Gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte
Montana 2020 elections
Greg Gianforte is stepping out of the United States House of Representatives for a shot at the governor’s house. Greg Gianforte sold his software company Brightwork Development in ’86 and moved to Bozeman in ’95, where he raised his four children. He and his wife, Susan, founded another software company, Right Now Technologies, in Bozeman. It sold for $1.8 billion in 2012. According to a Roll Call, Gianforte is worth an $135.7 million, making him the richest man in Congress.
Gianforte grew up in the Valley Forge suburbs in Pennsylvania. He started his career as a software engineer in New Jersey and his political career in Montana. The U.S. Congressman of Montana was elected in a special election to replace Ryan Zinke, who was appointed as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. He has been in office for nearly three years.
Two pieces of Gianforte sponsored legislation have become law during his time in office. The East Rosebud Wild and Scenic Rivers Act designated segments of the East Rosebud Creek in Montana to the National Wild and Scenic River System, which protects the free-flowing nature of rivers while allowing their use and development. Gianforte’s second piece of legislation became law in Dec. 2019, naming a Missoula Post Office after the first woman to hold a federal office in the United States, Jeannette Rankin.
Gianforte wants Montanans to be able to prosper in Montana. He created 500 jobs in Bozeman with average salaries of $90,000, according to Gianforte. He wants to bring the same opportunity to Montana. “We’ve been exporting our kids for decades,” Gianforte said. “I’m running for governor to create more good paying jobs.” Gianforte is one of three Republican governor candidates running in the June 2 primary elections.
Gianforte said there was a health crisis in Montana’s forests. Almost 30% of the state is public lands. According to the Montana Wilderness Association, the U.S. Forest Service manages most of the public lands in Montana with about 16.9 million acres. According to Gianforte, Montana’s forests are being mismanaged in federal ownership. He believes the mismanagement to be the main contributor to Montana’s intensifying wildfires.
“Public lands brought me to Montana in the first place,” Gianforte said. He has been a part of several pieces of legislation dealing with the management of public lands, the access of public lands and transfer of public land classification. He sponsored the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, which would eliminate the northern entrance area of Yellowstone National Park from mining. “Voice of the local community is the most important,” Gianforte said. “It’s the way I approach issues.”
Gianforte has supported expanding public access in introduced bills through releasing wilderness designated areas, such as the Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act and Unlocking Public Lands Act. Gianforte has a long list of Wilderness Study Areas that he believes have fulfilled their purpose as wilderness designation. WSAs limit activity that could impair the wilderness characteristics of the land, like logging or road construction, but many types of recreation are allowed.
GRIZZLY BEAR MANAGEMENT
Gianforte looks at the progress of grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act as a success. The Yellowstone Grizzly Bear population has expanded into areas like the Gravelly Mountains of Madison County. As their population has grown past the ESA designated threshold of 500, the increasing threat to grizzly bears’ habitat and trophy hunting have spurred a debate. “They need to be delisted and returned to the states,” Gianforte said. Gianforte supports grizzly bear management to return to the states for them to implement their individual management styles.
Gianforte has sponsored and supported bills to preserve federal funding to elements of rural healthcare. He has focused on the Rural Emergency Medical Service Training and Equipment Assistance Program, which is under the Health Resources and Services Administration. Gianforte prioritizes lowering the cost of healthcare and accepting people with preexisting conditions. Telehealth is another point of interest, which has recently become an urgent task due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth, which allows healthcare professionals to care for their patients over phone or live video, could alleviate several strains on Montana’s healthcare system. “We can’t have specialists in every rural community,” Gianforte said.
Rural residents often have to travel far for specialized treatment. Telehealth would make healthcare more accessible to everyone in Montana, if everyone in Montana had adequate broadband internet. Access to broadband is bonded to telehealth’s potential improvements in Montana’s healthcare system. Gianforte understands that introducing new technology could take a long time. He would like to see the federal government set up standards for telehealth and allow states to rapidly adopt the practice. “It’s one way we can continue to reduce the cost of healthcare while improving quality,” Gianforte said.
Affordable housing is a national issue, but Madison County has a unique perspective as a tourist hub. Full-time residents struggle to earn enough to afford adequate housing in Madison County. “One way we afford better housing is better jobs,” Gianforte said. Technology has created more remote jobs that could be done in Montana. According to Gianforte, those remote jobs pay into Montana’s economy because it places people here. He said that a strong private sector combined with the Montana work ethic is a formula for prosperity. The private sector in Montana is not strong enough to afford good paying jobs, but Gianforte wants to bolster employers’ abilities. Gianforte also linked the affordable housing issue to burdensome regulations. “We need to streamline our permitting process,” Gianforte said. “The Department of Environmental Quality has become the project prevention program.”