The Bitterroot Star requested the following information from all candidates who have challengers in this election cycle.
• brief bio and photo
• statement of why you are running and the issues that are important to you
• your opinion of how the state is handling the COVID-19 situation
Here are their responses, in their own words.
After representing House District 87 for the past eight years, I am now term-limited out of the Montana House of Representatives and am a candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Fred Thomas, who is also term-limited out. For the past six years, I have been Chairman of House Appropriations and have served on the Legislative Finance Committee. Prior to serving in the Montana Legislature, I served on the Hamilton School Board.
I retired as an Information Technology executive responsible for developing large scale business applications for IBM, Farmers Insurance and Zurich Financial Services. I am a woodworker, horsewoman, golfer, skier and gardener. My husband and I have one son who lives in Corvallis with his wife and our two grandsons.
I believe I am uniquely qualified to represent Senate District 44 as I have represented half of the district as their legislator for the past eight years. During that time, I have earned the reputation of being one of the hardest working, most effective legislators in the House based on my record of delivering conservative solutions in healthcare, education, and economic development for Ravalli County and Montana families and businesses.
As the chairman of House Appropriations for the past six years, I reduced the size and scope of Montana’s budget while increasing our financial reserves and re-filling the Fire Fund without sacrificing funding for the critical services our families and businesses depend on.
My priorities have been and continue to be focused on access to high quality, affordable healthcare; job creation and economic development; flexibility in educational opportunities; public safety; and the fiscal strength of the state. Significant progress has been made in all of these areas but much more needs to be done. I will continue to support reforms to Medicaid that focus on preventing fraud and limiting access to those most in need while providing assistance for low-income workers and protecting the viability of Montana hospitals. I will continue to support programs for business growth in Ravalli County and infrastructure that will help attract new high-paying jobs. I will continue working on new models for delivering education and training to meet the needs of our students, workers and businesses. I will continue to support programs to prevent drug and human trafficking. I will work to make permanent a pilot project I supported last session that provides direct assistance for Ravalli County veterans’ services. And, I will continue working on fiscal policies that sustain a healthy economy and provide opportunity for Montana and Ravalli County workers and families.
I believe Senate District 44 needs the type of leadership, experience and tangible results I have provided over the past eight years.
I believe the willingness of Montana citizens to practice the safety precautions and follow guidelines set forth by two polar-opposite political leaders is the defining factor that kept Montana’s COVID-19 case numbers low.
However, despite the fact Montana went into the COVID-19 situation with the highest financial reserves in decades, the impact of the economic shutdown will affect us for years. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more Federal deficit growth, our tax revenues are decreasing, unemployment is soaring, and many of our workers are struggling to provide for themselves and their families. Montana and Ravalli County’s ability to return to our former economic strength and growth is dependent upon rapid and wise distribution of the federal stimulus funds in a manner that prioritizes restarting existing businesses, assisting workers and families, and regaining the momentum we lost in the development of new business opportunities. To that end, I will continue providing input to the state COVID-19 Task Force to ensure Ravalli County is well represented as decisions are being made regarding the distribution and use of federal stimulus funds.
The COVID-19 situation has clearly shown the undeniable fact that the health of our economy is highly dependent upon a healthy workforce. If we are to emerge strong from the economic crisis facing Montana, we cannot continue the politically charged rhetoric regarding healthcare policy. We cannot afford to elect politicians who will instill fear and anger while doing nothing to improve our situation. Montana and Ravalli County need a Senator with the ability and the courage to pass responsible healthcare policy and sound economic policy to bring our economy back from the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic and restore prosperity for Montana and Ravalli County families and businesses.
I am 67 years old and have lived in the Bitterroot Valley with my husband, Skip, and our Labrador Retrievers, for 30 years. Throughout a long Forest Service career, I held a number of leadership positions where I managed million dollar budgets, supervised natural resource professionals, firefighters, skilled tradesmen and women, and volunteers doing the work of maintaining and protecting our public lands. I worked primarily with the timber and outdoor recreation industry managing conflict, negotiating differences of opinions to find common ground, making decisions always guided by the time-tested motto for “the greatest good, for the greatest number, in the long run.”
In retirement, I am a volunteer for non-profits using my expertise to give back to my community by promoting natural resource management, public lands, and tourism.
Planning for the 2005-2006 Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, I developed a network of contacts across the country who work to maintain and develop trails on public lands. More recently, as a Board member for the Partnership for the National Trails System, I lobby Congress to pass laws and appropriate funding to maintain our trails that are so important for access to our public lands.
More locally, I helped establish the non-profit Friends of Fort Owen, a group of people dedicated to preserving and maintaining Fort Owen State Park to enhance its value as an educational and tourism asset to Stevensville. I also am a member of the Ravalli County Citizens’ Collaborative which was started by the Ravalli County Commissioners to help provide local input into Bitterroot National Forest management issues.
I am guided by the values instilled in me by my mother, a junior high math teacher and my father, a career military man. “Study hard, work hard, be organized, and plan ahead” is my golden rule of success. I made them proud when I earned an undergraduate degree in Forest Resources from the University of Washington and later a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning from the University of California-Berkeley.
My experience in the Forest Service and now in non-profits has prepared me well for the challenges of being your State Senator. As a public servant, I have been in the trenches listening to widely opposing viewpoints; have been the target of public frustration; have solved complex problems with inadequate funding; have been responsible for complying with local, state, and federal laws and for building relationships with numerous private enterprises and governmental agencies.
Projects succeed when the power of the government is leveraged with the strength of private business and teams become much more creative when they open their ranks to members with different viewpoints and values.
policy. We cannot afford to elect politicians who will instill fear and anger while doing nothing to improve our situation. Montana and Ravalli County need a Senator with the ability and the courage to pass responsible healthcare policy and sound economic policy to bring our economy back from the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic and restore prosperity for Montana and Ravalli County families and businesses.
Ravalli County is a solidly red county so why would a Democrat even try? Simply, to help solve the challenges facing Montana and to change the status quo.
The Bitterroot has been dominated by a single approach, viewpoint, ideology, and way to solve problems for years. Relying totally on “conservative values” as the only way to solve problems shuts out potentially good ideas that can solve issues that meets everyone’s needs.
Why is it so difficult for a Democrat to win in Ravalli County? We believe in equal opportunity and that everyone should have a shot at the American Dream. We believe in passing laws to protect the disadvantaged. We believe in capitalism to drive the economy but that achieving wealth should not come at the expense of providing workers a living wage or degrading the environment.
What’s so wrong with that? Yes, it requires that government play an important role to fund pay and deliver services that are not profitable for the private sector. This doesn’t mean government can solve all problems. Government can be more efficient, less wasteful and many regulations can be streamlined. If there is a problem, let’s fix it. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that problems are complex and solutions don’t come easy. I am a practical, middle of the road person who believes that solving real world problems takes listening to all sides, finding common ground and coming up with policies and programs that benefit as many of us as possible. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have all the answers.
Government leaders should unite us, not divide us. Leadership means representing all of us not just some of us. For example:
• How do we make health care affordable for everyone without raising taxes on those who can’t afford it?
• Where can we strengthen our educational system so our children are prepared to be successful in a global economy and to develop a workforce to fill new clean industry jobs?
• How can we grow small business jobs in the valley and in the state without regulating them to the point they are not profitable and damaging the very reason we all love it here?
Although healthcare, education, and jobs are my high priorities, there are many other issues important to me, Ravalli County residents and Montanans.
This is a new day. As your Senator, I will be asking the hard questions as the legislature grapples with the economic fallout and health issues created by this pandemic. Can we soften the short-term impacts created by this crisis while keeping our eye on fixing these long-term problems?
If you want your Senator to look out for ways to make a better future for all of us, then I am your choice. You can learn more about my views by visiting my website: www.margaretgorskiforsd44.com
One of the most important responsibilities of the Governor and our State Legislature is to protect our health and safety. Given the facts that over 20% of Montanans are over 60 years old, the state has an inventory of 5,000 vacation rentals, people come from all over the world to visit, and that we have limited ICU beds and ventilators in our mostly rural hospitals, I think the governor acted wisely in issuing his stay at home order as quickly as he did. I expect our leaders to base decisions on expert advice and science. Although some say he over reacted, it’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback. Put yourself in his shoes. With the same information, what would you have done?
The COVID-19 threat is not over. The hard work is just beginning. The damage to our economy and disruption to our lives has been significant. As we try to “get back to work,” the threat of illness overwhelming our hospitals remains. With summer just around the corner, the reality of having an economy fueled by tourism bringing “outsiders” into the state makes recovery even more challenging.
It is the job of our political leaders to evaluate the scope of the damage to our citizens, both locally and across the state. They must make decisions about how to support and assist individuals and businesses to get back on their feet. If elected, I would base such decisions on facts and with the goal of making Montana even stronger than ever before, not on political ideology.
This pandemic has shown us how important frontline workers are to our lives. Every day they risk their health and that of their families to protect us. I am truly grateful to all of them! Thank you! COVID-19 has also shown us how many Montanans are one pay check away from not having food on the table, how important reliable internet access is for education and business, and how scary and unfair it is to not have health insurance.
I think our priority should now be to address the shortcomings and inequities in our systems that have been laid bare by this pandemic and to provide for the needs of our small main street businesses that are the economic lifeblood in Ravalli County and across the state. Montana is in line to receive $1.25 billion from the CARES Act and even more as Congress provides additional Federal stimulus money. Once we understand more fully the effect on the state’s revenue and how deeply we must tap into and backfill the Budget Stabilization Fund, hard decisions will need to be made to balance the budget. Where will cuts in General Fund services and programs need to be made? How should we spend the stimulus money to gain the biggest benefit to the state? These important questions need answers now and will be fought over for years to come. Who do you want in the legislature making those decisions? Someone who uses “Conservative Values” as the catch all answer or someone who is a pragmatist and a planner who believes she should listen and take good ideas from all sides to come up with solutions? This pandemic has created a new day and shown us that our immediate priorities in Montana should be protecting the needs of our frontline workers and supporting our small main street businesses. These will be my priorities as your next Senator.
Timothy Gibney, Democrat
To current and future friends in SD 44, please allow me to introduce myself. I’m Theresa Manzella and I’ve had the honor of representing the good people of HD85 for the past six years.
I’m a Christian, Constitutional, Conservative, Republican. I have a proven “A” rated voting record over the last three sessions with the Montana Family Foundation, Montana Shooting Sports Association, the NRA, Americans For Prosperity, United Property Owners of Montana, National Federation of Independent Business, Montanans for Limited Government and Legistats /Legislator Loyalty (as compared to my opponent’s recent F). I’ve also earned the Conservative Achievement Award from the American Conservative Union for voting in adherence to the U.S. Constitution over the past three sessions as well. I’m the 2017 “Keeper of the 10th” award winner for preserving States Rights and I’ve also received the Phyllis Schlafly Eagle Forum Award.
I was elected by Republicans across the state of Montana to lead the delegation to the RNC in 2016 which was ultimately the first step in the electing President Trump and getting our country back on the right track. I have been dubbed the “Donald Trump of Ravalli County” by Democrats for my candid, straight talk, which is something I embrace.
My legislative peers elected me to the leadership position of Whip in 2017, and I serve as the Vice Chair of Natural Resources. I’ve also served on the Environmental Quality Council, Ag, Judiciary & Local Government Committees.
After much thought, prayer and encouragement, I’ve decided to run for Senate District 44 – encompassing Corvallis, Victor, Stevensville, Florence and Pinesdale. Although it had not been my plan to move beyond the House of Representatives, after witnessing such a dramatic liberal change in Rep. Ballance’s voting habits last session, I believe it’s my civic duty to give the good citizens of the district a choice between two Republican candidates with very different ideas of what it means to be a Republican.
My opponent voted in support for increased Property Tax, Gas Tax, Bed Tax and utility rate hikes, to name just a few. Additionally, she voted to usurp the will of the people and the Republican caucus with her vote in support of Obamacare/Medicaid Expansion. This act pays for taxpayer funded abortions and sex changes, in addition to massive amounts of waste, fraud, and abuse that we’ve only begun to discover.
I have faith that our citizens prefer the traditional, conservative definition of Republican, over the trending “progressive” version threatening our party, our state and our country.
If you would like to discuss my position on issues, or just chat for the purpose of getting to know me, please call 546-WHOA (9462).
Unlike my opponent, my principles aren’t for sale to the highest bidder or the latest special interest. As a true Conservative, I will always fight for our individual citizens’ rights, and against government overreach.