By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

Scott Sales on Campaign for S.O.S.


September 25, 2019

Businessman and state legislator Scott Sales sat down with The Glasgow Courier to discuss his background, political experience and his current bid for Montana’s Secretary of State seat. Sales discussed everything from the land board and land usage, to election security and accessibility while touting his Republican record in the state legislature.

Sales, a Republican from Gallatin County, has been serving in the legislature since 2003 when he entered as a representative. He served four terms including one as Speaker of the House and another as the minority leader. After reaching his term limits, he stepped up to the Senate and will term out at the end of his current term in 2020.

Sales said he started out as a businessman in 1982, after graduating Boise State University, signing on with Hewlett-Packard before taking a business venture and opening up his own shop. Eventually that company, called Extended Systems, would be publicly traded and be purchased by a larger company in 2001. Ever since, Sales has served in the legislature while also haying on his property in Gallatin County.

“I really honestly believe that our elections are the cornerstone of a free society, right there with property rights,” said Sales when discussing his motivation for running for S.O.S. “It’s important to me that we have somebody in there that wants to maintain the security and integrity of the systems so people can trust that their vote is going to be counted.”

Sales said that aside from the security and integrity of elections he was also concerned with the business side of the job. He said he would look to make the business filing side of things more efficient and easy to use. But it was not long before he jumped in to the land board.

“As important, if not more so, is the land board,” said Sales explaining that the post is one of the five members of the board that decides the use of Montana’s public lands. He said the board affects everything from the schools, farmers, ranchers and the business community. “It’s a big deal.”

Sales touted his record on resource development in the legislature and railed against “stringent” environmental laws on the books in Montana. He denounced the idea that resource development cannot be done in an ecologically friendly way, and said that the state should be working towards that end goal of development while being environmentally friendly.

He said that his policy would be measured on “maximizing” the land revenue to help fund the schools. “It’s a balancing act that you do that,” said Sales. “We have timber resources, we have the opportunity out here in the eastern part of the state for oil, gas, coal, so we need to be good stewards of the land but we need to make those decisions that are going to benefit the schools.”

He said that in the end, they need to maximize revenue for the schools, pay attention and be mindful of “the folks who pay the bills” and who use the land for business and to optimize access for recreational use on state lands. “I would take a balanced approach.”

On the subject of renewable energy development, Sales said he was in favor of renewables but that, “the problem is the wind doesn’t blow all the time and the sun doesn’t shine all the time, and unless we have some sort of quantum breakthrough like fusion, like coal fusion or something, we’re going to need carbon-based fuel to balance our energy.”

Election security was also a topic of focus for Sales, who said he was committed to securing and maintaining the integrity of Montana’s election system. On the topic of preventing election fraud he said, “I think we do a pretty good job already,” and he said he was a strong supporter of a paper ballot system and would oppose any form of online voting.

One topic of contention for Sales is same day-voter registration. He said he had heard from clerks and recorders across the state that they had concerns about the work load and verification of same-day voter registration. “I don’t think it’s too much to ask a citizen to get down to the courthouse a couple of days early to register to vote,” said Sales.

On the issue of accessibility Sales deferred on the topic. On whether he supports increasing accessibility across the state by increasing polling places Sales said it was a local decision to reduce polling places. In Valley County, for example, the entire county has to travel to the Glasgow Civic Center to vote in person. Sales said that in many cases he thinks voters are using mail-in ballots to vote. He also defended the state’s new law making it illegal to collect ballots or deliver another person's ballot without being registered at the county courthouse.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask that someone sticks a stamp on it and sticks it in the mail,” said Sales. “I mean let’s be honest, this isn’t rocket science, this isn’t something that is extreme – when you say all you have to do to mail your ballot is stick a stamp on it and stick it in your mailbox.”

Sales finished up the interview discussing his record in the legislature and his time there in leadership positions trying to make deals and pass legislation for the state. He likened it to “herding cats” and said that when you lead in the legislature you never get your way.

Sales stated that his most proud moment in the legislature was when, as the Senate President, he successfully stopped a budget deal with Governor Steve Bullock that would have fully funded the government by increasing taxes in 2017. Instead Sales said he maintained a unified caucus of Republicans and held firm on across the board cuts to state government instead of raising revenue streams.


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