HELENA — The chairman of Montana’s Public Service Commission, Republican Bill Gallagher of Helena, said Tuesday he’s been diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer.
Gallagher, 53, said he found out late last week from his physicians in Helena and is headed to Seattle this week for consultation and likely surgery at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.
“It appears that I am a good candidate for surgery, and most are not, because they’re diagnosed so late,” he said.
Gallagher, elected to his commission seat in 2010, said he hopes he can beat the disease and run for re-election in 2014 in PSC District 5.
“I have a window here, where in the next four or five months, I’ll know whether I’m capable or not,” he said. “I’m not conceding anything to this disease.”
Gallagher, an attorney, made his first run for public office in 2010 when he filed for the PSC, which regulates electric, gas, telephone and water utilities in the state.
Gallagher narrowly defeated fellow Republican Brad Johnson in the primary election and then soundly beat Democratic incumbent Ken Toole in the general election. Gallagher rolled up 58 percent of the vote in the six-county district, which includes Lewis and Clark, Flathead, Lake, Pondera, Glacier and Teton counties.
Gallagher also ran for lieutenant governor in 2012 as the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Ken Miller. They finished third in the Republican primary, which was won by Rick Hill.
Gallagher has been chairman of the PSC since January, chosen by fellow commissioners — all of whom are Republicans. He also served for a few months as PSC chairman in early 2011.
Gallagher campaigned as a conservative, free-market Republican and has often argued against programs and rules that he said favor alternative energy, such as wind power, for political reasons, rather than favoring the lowest-cost energy.
“I ran for office because there is a battle going (on) for the direction of our nation, state and local governments,” he said in a news release Tuesday. “Nearly every day, I skirmish with environmental and other special-interest groups that seek to treat us like cattle, take our money, destroy jobs, stifle our economy and raise our energy costs.
“Now I must fight another battle, not of my choosing, and beat this despicable disease so that I can get back to the work that people sent me to Helena to do, bringing common sense to our state energy policy.”
Gallagher’s news release also noted that treatment options for pancreatic cancer are limited, and that surgical removal of the tumor is possible in less than 20 percent of those diagnosed with the disease.