Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

State, Local Candidates Speak to Packed House

After a six year hiatus, a large number of supporters were drawn to the Cottonwood Inn on March 16 for the Valley County Lincoln Reagan Dinner. Glasgow native Aaron Flint, host of the conservative talk radio show Montana Talks, served as emcee and carried a sense of positive energy albeit with maybe one too many Hillary Clinton references.

In hopes of wooing donors and winning votes, the night featured Republican candidates looking to secure the Party's nominations for U.S. Senate, public service commission and Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court in the upcoming June 5 primary.

Leading off the night was Montana Senator for District 17 Mike Lang who spoke briefly on the Republican core values of limiting the scope of government's jurisdiction, supporting and promoting traditional values, and refuting the ways of the obstructionists.

Lang's speech was followed by video messages from Montana's U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte, and Senator Steve Daines. Both sought to highlight agendas and encourage participation in the upcoming election.

Senator Daines kicked off his speech declaring, "Thank God for President Trump," before listing off agenda successes such as Supreme and Federal Court appointments, pro-energy accomplishments such as Keystone XL, and ending the perceived war on coal, as well as repealing the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.

State Auditor Matt Rosendale was the first primary candidate to speak looking to promote his experience to claim the Party's nomination for U.S. Senate against current incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester. He attempted to sell his experience in the Montana House and Senate as well as his work as the State Auditor to convey a message of being the conservative candidate.

Rosendale also touted his endorsements from ultra-conservative national figures such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and Utah Senator Mike Lee (who was instrumental in reducing Utah's Bear's Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments).

Rosendale told the room of Republicans, "That's the kind of people we need to look to," referring to his endorsements, [when deciding who to vote for in June.]

The second Senate primary candidate to speak was Dr. Albert "Al" Olszewski who pointed out his experience as an Orthopedic Surgeon as his motivation for running first at the State level, and now for federal office. Olszewski cited over regulation and the Affordable Care Act as motivators to pursue deregulation especially in health care, but he also cited finance reform legislation such as Dodd-Frank as impeding economic progress in the U.S.

Retired Billings District Judge Russ Fagg was the last U.S. Senate primary candidate to speak at the dinner. Fagg launched his speech by saying he was, "simply dissatisfied with Senator Jon Tester." He then touted his career as a Judge claiming to have overseen 25,000 cases in his tenure on the bench.

Fagg said, "I have seen the best and worse in humanity," adding that he wanted to go "back to the principles that made this country great" before spending most of his remaining remarks addressing Senator Tester's voting record in Washington.

Troy Downing is also running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, but did not attend the dinner. He did send a letter that was read by Flint.

Rounding off the night were candidates for public service commission, which regulates and monitors public utilities and sets rates, and a single candidate for Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court which handles court filings and public relations for Montana's third branch of government.

First to speak for the public service comission was former Montana Representative Randy Pinocci, running for the party's nomination for District 1 Public Service Commissioner (no Democrat or Independent had filed to run in the district, meaning the primary winner will likely receive the position by default).

Pinocci touted a record in the legislator that included time on the House Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee. He claimed to be the candidate who had in the past and would in the future, stand up to public service providers. He also touted his opposition to the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Water Compact which passed in the Republican-held legislature in the last biennial session.

Second up for the public service commission was Mark Wicks. Wicks ran against Representative Greg Gianforte and Rob Quist as a Libertarian in the 2017 Montana special election but is now running for public service commissioner as a Republican. Wick's pitch to voters was simple, "I find problems and I fix them."

Wicks addressed his experience as a Hi-Line rancher out of Inverness adapting to issues on the farm and finding ways to overcome challenges. He cited his business selling fruit in Hi-Line communities, including Glasgow's Farmers Market, as examples of his ingenuity. Wicks claimed he was the only candidate neither for, or against, utilities, and that he was entering the role without an agenda.

Last up for the public service commission was state Representative Rob Cook who started off defending his support of the CSKT Water Compact from comments made earlier by Pinocci. He did so by listing the myriad of Republican organizations that had backed the legislation from its inception. Cook cited his experience as an entrepreneur and engineer as being crucial to the position, and his record as a State Representative.

Speaking last as a candidate for state-wide office was Bowen Greenwood, who is running for Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court. Greenwood worked in the past as head of the Republican Party in Montana and has been a communications consultant for various political figures. As a communications consultant he feels his experience suits him for the court's clerk role.

Also speaking were uncontested candidates for Montana House District 33, Casey Knudsen and Montana House District 34, Rhonda Knudsen; no relation. Casey Knudsen currently serves as the House District 33 Representative and Rhonda Knudsen will be replacing her son Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives Austin Knudsen in District 34.

Candidate for Sheriff, Luke Strommen, finished the night giving a very personal speech touting his life in Valley County, his law enforcement experience and the support he has received from law enforcement officials such as Sheriff Vernon Buerkle. Strommen emphasized his dedication to the Sheriff's Office and his experience on the counter-narcotics task force as a lead deputy and most recently as the undersheriff.

Despite Strommen running for a non-partisan post, he spent a good amount of time being natural, and addressed his opponent, Joe Horn, in passing and even then not by name. He joked, "I need your (financial) support because I have an opponent in this race, and I also have four girls at home and they have a lot of shoes."


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