HELENA — Missoula City Council member Dave Strohmaier, who filed to run for the U.S. House this week, is emphasizing his local government ties in the six-way Democratic congressional primary.
Strohmaier, 47, has served as an elected member of the Missoula City Council since 2006 and believes it's time a local official represented Montana in Congress.
"Government doesn't get any more grass-roots than city councils or county commissions," he said. "We're not in session every other year (like the Legislature). We're in session every single week of the year.
"Much of what we do and accomplish locally is not so much because of what happens in Helena or Washington, D.C. It's in spite of it."
Strohmaier works as a professional historian for a private research firm. He spent 18 years of seasonal and full-time employment with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, fighting fires for 15 of the 18 years.
His top priority is revamping the U.S. political system and taking head-on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That ruling held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political spending by corporations and unions.
"Unless we take on the influence of money and corporate power in our political system, we have not addressed the root issue," he said. "It boils down to being willing to take on the Citizens United court case and do what we can as a nation to make clear that corporations are not persons and that speech is not the same thing as money."
If he could sum up his campaign, Strohmaier said it's about stewardship.
"First and foremost, to me, that means being a good steward of the land, being a steward of the public trust and reforming government and the political system," he said. "The approval rating of Congress is something like 9 percent these days. The question I would like to ask is, who the heck this 9 percent is."
Strohmaier said he also advocates being a steward of public investments by investing in education and public works projects.
"I concur wholeheartedly that we take steps that are necessary to create a healthy economy," he said. "By investing in infrastructure, we can create catalyst projects that both create healthy communities and revitalize our economy."
As a city council member, Strohmaier said he spearheaded the development of a master plan for the downtown core of Missoula. It's already been "a significant catalyst of reinvestment of over a million dollars," he said.
Strohmaier said he is a strong supporter of investing in the country's rail infrastructure. If elected, he would promote the possibility of restoring a southern Amtrak route through Montana as well as maintaining Amtrak's Empire Builder route across the Hi-Line.
He also advocated stewardship of cultural heritage, such as greater federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities. Montana has not had a congressman that advocated for these programs since former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams retired in 1997, he said.
Strohmaier said it's critical that Montana's next U.S. representative, and leaders at all levels, focus on future generations.
"Having two small kids, I feel very strongly that we have got to have representation at all levels of government that has a clear focus on future generations and is not willing to take a short-sighted view and sell out our future for short-term gain," he said.
He and his wife, Gretchen, have two children, a son, Ezra, and a daughter, Liezel.