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There are many reasons, we believe, to vote for Jon Tester in his bid for a third term in the U.S. Senate. Montana’s interests are best served by the man who has proven his commitment to them.

Here are the reasons that matter the most to us:

- Healthcare, rural healthcare in particular, but really everybody’s healthcare. We believe that coverage of preexisting conditions is of critical interest. We also believe that rural healthcare is of critical importance to a state with more rural miles – and population – than almost any other. We thirdly believe that with an average lifespan disparity of 20 years between Native and non-Native Montanans, it’s high time the federal government focused on the needs of the Native Americans to whom it has long ago promised to deliver health care.

Here’s how these two men differ in each of these areas: a.) Tester has fought for the Affordable Care Act, which forces insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions. That amounts to 25 percent of Montanans. If you have diabetes, heart trouble, cancer, or any of hundreds more preexisting conditions, the rallying cry to “repeal Obamacare” means you would most likely lose coverage. It’s not at all unusual for a single hospital stay to produce a bill in six figures. Without insurance that is a bankrupting blow for almost everyone. Matt Rosendale supports repealing the Affordable Care Act and says he believes that preexisting conditions can be handled through a waiver the state can get to offer coverage. No other state has had success at this yet. b.) Rural health care is of critical importance to hundreds of thousands of Montanans. The ACA and Medicaid expansion have helped rural hospitals stay afloat. Without them, many Montanans would be bereft of medical care or dependent on a ride to an urban area that can be far too long to be survivable. Also, Rosendale has supported allowing “Medi-Share” (a program found to be fraudulent elsewhere that’s based on accepting members that can prove they’re living a “Biblical” lifestyle) back into Montana after it was banned in 2007. c.) The Indian Health Service’s level of care has been termed “genocidal.” Tester’s dismantling of the IHS’s former director in a committee hearing is not only prime YouTube material for those interested in the evisceration of bureaucrats as a blood sport; it also indicates his level of knowledge and concern on this issue. When asked directly about the lifespan disparity, Rosendale suggested that better educational opportunity, including charter schools, would be a key strategy to combat it. While we are all for better educational opportunity on the reservations (and elsewhere), we believe the impact of privately run schools on the lifespan disparity would be long-term and incremental at best, absent more direct measures.

- Farmers and veterans. Just two of the Senate’s 100 members could even remotely be called farmers, and Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, although raised on a farm, has long since passed on the daily responsibilities of his farm to his kids. Tester is the only Senator who has had his posterior parked in the cab of a tractor any time recently. And we believe that perspective is invaluable to Montana agriculture. Similarly, even though Rosendale recently denigrated it as “little stuff,” Tester’s actions on behalf of veterans – and his Senate seniority on the Veterans Affairs Committee – are enormously important to the 10 percent of Montana’s population who are veterans. (Which brings us to)

- Seniority. Montanans would be foolish to throw away the advantage they have in Jon Tester’s Senate seniority. The Senate is a place where seniority makes an enormous difference in what you can get done. Tester has earned his current rank of 36th (it would be higher but for Montana’s low population, which happens to be the seniority tiebreaker) and if he’s victorious he will rise much farther on the list. It is how, for instance, he was able to get federal funding for the Butte VA home – which, by the way, Rosendale voted against in the Montana Legislature.

- Knowledge beyond talking points. In discussing the Kavanaugh nomination, Rosendale was asked in our editorial board discussion how he felt about the handling of the Merrick Garland nomination. That resulted in a blank stare, a several-second pause and the eventual statement, “I’m sorry, I didn’t watch much of that.”

Well, Mr. Rosendale, neither did anybody else – because Merrick Garland didn’t ever get a confirmation hearing, in the 293 days his nomination was pending before the Senate. Not understanding the Garland situation means judging the Kavanaugh nomination in a vacuum and that’s a startling thing for a would-be senator.

- Public lands. Matt Rosendale says that he has had a conversion of views on this issue. He says he’s listened to the people of Montana and decided to support what they support – the preservation of the state’s public lands. But what distresses us is that a conversion to that view was necessary (one wonders if political consultants have informed Rosendale how the issue polls in the state). Our distress stems from the fact that Rosendale repeatedly said in public forums before his recent change of heart that public lands should be transferred from federal to state control – a talking point of the Sagebrush Rebellion, the Bundys and their supporters, and others of fundamentalist anti-federal government stripe. It’s a tough orientation to get behind for someone looking for one of the most powerful federal jobs in the land.

It should be said here that we believe some of Tester’s anti-Rosendale advertising has crossed the line from fairness to meanness and downright xenophobia. We do not believe the fact Rosendale is a Maryland native should be held against him. He has lived in the state for a long time and we support making candidate decisions on policy, not on place of origin. We are absolutely disgusted by the tenor of the advertising on both sides.

Bottom line: We believe Jon Tester works hard for Montana and for the country, and we support his reelection to the United States Senate.

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