Greg Gianforte says Mike Cooney's never had a real job.
For the past four decades, from the Legislature to the lieutenant governorship with many stops in between, Mike Cooney has served the people of Montana with principle, dedication and an irrepressible cheerfulness.
Cooney and his running mate, Casey Schreiner, are both from Butte. By some, that could be considered reason enough for The Montana Standard to endorse them. But there are other compelling reasons to make this choice.
Cooney has been consistent. He does not have a reputation for dissembling; just the opposite. So we can be comfortable that where he says he stands is indeed where his convictions and values are rooted.
He has worked with many Republicans as well as Democrats. He has shown his dedication to preserving our public lands and public access to them, making it clear that public lands are "an incredible driver of our economy" and important to Montana values. "This will continue to be a fight, standing up to special interests on public lands," he says. It will be, and he is the person to lead that fight.
Cooney is committed to driving down the cost of prescription drugs. He believes that people should not have to compromise their own health by having to choose between paying the mortgage or rent, buying food or buying prescriptions.
Cooney is also committed to expanding affordable heath care, particularly as we continue to face alarming COVID-19 numbers here in Montana. And he is a passionate believer in and supporter of public education.
Gianforte, too, loves Montana's outdoors. He talks fondly of buying a fly rod in 1980 and hiking across the Bob Marshall Wilderness. He says he's proud of his work on conservation. But despite that genuine love of the outdoors, his record is ambiguous. He claims to have led the way on the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act after hearing that the business community in Park County deeply opposed mining near Yellowstone. He also cites the wild and scenic river designation of a portion of the Rosebud River. But Gianforte supported the now-defeated nomination of public-land-sale advocate William Perry Pendley to lead the Bureau of Land Management. And Gianforte's bills to strip Wilderness Study Area designation from 700,000 acres of Montana public lands went nowhere but are still remembered.
Gianforte speaks equally fondly of cooking elk, venison, moose and duck for Democratic colleagues at his Washington, D.C. apartment, using a home-cooked meal as a way to help build relationships. Who can argue with that? He promises to do the same in the Governor's Mansion, and we have to admit being charmed by the image of Joe Kennedy III chewing on a moose steak and talking healthcare with Gianforte.
But Cooney's record of coalition-building and extending himself to find consensus in the Legislature is real and compelling.
We find Gianforte's most compelling and well-articulated issue position to be the one that launched him in politics. He believes passionately that we must provide more good-paying jobs so that our children can make their homes and livelihoods in Montana if they so choose. "In Montana, we export beef, grain and our kids," he says.
There's no question that Gianforte's entrepreneurial background and anti-regulation mantra tell a good story — one that farmers, ranchers and small business owners in particular can relate to. We get it.
But we believe that government should not always be run like a business. Government is a public service. An apt example is the recent near-felonious mismanagement of the U.S. Postal Service in the name of cost-cutting.
We are not pleased, as infection rates rise rapidly across the state, that Gianforte preaches "personal responsibility" over regulation on COVID-19 precautions — and then exhibits a lack of said responsibility at some public events.
One other thing. We are occasionally asked: Does Gianforte's 2018 election-eve assault of reporter Ben Jacobs still bother us?
Why, yes. Yes, it does. Because we believe it revealed a fundamental character flaw. It is not the only time Gianforte has been sharp and abrasive with the media, although it is by far the most extreme example.
We are worried about the prospect of a governor who can't stand the heat.
Could you imagine Mike Cooney losing it with a reporter and body-slamming him?
We can't either.
For governor, The Montana Standard endorses Mike Cooney.
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