Tester,  Bullock both straight-talking, authentic candidates

This item originally appeared in: The Missoulian


Annick Smith

 We have many choices on November’s ballot, but the most important will be deciding who would best represent Montanans as governor and in the U.S. Senate. I have no hesitation in choosing Jon Tester and Steve Bullock. Here’s why.

I am 76 years old – a widow, mother of four sons and grandmother to three girls – and I’ m concerned about what my generation will pass on to our loved ones. The Montana I celebrated as an editor of “The Last Best Place” is a state where western history, natural beauty and unsurpassed outdoor recreation exist side by side with logging, agriculture and mining. But most of us live in towns where small business is the keystone, and what draws us together statewide is a sense of community, responsibility and balance.

Old-timers like me are aware of the corruption that dominated Montana politics when the Anaconda Company bought legislators and Senate seats and anyone willing to take their money. I thought we’d learned our lessons after the company left Butte and hightailed to Chile, leaving us to clean up their political and environmental messes – a job we’re still paying for today. Anaconda’s excesses led to a new state constitution that aimed to protect Montana citizens from corporate abuse. Both Sen. Tester and Attorney General Bullock have tried valiantly to keep these protections in place in the face of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that says corporations are people and can spend as much as they want to influence elections. Now, we are seeing the damage unlimited money can do in both state and national elections.

I have lived on a homestead ranch in the foothills of the Garnet Mountains for nearly 40 years, and I’ve seen politicians come and go. But since the days of Mike Mansfield and Pat Williams, I’ve never encountered two such dedicated, straight-talking and authentic Montana office holders as Bullock and Tester. Tester and Bullock will look you in the eye and listen. You can count on them to act on your behalf – and trust that they will not line their pockets in the process. Name your issue: Jobs. Education. Constitutional rights. Conservation. Technical innovation. Responsible energy development. Health care. Hunting and fishing. These two guys will be on your side. They support small business and agriculture, not insurance companies and corporate welfare. They don’t want a sales tax or tax breaks for millionaires but tax breaks for the middle class and small businesses.

Tester is rural to the core. A third-generation farmer from Big Sandy, he worked in his family’s butcher shop, taught music at Big Sandy’s public schools to keep his farm going, and represented his county in the Montana state Senate for eight years. During six years in the U.S. Senate, Tester worked to pass his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which would put people to work in the woods while safeguarding some of our most precious backcountry. He passed legislation that helps veterans find jobs and health care, added sections to farm bills that support Montana agriculture, and has stood up for equal pay for women as well as protecting Medicare and Social Security.

Bullock grew up in Helena, where he had a paper route, went to Helena High, guided tourists in the Gates of the Mountain Wilderness, and hunted and fished the mountains and streams of the area. He has worked to raise the state’s minimum wage, passed the sobriety law to get drunk drivers off the road, helped Montana homeowners avoid foreclosures, and defended our Corrupt Practices Act that would keep corporations from trying to buy Montana elections. We need young, smart, vigorous leaders like Bullock. He is dedicated to increasing funds for education, finding new ways to sell and market Montana products, and hopes to develop natural resources in traditional and innovative ways.

When you turn on your television from now until Nov. 4, you will be bombarded by negative messages from out-of-state PACs. My message is positive. Montana needs to look forward with forward-looking office holders like Tester and Bullock. These two men are our last best choices if we want to keep Montana the Last Best Place.