HELENA — In his low-key race for governor, Libertarian Ron Vandevender says he wants to create more jobs, encourage the formation of more agricultural cooperatives and urge the federal government to legalize hemp.
Vandevender, 53, lives off the power grid in Craig and runs a self-sufficient ranch, raising his own meat and vegetables. He said he barters whatever is left over with other people for other products he needs. He previously managed several fast food restaurants, ran a chain of pawn shops in Mississippi for the owner and ran an Internet retail business.
The candidate, who has a mailing address in Cascade, has lost previous races for the U.S. House and the state House.
Vandevender said in an interview he has a jobs plan.
“I want to push more private sector jobs in Montana, built by Montanans and employing Montanans and away from the super-store mentality,” he said.
Vandevender said his goal is to create 25,000 to 40,000 jobs “in a short while.”
“One thing we’d push for is hemp,” he said. “It’s a legal crop in Montana, but nobody plants it because they’re worried about the feds.”
The Montana Legislature voted in 2001 to authorize the production of industrial hemp, but federal law prohibits such activity.
If hemp were grown on 1 percent of Montana’s farmlands, Vandevender said the state could reap than $300 million in new income. Hemp has thousands of uses, he said, including rope, material and paper products.
Second, Vandevender wants to push for the formation of more agricultural cooperatives to give smaller landowners a chance to raise cattle and grow vegetables and sell or trade them to other co-op members.
“We could be producing the bulk of our own food,” he said. “I would like to see more of our beef processed here. It would be cheaper for us to buy, stretch our dollars and increase our retail market. Farmers could buy small acreage through the co-op, buy the stuff they need at a cheaper rate and sell it at a higher rate.”
Vandevender also wants to see dead trees logged from the forests to create jobs and improve the state’s environment.
“We’ve got to get rid of the dead-standers,” he said. “It’s not good for the environment. The fires are tearing up our air quality. There is more smoke put into the air from wildfires than from coal plants. This would create jobs and use the product. Southerners love the Ponderosa pine bark. They put it around their gardens.”
Then new trees could be reseeded, with hemp planted alongside them to hold the seedlings in place, he said.
Another change Vandevender advocated was to change Montana’s primary election in which people can vote only in the Democratic or Republican primary. He favors an open primary in which someone could vote for the candidates of both parties.
He’d also like to see the Montana Constitution amended to cut the 100 House districts to 20 districts. Each district would elect one Democrat, one Republican, one Libertarian, one Green Party member and one independent.
“It will force them to sit down and sort things out and quit playing games,” Vandevender said.
He favors a gradual cut in taxes, particularly property taxes, as the tax base is expanded.
Schools waste a lot of money, he said, calling for the state to order pens and pencils and other supplies in bulk for all school districts in Montana.
Vandevender said he will push hard for alternative energy such as wind and solar power. The state could build solar panels and sell them. At the same time, he said the state needs to keep producing oil and coal.
“If we don’t use the coal, sell it out of state or out of country,” Vandevender said. He said he would like to see utilities build new power plants here and tear down existing ones to better control pollution.
The Libertarian favors lowering the number of wolves in Montana “because our ecosystem cannot hold wolves.” Vandevender said he raises wolf hybrids that are 80-90 percent wolves and the rest Siberian huskies.