I have a strong belief it is important to be able to disagree on issues without being disagreeable. So let me simply say to Darrell Ehrlick regarding his column about the propriety of my U.S. Senate exploratory committee: I disagree.

Let me explain why.

First, my U.S. Senate exploratory committee has been given a clean bill of health by the Judicial Standards Commission, the pre-eminent authority on such matters. It sounds like Ehrlick doesn’t like the rules. If so, the constructive thing to do is try to change those rules, rather render attacks on those following those rules.

Second, I set up the exploratory committee and gave four months resignation notice because it was (and is) the right thing to do. I wanted to finish this job I have been blessed with for 22 years well. I could have avoided these questions by suddenly resigning. I did not want to do that and leave thousands of litigants in the lurch.

The easy way out would have been to resign as a judge immediately. However, I did not want to leave the people of Yellowstone County and my fellow judges understaffed. This decision opened me up to criticism, but it was the right thing to do. Judges need to do the right thing, even if it doesn’t poll well. If I do run, that’s the type of approach I will take to the U.S. Senate.

Third, the exploratory committee is the approved method to “test the waters” by the Federal Elections Commission. I am considering a run because I have seen the economic hardships Montanans face and believe I have unique qualifications as a judge for 22 years to address those issues. Listening to Montanans is not unethical — thank the Lord.

Fourth, all my actions, from contacting people, giving speeches, and even some fundraising are approved by the FEC and the Canons of Judicial Conduct. But don’t take my word for it, take the Judicial Standards word for it.

Fifth, yes I’ve said I have the best chance of defeating Senator Tester should I run. That is not identifying myself as a candidate, that is stating my belief.

And last, yes "judge" is on my logo for the exploratory committee. I am honored to have been a judge for 22 years, and, as another former judge told, “once a judge, always a judge.” This is a good way for people to know my background, which I think gives me a rare perspective on the issues Montanans face.

Our constitution, divinely inspired, gives everyone the right to express their opinions. That’s why I defend Ehrlick’s right to his editorial. The free exchange of ideas makes our country great. My only suggestion to him is while opinions are good, facts are even better.

I look forward to my next chapter, whether it be just establishing my own law firm, or additional pursuits, such a run for the U.S. Senate, which will be addressed after my time on the bench has come to an end.

Thank you for considering my side and God bless.

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