HELENA — State Sen. Elsie Arntzen, R-Billings, said Friday she is running for the U.S. House and believes her fresh approach, excellent communications skills and strong conservative record will be assets in the crowded Republican primary.
“I’m a new face,” Arntzen said in an interview. “I am not that same old angry face that’s going to further the gridlock. My job is going to go down there with positive solutions.”
Arntzen said she has a lot of calmness that comes from being married 37 years and being a mother. She and her husband, Steven, have two daughters and four grandchildren.
She formally announced her candidacy Saturday to a classroom full of supporters at Burlington Elementary School, 2135 Lewis Ave., in Billings. She taught fifth-grade there until December when she received a leave of absence so she could run for Congress.
Arntzen, 57, becomes the fifth announced candidate in the Republican House race, while one Democrat has announced so far. She is the only female to enter the race.
No people or interest groups told her she should run for Congress, Arntzen said.
“This has all come from me, like with the Legislature,” she said.
Arntzen said everyone agrees that Washington, D.C., is broken because of the massive gridlock.
“Everyone out there shares the blame because of the lack of communication out there,” she said. “For 21 years, I’ve been working in a classroom, working with children and parents. You can’t be a great teacher without being a great communicator. It made me a good legislator.”
Over five legislative sessions, Arntzen said she has chaired five committees.
“Because of those communications skills, whatever idea someone brings forward, that idea has value,” she said. “I’ve always had a fresh, positive approach. I see 360 degrees around an issue. You look at it from all sides.”
Asked what separates her from the other four Republicans in the House race, Arntzen said she has served in the Legislature longer than her opponents.
“I’m very proud of my strong conservative record as well,” she said. “I believe mine is the strongest.”
As a legislator, Arntzen said she sponsored bills for constituents, including passing one to modify the hunter safety test for children with learning disabilities so they had an opportunity to hunt.
Arntzen said a candidate’s campaign fundraising would not necessarily be as important as how a candidate stands on the issues.
“It’s about who we are and believability with the voters,” she said. “I’ve won five elections. I’m a Billings girl.”
On another issue, Arntzen praised the two sides in Congress for coming up with the recently passed budget deal, but said she wouldn’t have supported it because it spent too much.
“I have a grandbaby born two weeks ago,” Arntzen said. “Fifty-four thousand dollars was the bill given to her on her birthday on Jan. 10. That was her share of the $17 trillion national debt.”
Besides Arntzen, Republicans running for the U.S. Congress are: state Sen. Matt Rosendale of Glendive, former state Sen. Corey Stapleton of Billings, Drew Turiano of Helena and former state Sen. Ryan Zinke of Whitefish.
Former Secretary of State Brad Johnson has said he also would seek the House seat, but he’s now considering whether to run for the Public Service Commission instead.
The lone Democrat running so far is John Lewis of Helena.