The Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation presented gubernatorial debates on Saturday that aired over many TV and radio stations statewide.

The debates were conducted via ZOOM with three TV news representatives as they questioned Republicans Congressman Greg Gianforte, Attorney General Tim Fox and Kalispell physician Al Olzewski. The Democrat candidates’ debate followed with current Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney and Missoula businesswoman Whitney Williams.

The Republicans sparred over numerous issues and then concluded with their closing statements.

First, Congressman Gianforte continued to tout his business experience and service as a U.S. Representative as the reasons for him to win the Republican primary.

“I’m the only one in this race with real business leadership experience that has actually created good paying jobs in Montana,” began Gianforte. “Folks, we are in unprecedented times. Many of you have lost your jobs, our main street businesses are closed, and ranchers can’t get a fair price for beef. We need experience to get our economy growing again. But, even before this crisis wages in Montana were among the lowest in the country, and many have had to leave our great state to find better opportunities. Folks, Montana has not been living up to its outstanding potential, and it’s time for that to change.”

Dr. Al Olszewski presented his case in closing.

“Our state is going to be looking at a fiscal crisis in 2021 that is going to be greater than what we’ve seen during the great depression, and in health care, the issues are even greater than the Spanish Flu,” said Olszewski. “I have the unique experience and training as a physician and as a successful small businessman that can balance the issues of the health of our people and the health of our economy.”

The final comments came from Attorney General Tim Fox, who continued his criticism of Greg Gianforte, by directly addressing him.

“Congressman, it’s clear that you were social distancing long before the pandemic hit, Fox began. “You’ve ducked debates and forums, refused interviews with the press, avoided open public meetings and tough questions, and instead, used your considerable wealth to try to buy this election instead of earning those votes. You have used your surrogates to attack me, and you’ve even called one of my supporters and told him that he shouldn’t support me because I have cancer and might get sick while in the governor’s office. This is appalling, and it’s definitely not Montana.”

Following the Democratic debate, the two candidates also chided each other in their closing comments.

“I’m not a career politician,” began Whitney Williams, daughter of long-time Congressman Pat Williams and state legislator Carol Williams. “I haven’t spent nearly 40 years in government. I’m a businesswoman who has helped those around the world recover from crisis. I’m the only Democrat running for governor who has created jobs and has helped communities rebuild after disaster strikes. And, I’m the Democrat who can, and will, beat Greg Gianforte in November.”

Current Montana Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney closed with these comments.

“The first rule of Montana politics and being a real leader is showing up,” said Cooney. “I’m the only candidate for governor who has shown up for the big fights that Democrats have fought year after year, serving the people of Montana. I’ve fought for our health care, our public lands, public education, women’s’ right to choose, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights. Now, my opponent has been attacking my record or public service, but I’ll put my record of fighting and winning for the people of Montana, Democrat or Republican.”

Find links to the debates for the Republicans and Democrats here, so that KGVO listeners and website viewers can see both debates and hear the comments in context.

The primary election is June 2, but mail-in ballots will be sent out this month.


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