adams moderating. The conversation offers insights into how the nominees were able to best their primary challengers, and presents a preview of the general election campaigns to come. The conversation is featured on the latest installment of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
43 minutes | a year ago
Republican factions battle for control of the state legislature
“Be aware that anyone who votes for this bill is going to need to answer to the people back home, without a doubt.” So said Republican Brad Tschida, majority leader of the Montana House of Representatives, speaking against fellow Republican Rep. Ed Buttrey’s bill to renew Medicaid expansion in late March of the 2019 legislative session. Tschida, a leader in the hardline conservative GOP faction that refers to itself as the .38 Special, warned that a political reckoning would come for Republicans who helped pass the bill that gave nearly 100,000 Montanans access to health care coverage. With the support of a loose group of pragmatic Republican lawmakers who call themselves the Solutions Caucus, Buttrey’s bill ultimately passed and became law. With at least 12 Republican legislators facing contested primaries on Tuesday, June 2, Montana voters will soon know if that reckoning has come. Last week, Montana Free Press published a four-part series exploring how the campaigns between at-odds Republicans are playing out. The first installment took a data-focused look at which incumbent seats look to be competitive in 2020, and three subsequent articles profiled the higher-profile Republican primary races: the Bitterroot’s Senate District 44 contest between Nancy Ballance and Theresa Manzella; the contest for the Flathead’s House District 35 between incumbent Derek Skees and first-time candidate Dee Kirk-Boon; and eastern Montana’s House District 11, where incumbent Joel Krautter faces a challenge from political newcomer Brandon Ler. To cap off the reporting, Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams hosted the project’s reporters for a roundtable discussion exploring shared themes from the three races. MTFP staffers Mara Silvers and Eric Dietrich and freelance reporter Alex Sakariassen joined Adams for a special weekend installment of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
46 minutes | a year ago
Republican candidate for governor Greg Gianforte
“Don’t hold the fact that I’m doing a great job in Congress against me. I mean, for me, this is about, ‘Where can I have the most positive impact, with the skills I’ve been given, for the most folks?’” says Greg Gianforte, he presumptive frontrunner in the Republican primary for governor. Gianforte’s pursuit of the highest office in Montana rather than a second term in the U.S. House of Representatives has rankled some fellow Montana Republicans, including primary opponents Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski. Fox in particular has indicated he doesn’t think Gianforte can win against the Democratic nominee in November’s general election. As Montanans confront fears of a recession, Gianforte, an entrepreneur who sold his Bozeman-based tech company RightNow Technologies to Oracle for $1.8 billion in 2011, seeks to convince voters that his business acumen will translate to a strong economic recovery. “Even before this crisis occurred, we didn’t have the strongest economy, we weren’t providing opportunities that allowed Montanans to stay here,” Gianforte tells Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams. “And that’s got to be the focus of the next governor.” Gianforte says that, if elected, his immediate recovery plans would include a broad lowering of taxes, a housecleaning of leadership at many state agencies, and a “top-to-bottom regulatory review across all state agencies.” Both Fox and Olszewski, in separate prior interviews, have chided Gianforte for what they call his lack of conservative credentials. Both criticized his voting record in Congress, with Olszewski pointing to Gianforte’s lifetime score of 70% from the American Conservative Union. Answering the criticism, Gianforte points to several House bills he’s carried that he says advance the interests of Montanans, and notes that his campaign funding comes from all corners of the state. Gianforte has outraised Fox, his closest fundraising competitor, by more than 4 to 1. While Gianforte has high name recognition statewide, he’s often associated with an assault he committed on a Guardian reporter on election night in 2017. The incident became a national flashpoint at a time when Americans were watching President Donald Trump launch verbal attacks on the media on a near-daily basis. For some, the wound was reopened when Gianforte stood next to Trump at a 2018 campaign rally. Asked how he envisions a gubernatorial relationship with the Montana press corps, Gianforte tells Adams, “My administration will certainly make ourselves available to the media, and we’re not going to shy away from hard questions, because I think the people have a right to know.” He adds, “The ultimate goal is to shine a light on government to make sure people have enough knowledge to pick the leaders they want.” Questioned about his initial statement after the assault, when he indicated that the reporter, not Gianforte, had instigated the assault — an allegation he later walked back — Gianforte says, “Just like everybody else, I’m not perfect … The people of Montana have moved on, and I think you should judge me by my actions since then.” Gianforte is featured on the latest episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
33 minutes | a year ago
Democratic Senate candidate John Mues
“Most people don’t even know what positions Gov. Bullock stands for,” says John Mues, Bullock’s lone competition in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Republican Sen. Steve Daines. Mues entered the race early in the campaign cycle, while the term-limited governor was running for president and pledging his lack of interest in the Senate seat. Bullock’s presidential campaign was fueled by his experience as a successful Democratic governor in a rural state with an established ability to work across the aisle. He ultimately withdrew from the presidential field and then reversed himself, filing to run for the Senate race on March 9 — the last possible day to enter the race. While fellow Democratic Senate candidates including Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins and public health professional Cora Neumann quickly exited the race, offering immediate endorsements of Bullock, who quickly surged into competitiveness with Daines, Mues has remained committed to his campaign, despite his relative lack of funding and name recognition. Mues says he’s not worried about his lack of prior political experience, saying, “I don’t place the same premium on political service. My ideal is that people circulate between the private sector, the nonprofit sector and government service.” Mues says he hopes to leverage his Montana roots and diverse professional background to convince voters that his vision for economic recovery can offer a strong alternative to Daines in the November general election. “I think we should really think out of the box, economically,” Mues tells Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams. He says he supports a long-term and widespread waiver of expenses for households and businesses. Pressed for details, he acknowledges that the idea would require compromise to make it through Congress. Mues also sees ample opportunity for Montana’s energy sector to be a driving force in the state’s economic recovery. A former nuclear engineer who has direct experience with fossil fuel and renewable energy systems, he says Montana has both ample space for energy storage grids and a unique opportunity to develop hydrogen power. He regards the coal-powered Colstrip plant as a potentially major player in the global energy market, telling Adams, “We’re probably going to need some public investment, some infrastructural investments, to make all of this happen. But we need to get going.” “The number one priority here is to beat Senator Daines,” Mues says. “I believe that we can run a more progressive platform and actually have better results than we’ve been having as Democrats.” Mues’s interview is featured on the latest episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
38 minutes | a year ago
Republican U.S. House candidate Matt Rosendale
Matt Rosendale points to his record as state auditor and his prior stint in the Montana Legislature as evidence that he’s the best Republican candidate in the race for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. “I’ve shown that I can get conservative results while being fiscally responsible and a good steward of the taxpayers’ dollars, and I’d like to do the same thing in Congress,” Rosendale tells Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams. “I think we have to restore some fiscal sanity to the federal government. I can do it.” As the state commissioner of securities and insurance, Rosendale regulates the insurance industry in Montana, and he says his actions during the coronavirus pandemic are an example of competent leadership during a crisis. He discusses his efforts to protect vulnerable seniors from exploitation scams and help consumers facing insurance gaps obtain new or continued coverage. Rosendale also talks about his stance on the Affordable Care Act and his support for President Donald Trump, whom he credits for national economic resiliency. “I am so thrilled that the foundations of this economy were so strong going into this, or I can tell you something, we would be in a depression,” Rosendale says. “The only reason that we have $1.25 billion that’s being spent in the state right now to help our business is because of President Trump.” Rosendale also responds to criticisms, including one leveled by his Republican primary opponent Joe Dooling, that his campaign’s reliance on funding by out-of-state PACs like the Club For Growth puts him out of touch with everyday Montanans. “My priorities are determined by the people of Montana, and what they elected me to do. And I’ve been very effective at it,” Rosendale says. Rosendale also responds to a 2018 Montana Free Press story that explores his role in dropping state charges against a bail bond and insurance company whose owners had contributed $13,000 to his prior campaigns. Rosendale says that, as auditor, he generally accepts the recommendations of his legal team. “It’s just that simple,” Rosendale says. Rosendale has a wide fundraising lead in the crowded Republican primary, followed by Secretary of State Corey Stapleton. Democratic frontrunner Kathleen Williams has outraised Rosendale by about $300,000, according to the latest campaign finance filings. Rosendale’s interview is featured on the latest episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
39 minutes | a year ago
Unpacking the polling on pandemic recovery and Montana’s senate race
There are two big takeaways from a poll released this week by Montana State University: Montanans are definitely concerned about economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Steve Daines looks to be very much in play now that Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock has been able to capitalize on a statewide pandemic response that has, thus far, yielded relatively favorable results. The timing of Bullock’s entry into the race appears fairly auspicious. As Mike Dennison, chief political reporter for the Montana Television Network, puts it, “He gets in on the last day, March 9; he raised $3.3 million in three weeks; the pandemic hits; he’s in the news every single day.” Dennison notes that Bullock’s official responses to the pandemic have been largely based on the recommendations of public health experts, and adds, “He’s getting incredible exposure, and not spending a single dime of his campaign money doing it. It’s just a real political bonanza for Gov. Bullock.” But how to account for another finding of the poll: that Montanans still favor re-election of President Donald Trump over the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden? “A lot of the attitudes toward Trump are already baked in, regardless of what it is. But if there’s anxiety, that anxiety needs to be expressed somewhere, and it seems to be expressed elsewhere, down-ballot, at least in our senate numbers,” says Dr. David Parker, head of Montana State University’s Department of Political Science, which helped organize the poll. So how might the pandemic — and state and federal efforts to respond to it with stay-at-home orders, stimulus checks and relief funds — ultimately impact voter preferences? And how might Montana’s top U.S. Senate candidates tailor their messages to reach voters who are leery of misinformation and false narratives as the nation seeks a return to normalcy? Dennison thinks it will come down to the candidates’ records. He tells Adams, “I really think the race is going to be fought out on how each of them has responded to this pandemic, and also, what is their record? What is Steve Bullock’s record as governor? What is Steve Daines’ record as senator?” Dennison and Parker are featured on this week’s episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press hosted by editor-in-chief John S. Adams.
52 minutes | a year ago
Democratic candidate for governor Mike Cooney
The COVID-19 pandemic may have brought many aspects of daily life to a halt, but Montana’s June 2 primary election is steadily approaching. While this year’s candidates launched their campaigns under relatively normal circumstances, facing off on issues including health care, prescription drug prices, public lands and jobs, the public health crisis has dramatically transformed the political, economic and social landscapes that will be at the forefront of voters’ minds when they begin mailing in their ballots. “We’re going to see, probably, some very interesting things happening as a result of COVID. I think Montanans are going to be very interested in making sure the next governor isn’t going to have to be trained on the job,” says Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, one of two Democrats vying for their party’s nomination for November’s general election. “And when I’m elected, on day one, I will be able to hit the ground running.” Cooney and his primary opponent, Missoula businesswoman Whitney Williams, staked out similar policy positions prior to the pandemic. But the economic downturn caused by COVID closures has offered Cooney, who began his political career in the early 1970s, an opportunity to highlight his years of experience in both the legislative and executive branches of government, characterizing that experience as a vital asset at a time when the public may be looking for steady leadership to guide the state’s recovery. In separate interviews with Montana Free Press, both Cooney and Williams anticipated that Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte will be the Republican nominee. To that point, Cooney notes his presence on the 2016 Democratic ticket, with Gov. Steve Bullock, that bested Gianforte’s first gubernatorial bid. “I’ve already been on a team that’s beaten Greg Gianforte, and I think that’s going to be very important when it comes to the primary election,” Cooney says. “We want somebody who’s going to be successful in November.” Asked whether a Cooney administration would be a continuation of Bullock’s, Cooney said he intends to forge his own path: “It will be a Cooney administration. It’s not going to just be a Bullock 2.0.” Cooney’s conversation with Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams is featured on the latest episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
34 minutes | a year ago
Journalist Emily Stifler Wolfe on contact tracing in Montana
Gov. Steve Bullock is expected to unveil plans this week to begin lifting the statewide stay-at-home order and business restrictions, even as Montana saw its first public demonstration against the current restrictions on Sunday. Many public health experts say a return to normalcy will require mass testing, along with robust contact tracing, so health officials can rapidly respond to any spikes in COVID-19 infections, which are expected once restrictions begin to ease. How does contact tracing work? And how can we gauge when Montana is ready to begin lifting restrictions? Matt Kelley, health officer for the Gallatin City-County Health Department, tells freelance journalist Emily Stifler Wolfe, “Contact tracing is the central weapon that we use to find cases and throw a blanket over that case in a way that reduces the risk of exposure.” On April 17, Montana Free Press published Wolfe’s story “How contact tracing slows the spread — and why getting Montana back to work requires more of it.” Wolfe is our guest on this week’s Montana Lowdown podcast, where she talks about what she learned while reporting the piece with host and Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams.
40 minutes | a year ago
Quarantine stress hits home for Montanans
As Montana enters its fifth consecutive week of quarantine, many households are feeling the strain of isolation, fear and anxiety. Professionals are warning about increased incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault, while even safe households are experiencing unique stresses related to parenting. In response to these concerns, Montana Free Press is publishing this episode of the weekly Montana Lowdown podcast focused on resources for victims of domestic and sexual violence, as well as parenting tips from childcare experts. Pandemic Exacerbates Abusive Behavior Echoing concerns shared in national publications, local professionals are reporting that the quarantine is exacerbating abusive behavior. “Abusers use isolation as a way to maintain power and control. And when we see increased stresses at home, a lot of times that also can be a contributing factor for violence,” says Jenny Eck, executive director of The Friendship Center, a Helena-based nonprofit that provides resources to victims of domestic and sexual violence. Eck tells Lowdown host John S. Adams that abusers can exploit the pandemic by withholding items like hand sanitizer or masks, preventing victims from seeking medical attention or support from friends and family, and withholding insurance information. While there is some relief coming to Montana’s victims of domestic violence — the federal CARES Act package includes $45 million in funding for crisis centers — Kelsen Young, executive director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence warns that “it will probably be another month or two” before the state’s allocation makes its way to program coffers. Young adds that abuse victims are seeing another novel limit in their ability to find safe harbor, as many hotels that previously opened their doors to victims are now being more strict about filling vacancies. As Young tells Adams, “We are hearing that some hotels are refusing to take people that are [exposed to the virus].” Simultaneously, established shelters are limiting the number of people they take in during the pandemic to minimize the risk of viral transmission. Both Eck and Young note that there are ways for Montanans to help. Eck suggests, “It’s really important that you stay in touch. Try to help [victims] have access to a safe way of communicating.” And for those Montanans who are able to offer financial support, Young says, “Domestic violence shelters would be a great place” to donate. Parenting In A Pandemic Emotionally healthy households are facing their own stresses, with many parents having to balance a dearth of childcare options with professional obligations or new fears about lost wages. Lowdown producer Alex McKenzie, a new parent to a 7-month-old child, interviewed Wisconsin-based Dr. Laura Froyen, whose work focuses on human development and family studies, and Portland, Oregon-based Tracey Biebel, a licensed clinical social worker and podcaster whose work is focused on “practical parenting and practical living.” One theme repeated throughout both interviews is that there is no universal approach to parenting under quarantine. While some parents are able to take advantage of the recently passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which offers expanded family or paid medical leave for certain situations, many other parents are left to balance expert advice on social distancing measures with the realities of their childcare needs. Asked about the prudence of designating a single person, like a grandparent or other relative, to provide care for a young child during the pandemic, Froyen suggested making an “exclusivity arrangement” in which the childcare provider will not be taking care of any other children, and will otherwise refrain from interaction with the outside world. “You are going to socially isolate, together,” Froyen says. For older children, Biebel suggests a more conservative approach. While she acknowledges that different scenarios may work better for individual families, she cautions that allowing a teenager to have exclusive social interactions with a friend may create a slippery slope. “If you allow one friend, then they’re like, ‘Well, what about the other friend?” She says the issues with teenagers is rooted in a lack of critical thinking skills: “The brain development just isn’t there yet,” she says Froyen and Biebel also weigh in on topics including screen time, the importance of structure during quarantine, and how to communicate about the pandemic to small children without triggering anxiety. Another shared view between Froyen and Biebel involves lowered parental expectations during the pandemic. Froyen suggests that parents offer themselves “lots of grace and compassion, room to make mistakes, and to repair them.” Biebel advises parents to “just sit in it and let it pass, because it will.” Resources: Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence https://mcadsv.com/ National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673 The Friendship Center https://www.thefriendshipcenter.org/ 406-442-6800
51 minutes | a year ago
Former Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus on economic stimuli, then and now
“It’s like a response to a lot of crises. That is, it’s big and it’s immediate, but it’s probably full of a lot of loopholes.” So says former Montana Senator Max Baucus, assessing the $2T economic relief package recently passed by U.S. Congress in response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. He adds, “We’re probably going to see a lot of inefficiencies, and a lot of people taking advantage of the situation, at the expense of Americans.” For close to 40 years, Max Baucus represented Montana in Congress, before serving as the U.S. Ambassador to China under President Barack Obama. Baucus was Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee during the 2008 financial crisis, and was a key figure in the creation of legislative measures, signed by both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, that ultimately stabilized the U.S. economy in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage meltdown that crippled global markets. Senator Baucus then witnessed the populist aftermath of that legislation in the rise of the conservative Tea Party, and the birth of the liberal Occupy Wallstreet movement. He was a chief architect of the Affordable Care Act, which enabled more than 20 million people to access health care, but came at a great political expense to Democrats who faced conservative backlash at the polls in many states. Now out of politics and living back home in Montana, Baucus is watching a new world unfold as inefficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system are laid bare as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on American lives and the global economy. In February, Baucus endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s bid for the Democratic nomination to the Presidency, and he now says he sees a need for bipartisan leadership in Washington, telling Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams, “The recent partisanship in Washington has stymied any efficient action” on the pandemic and resultant economic turmoil.” And while some are questioning the White House’s response to the pandemic, Baucus levels a somewhat more measured criticism of the Trump administration: “I’m not blaming Donald Trump personally, but I do think, in our form of government, when there’s a crisis, it’s the Chief Executive that’s got to step up.” Baucus’s interview with Adams is featured in the latest episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a publication of Montana Free Press.
35 minutes | a year ago
Montana's social services confront a pandemic
This week we interview several guests who help illustrate how some of Montana's most vital social services are positioned to deal with the potential of a long-term pandemic. Guests and topics include: Rose Hughes, Executive Director of the Montana Health Care Association, on how long-term care facilities are balancing health safety measures with problems related to extended periods of isolation Stephanie Stratton, Chief Programs Officer of the Montana Food Bank Network, on how increased demand and limited supplies are challenging the Montana food pantry system Freelance journalist Amanda Eggert on how Montana's daycare industry and K-12 educational institutions are responding MTFP reporter Eric Dietrich on the state of the State's budget in light of the pandemic (featuring dialogue from Republican state representatives Nancy Ballance and Frank Garner.)
24 minutes | a year ago
Montana Coronavirus Report for March 20, 2020
In today's episode: The latest statistics on cases in Montana Montana petroleum industry sees losses due to price wars and economic fallout from coronavirus Fear-driven stockpiling of supplies is a short-term problem, and distributors are confident that supply chains are strong Cindy Farr of Missoula County DPHHS talks about coronavirus testing in Montana, and what she expects to see as the pandemic evolves Rebecca Dore, a Senior Research Associate at Ohio State University, shares tips on how to manage screen time for kids who are distancing indoors for extended periods
8 minutes | a year ago
Montana Coronavirus Report for March 19, 2020
In today's episode: The latest statistics on cases in Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announces two measures aimed at helping those experiencing financial stress Montana announces it will cover the costs of referrals, and in some cases testing, for those who are uninsured and suspect they may have contracted the virus The U.S. Department of Commerce will suspend the census until April 1 Gubernatorial campaigns go digital Tourism industry and travel-relates businesses anticipate big losses State will extend drivers' license renewals Montana Free Press solicits calls from freelance reporters We want to know what you want us to cover in this crisis We update you on we're evolving our coverage of the coronavirus in Montana
10 minutes | a year ago
Montana Coronavirus Report for March 18, 2020
As of today, we're changing the format of our show to focus on delivering shorter, more frequent episodes that keep our listeners informed about the latest news around the coronavirus, and its impacts on Montana. In today's episode: We announce some changes at the Montana Free Press The latest stats from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services What is social distancing, and why is it important? Two new cases confirmed, one each in Missoula and Yellowstone Counties Montana announces that tests will now be performed in-state, rather than being shipped to the CDC 1000 news test kits are headed to Montana Counties begin closing or limiting certain business establishments and other public events We begin to look at how the coronavirus could impact June's primary election
56 minutes | a year ago
Gauging Montana’s 2020 political field under the specter of a global pandemic
“I think it’s a universe that I don’t really know how to gauge. It’s just something that we’ve never dealt with.” So says Lee Newspapers capital reporter Holly Michels, as she tries to make sense of the evolving 2020 political field through the lens of the coronavirus issue. Montana’s March 9 candidacy filing deadline momentarily grabbed national headlines when two-term Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock entered the race for the U.S. Senate, challenging Republican incumbent Sen. Steve Daines. But while the matchup was widely regarded as an opportunity for Democrats to flip a Senate seat, those headlines were quickly buried under breaking news. The next day the presidential primary election entered a new phase, with former Vice President Joe Biden winning in several key state primaries, pulling ahead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination. The dust was still settling on that story when the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, triggering a wave of cancelled events, school closings, and regulations about public gatherings in a growing list of cities nationally and statewide. Public appearances by President Donald Trump were widely panned as failing to instill public confidence in the face of a national crisis. Stocks plunged, spurring the Federal Reserve to drop interest rates to 0% on Sunday in an effort to stave off a major financial crisis. The June primary approaches, now with myriad questions about how Montana’s elections might be impacted by the pandemic. In an interview with Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams, elections analyst Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, says he expects to see a wave of out-of-state campaign spending on Montana’s senate seat. Kondik tells Adams, “Republicans have to look at [the seat] as an absolute must-hold.” He adds that, given Trump’s widely criticized response to the pandemic, defending his seat could prove more challenging for Daines, a staunch Trump supporter. “I’m more hesitant to suggest that coronavirus may not matter in the fall, because it’s something that’s already affecting so many people, just in terms of disruptions to their daily lives,” Kondik says. Michels’s and Kondik’s conversations with Adams are featured in the latest episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a publication of Montana Free Press.
46 minutes | a year ago
Journalist Dexter Roberts on the myth of Chinese capitalism, and how that myth could resonate in Montana
As financial markets reel amidst the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, journalist Dexter Roberts is looking to the Chinese economy for signs of things to come. Roberts is an award-winning journalist who spent more than 20 years reporting from Beijing, where he served as the China bureau chief and Asia News Editor at Bloomberg Businessweek. A Montana native, Roberts’ journalistic career spanned a period of rapid transformation and explosive economic growth in China, during which he reported on the country’s economy, politics, agriculture, and more. Roberts, who now serves as a fellow at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana, is promoting his new book, The Myth Of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World. The book makes the case that Chinese policies are actually restricting economic growth and contributing to widening class disparity. “The myth, in sort of a nutshell, is that China is on an inexorable path toward a vastly expanded middle class,” Roberts tells Montana Free Press founder John S. Adams. But the economic reality doesn’t support that popular narrative, according to Roberts, who argues that “China is getting old before it gets rich,” and that the country is “relegating close to half [its] population to second-class status.” Roberts also sees compounding problems in the country’s initial response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, telling Adams that, on the heels of President Donald Trump’s trade wars, the outbreak has the potential to upend the world economy for the foreseeable future. And he anticipates that the tumult could be felt here in Montana. “For a state like Montana, which has a large reliance on agriculture, there is a very obvious fit with China’s growth,” Roberts says. “I would be ready for the potential of real disruption in the economy going forward.” Roberts’ conversation with Adams is featured in the latest episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
49 minutes | a year ago
Democratic candidate for governor Whitney Williams
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Whitney Williams may be running her first campaign for public office, but she’s no political neophyte. Her father, Pat Williams, served two terms in the Montana House, and nine in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her mother, Carol Williams, was the first woman majority leader in the Montana Senate. Williams started her own career in the White House, where she worked in the office of First Lady Hillary Clinton, before launching a philanthropic consulting business that works with governments, NGOs, and Fortune 500 companies. Williams positions herself as a job creator and problem solver in her bid to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. Williams is in a two-way primary with Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney. Asked to draw a distinction between herself and Cooney, Williams tells Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams that voters, “[are] going to have a choice of someone who is a little different, someone who’s a business person, who has a fresh perspective, who has a skill set managing multimillion dollar budgets, creating companies, creating jobs.” At a recent candidate forum in Bozeman, Williams and Cooney staked out similar policy positions, including publicly funded pre-K, protection of public lands, and affordability of prescription drugs. In her interview with Adams, Williams expands on the initiatives she would pursue if elected to office, including strategies to cap prescription drug prices. “Forty percent of Montanans say they choose between putting food on the table and filling a prescription,” Williams said. “Montanans are, I think, fed up with this idea that the federal government is going to solve this problem for us, because they’re not.” Williams’s conversation with Adams is featured on the Montana Lowdown podcast, a weekly publication of Montana Free Press.
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