HELENA — In the Republican primary for Montana’s eastern congressional district the acknowledged underdog candidates have attacked incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale over his voting record and his lack of experience in agriculture.
Rosendale was elected as Montana’s only congressman in 2020 and is running for re-election in District 2. The state gained an additional House district this year after 30 years as a single, statewide district. The new eastern congressional district includes the cities of Billings, Glendive, Great Falls, Helena and Miles City. District 2 has a 22-percentage-point lean for Republicans, 60% to 38% among its current voter make up, according to Dave's Redistricting, which analyzes congressional districts.
Rosendale’s first term was spent voting “no” on every major Biden administration initiative. Montana’s at-large representative defended his voting record when he spoke to MTN News in January. He said he couldn’t support legislation to over-extend government power and spending.
Rosendale’s opponents have criticized his voting record, including his decision early this year to vote no on a non-binding resolution in support of the people of Ukraine. Rosendale was one of three representatives to vote no on the resolution.
“We've had 105,000 People die in our country just last year alone from drug overdoses,” Rosendale said. “We have major, major problems. So, I wasn't going to sign off on a resolution even insinuating unlimited military and monetary support.”
Since then, Rosendale said he supported resolutions placing extreme sanctions on Russia.
With Republicans in the minority for his first term, Rosendale said it stymied his efforts to even get a hearing on some of his proposed legislation. If Republicans win back the U.S. House in the midterms, which Rosendale expects they will, he will have more ability to create and pass policy.
“Forest management litigation reform so that we can get timber out of the woods in logs, instead of having it go up in smoke,” Rosendale said. “I want to have some reforms on the endangered species act so that we can delisted grizzly bear now that we have far surpassed the target populations, I introduced several pieces of health care legislation to give consumers more control over their health care dollars to reel in the cost of prescription drugs. That is critically important legislation that touches everyone.”
Rosendale repeated his belief that the Republicans would retake the U.S. House this election cycle. He said people would see the stark difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is when it comes to protecting life, Rosendale said. He called the Democratic Party’s stances on abortion “radical.” When asked about how criminalization of abortion might affect women experiencing a miscarriage, Rosendale said anyone who said something might happen to those women is saying that as a fear tactic.
“There is no one that is ever going to hold a woman responsible for, certainly not having a miscarriage,” Rosendale said. “And really, for not even at abortion because she is not the one who actually makes the, takes the life. She doesn’t take the life. She’s another innocent victim.”
At the end of the first quarter of 2022, Rosendale’s campaign chest was more than a million dollars. His opponents, Kyle Austin, James Boyette and Charles Walking Child, raised less than $5,000.
Austin, a pharmacist in Billings, said he put his name on the ballot for the eastern congressional district because he wanted Montana voters to have a choice. He didn’t want to leave voters “stuck” with Rosendale, he said.
“You know I’ve never voted for Matt Rosendale,” Austin said. “When he was the only person on the ballot and had no competition, I left it blank. And the reason is, Matt Rosendale’s not from Montana, Matt Rosendale moved to eastern Montana and bought a big ranch but, when it comes to agriculture, he doesn’t show up to any of the agricultural meetings, he doesn’t show up to any of the agricultural debates. Matt Rosendale’s not healthy for Montana and Montana deserves better.”
Born on a farm in Havre, Austin said his background is better suited to represent the industry in eastern Montana.
“I understand agriculture, I understand what it takes, I understand the financial hurdles, I understand the drought,” Austin said. “Next year is when we draft the 2023 Farm Bill, which is a farm bill that will provide funding and pricing for the next five years in agriculture. Farmers and ranchers have been feeding America and putting the food on the tables for years, it’s time America actually had the farmers and ranchers back moving forward.”
At a May 9 Republican Central Committee in Helena, Walking Child said he wanted to help with the rising cost of food. The entrepreneur also mentioned the importance of returning Native American bodies and artifacts to their origins of Montana.
Boyette is a medical sales representative in Bozeman. His campaign literature focused on limiting government spending.