HELENA -- Democratic state Sen. Kim Gillan filed for the U.S. House Thursday, saying she will bring a strong voice from Montana to Congress.
"Montana has only one voice in the U.S. House of Representatives," the veteran Billings legislator said at a press conference. "That voice must be experienced and effective. It must speak clearly, responsibly and strongly on behalf of working families across Montana. I'm running for Congress to be that voice."
Gillian has served eight sessions in the Montana Legislature and said she believes that she has delivered results.
Montana hasn't had a strong member of the House since U.S. Rep. Pat Williams retired in 1997, she said. Williams' two Republican successors in the House -- Rick Hill, now a candidate for governor, and Denny Rehberg, now running for the U.S. Senate -- have been "do-nothing members of Congress."
"This is the year that this changes," she said. "Montana is going to elect an experienced fighter for Montana families."
Gillian leads all seven Democrats on the June primary ballot in fundraising and has amassed the most cash on hand so far. Other Democrats running are: Melinda Gopher of Missoula; Diane Smith of Whitefish; City Council member Dave Strohmaier of Missoula; Rob Stutz of Helena; Jayson Ward of Hardin; and state Rep. Franke Wilmer of Bozeman.
Two Republicans are running, Eric Brosten of Helena and Steve Daines of Bozeman. Daines has raised more money than all of the other candidates from both parties combined.
Gillan said she believes that delivering results is more important than politics and partisanship. From her legislative experience, Gillan said she knows how to work across party lines to achieve results without compromising principles.
She cited laws she passed that guaranteed insurance coverage for treatments for autism and diabetes, created a job training assistance program for small businesses, cracked down on telecommunications fraud and promoted expanded enforcement of drunken driving laws.
Gillan, 60, is workforce development coordinator at Montana State University-Billings and previously worked to help American Indian organizations improve their economies and create jobs through small business development.
She told reporters that the top issue in the campaign is finding ways to get the economy back on track to spur job creation.
Asked what separates her from her Democratic opponents, Gillan cited her 16 years in the Legislature, her leadership roles in most sessions and her being able to pass some critically important bills that help hard working families.
"Now more than ever, folks want some problems to be solved," she said. "They don't want Band-aids."
Asked about the federal stimulus, Gillan said the Montana Legislature played a key role in determining how the money was spent, with the money being used to create or sustain thousands of jobs here, mostly in infrastructure.
As for the federal health care law, Gillan said she doesn't favor its repeal. She said it contains some important components such as allowing kids to remain on their parents' health insurance policies until they're 26 and improving affordability and access of health care for Americans.
"The current system wasn't working," she said, calling the bill "an important step forward."