The Gazette asked: What is the most urgent, important issue affecting Montana that Congress must act on in 2015?
Elsie Arntzen: Republican
Our nation’s out-of-control spending is having a major effect on this current generation, a problem that will only get worse for our children and grandchildren. We must get our federal debt under control before we dig an even deeper hole for future generations. That’s why I wholeheartedly support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, just like we have in Montana. We cannot continue to allow China to finance our growing $17 trillion debt, so it is vital that we immediately reduce federal spending. It’s sickening that Montana tax dollars go to support federal agencies like the EPA, when their Washington bureaucrats spend so much time restricting natural resource development and preventing job growth in our state. It is well past time to take a hard look at the budgets of these agencies and ask if Americans are really getting a good return on their hard-earned tax dollars.
Elsie Arntzen, of Billings, is a state senator who is on leave from an elementary teaching job.
John Driscoll: Democrat
Montanans have lost their confidence in our federal government. The single most important challenge affecting Montana is to get work going by all federal legislators, defining the nation’s priority problems and then joining hands across party lines to solve those priority problems. I’m talking about getting a backlog of real work in our nation’s interest completed and out the door. People need to regain confidence that our system of representative government can and does work.
John Driscoll, of Helena, retired from the Montana National Guard and is a former Montana public service commissioner.
Mike Fellows: Libertarian
There will be several issues that will affect Montana in 2015, including Obamacare, privacy and the REAL ID Act. Homeland security is at the heart of snooping into our private lives, and we need to eliminate Section 215 of the Patriot Act. But if Homeland Security decides to enforce its regulations on the REAL ID Act or the national ID card, this will affect Montanans who want to open up a bank account, or travel out of state. Montana has already said our driver licenses are secure. We know Congress will do nothing to protect our privacy, since it was Congress, during Republican majorities, that passed many of these laws, in the name of security. The REAL ID Act would have never passed on its own, but was instead inserted into a spending bill. I will sponsor legislation to eliminate these riders.
Mike Fellows of Missoula is Montana Libertarian Party chairman.
John Lewis: Democrat
Preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare now and for future generations. As a rural state with an aging population and incomes more well below the national average, Medicare and Social Security are a literal lifeline for more than 200,000 of our parents, family members and neighbors. Together, Medicare and Social Security contribute almost $3 billion to the Montana economy. Despite their effectiveness and popularity, these two programs are currently under attack by special interests that would destroy Social Security and Medicare as we know it. Some want to raise the retirement age or transform Social Security into a system of private accounts. Rep. Paul Ryan’s latest budget proposal would force every person 55 or younger to buy private insurance, and increase traditional Medicare premiums by a staggering 50 percent. As a member of Congress, I will have no greater priority than protecting and enhancing these two essential programs.
John Lewis, of Helena, is married and the father of two young children. He worked for Max Baucus before starting this House campaign.
Over-regulation. Federal departments and agencies have been allowed to pass rules and regulations that have burdened our businesses and put Montanans out of work. Their budgets have grown, as has their reach into our state.
The EPA is attacking our coal industry. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is eliminating jobs in the timber industry, outfitting industry, and all of those who rely upon them by their control of lands as a result of their interpretation of the Endangered Species Act. Our farmers and ranchers have had their property rights diminished because of the same.
Finally, we have seen the federal government try to take over one-sixth of our economy and control of the most private decisions in our life with the implementation of Obamacare. This must be repealed and replaced with components of a free market system, which I have gone into more detail on my website at mattformontana.com.
Matt Rosendale, of Glendive, is a state senator and real estate developer.
Corey Stapleton: Republican
The Obama administration has had six years to get this economy going and their policies haven't worked. Wages are going down, and there are not enough good paying jobs. We need to start making things in America again, and stop shipping jobs overseas. We need common-sense political leaders who recognize that excessive regulations are hurting our economy. It's time to produce more energy here at home, and educate people for jobs of the 21st century. These issues regarding our economy and jobs are what I'd like to work on in the 2015 Congress.
Corey Stapleton, of Billings, is a financial adviser, former state senator and former U.S. Navy officer.
Drew Turiano: Republican
I think that the most urgent and important issue facing Montana and America that Congress must act upon is placing a complete moratorium on all immigration to America.
If we don't, it will be the end of conservatism in America.
Most immigrants who have come into America for decades and will continue to come are big government people. They will always support the party of big government at the polls — the Democrats and not the party of small government — the Republicans.
This means the GOP will soon be doomed at the national polls shortly.
It will mean that Obamacare will forever stay and the high debt and high deficit will get worse because the left doesn't care about rectifying any of that.
The end of conservatism will mean Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or worse alternating the presidency for the next 50 years. This will not bode well for Montana or America.
Drew Turiano, of Helena, is a real estate investor.
Ryan Zinke: Republican
Removing excessive government barriers and senseless regulations that effect small businesses so that we can create jobs, grow the economy, and obtain energy independence. We need to promote and support Montana working families so that the American dream of having a good job, owning a home, and making a better future for our children remains achievable. Immediate action should be taken on approving the Keystone XL pipeline, creating positive solutions for our broken health care system and peeling back bureaucratic rules that have cost business trillions of dollars each year.
Ryan Zinke, of Whitefish, is a former state senator and former U.S. Navy SEAL who heads a consulting firm.