By Ed Moreth 

Congressional candidates face off in Paradise


November 3, 2022

Ed Moreth

Democratic congressional candidate Monica Tranel (left) and Libertarian John Lamb addressed a crowd of more than 50 residents at the Paradise Center last Tuesday.

Candidates for Montana's House District 1 faced off at the Paradise Center last Tuesday for one of their final campaign stops before the November 8 election.

Democratic candidate Monica Tranel and Libertarian candidate John Lamb spent over an hour providing the crowd with their views on an assortment of issues from electric cars to abortion. Republican Ryan Zinke, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was invited to the event but didn't make it to the debate.

Just over 50 people from around the county showed up to hear what the candidates had to say and to find out their perspectives on issues that matter to them. Randy Garrison of Plains served as the moderator. Each candidate had opening and closing statements. He asked the candidates six general questions. They had two minutes to answer a question and one minute for a rebuttal. The moderator's questions were followed by questions from the audience to one or both candidates.

"Democracy is what we do. It's not what we say, it's not what we feel, it's what we do. It's the way we here in America have agreed to be governed and so participating and showing up and getting to know each other as a candidate is really important," Tranel said in her opening statement.

"We love the values of Montana. My main goal is to fight for liberty and freedom for my children and grandchildren on a limited government type basis. I don't like big government telling me how to operate my farm and dictating how I live," said Lamb, who grew up with an Amish and Mennonite background and now who lives in Norris, near Bozeman. The 50-year-old Lamb has a recycling business and Lamb's Greenhouses. He vied for a state senator in District 26 unsuccessfully two years ago.

The 56-year-old Tranel has been an attorney for 25 years. She was born in Wyoming, but grew up in eastern Montana. She now resides in Missoula. As a Republican in 2004, she sought election to the Montana Public Service Commission, but was defeated in the primary. She ran as a Democrat in 2020 going against Jennifer Fielder of Thompson Falls for the position of Montana Public Service Commission for the 4th District.

At last week's debate she said that in her travels across Montana people have said they don't know who to trust, which is why she has sought a debate in each of the 16 counties and two tribal nations within the district. She added that although this was the 20th debate of the cycle, Zinke has attended only three of them. She and Lamb will be debating in Browning on Nov. 3, but she said Zinke will not be in attendance for that one either. Tranel believes candidates should make themselves available in communities and let residents judge for themselves.

Garrison's first question to the candidates was: "Montana families are struggling to make ends meet. Inflation is soaring. Housing in many communities is unattainable. Young Montanans are leaving the state not being able to afford rent or to purchase a home. What would you do to make the housing more affordable for young Montanans?"

It was a question that both candidates said they had heard across the state. Lamb said that housing, jobs and finances impact everyone in the state, but he believes it's the state's responsibility to fix the problem, not the federal government, which already has a huge deficit.

Sanders County Ledger canvas prints

"The state of Montana has the capability and the finances to fix this issue, so I would be putting the pressure on the governor and the legislators here in Montana to fix this issue," said Lamb. "They have $1.6-billion in extra money right now sitting on the governor's desk. The legislators can fix this issue with the money we have and I'd like to see that money put back into the people of Montana."

Tranel said the top three issues in Montana are "housing, housing and housing" and added that it's a real concern. She, however, believes the federal government could help by producing tax credits, along with having some sort of measure that would keep a person's mortgage or rent from increasing for as long as that person resides there.

"What are your thoughts on the Supreme Court's recent decision on Roe vs. Wade, which returned abortion rights to the states?" asked Garrison. Tranel dodged the question by talking about the government's digital intrusion, though she touched on it slightly by stating she was against Senator Lindsey Graham's proposed bill on a national level to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which she believes the country has "walked back freedom that we were granted."

Lamb on the other hand right away stated he was against abortion. "I am 100% pro life. Pro life is a totally different situation than privacy. I believe it's murder. We cannot murder unborn babies. They are human," said Lamb, who has 12 children and said he has cut the umbilical cord of all of them at birth. Lamb told the crowd that the Constitution gives everyone the right to life and liberty, including the life of the unborn. He also believes it's a state issue, not the federal government.

"I believe life starts at conception and I would do what I can to protect that life for sure," said Lamb, who admitted to the crowd that he wasn't familiar with some of the issues. However, Tranel, a former Olympics rowing competitor, was confident of her role if elected. "I believe that I am the person who will carry our Montana message powerfully and for us," said Tranel. "I have stood up for you, taking on corporate monopolies, keeping money in your pocket. I want to work for you and be your advocate. I will be a powerful voice for Montana," she added.

"While traveling throughout western Montana's First Congressional District campaigning, what have your constituents been telling you needs to be done in Congress?" asked Garrison. Tranel said the biggest concern was inflation. She said she has an affordability plan in response to what she's heard on the campaign trail, such as standing up to corporate monopolies, making sure local businesses can do more in Montana, and using resources in Montana wisely. She also noted that people across the state are "really yearning for connection, for community to come together and set aside some of the division."

Lamb said that one of the problems was spending on the federal level. "Thirty-one trillion dollars. We can't continue with this rising debt. We've got to fix something, and ease the pain of the taxpayers," including the expenditures of sending military members overseas fighting "needless wars" for oil.

In his response to Garrison's query on the drug problem, Lamb stated that the drug situation has gotten worse over the last 40 years. "The war on drugs isn't working," said Lamb, who added that there are a lot of people in prison for minor infractions, such as marijuana use, that shouldn't be there. "We've got to change something. You can't put somebody in prison and change their lifestyle without help." He stated that there are more drugs in prison than in the streets. Tranel said that 90% of solving the problem of illegal drugs is correctly diagnosing the problem and finding a way to better detect the drugs as they enter the country, particularly from Mexico and China.

The final question from Garrison was: "Fuel costs have almost doubled in the past two years, affecting Montana residents considerably. Montana is a big state to drive through and the cost of gasoline and diesel have hit the farmers, the ranchers, the truckers, loggers the hardest. Transportation costs also affect the cost of groceries in the stores and other products as well. What would you do to bring down the cost of fuel?"

Tranel said that one solution is to reduce corporate monopolies that are realizing record profits. Lamb agreed they should get rid of the global market of fuel, and refine fuel in Montana and be more self-sufficient for oil instead of shipping it off to the global market and bringing it back to Montana at a higher cost. "We need to bring things back home, let Montana fix this issue and get the federal government's hand out of all the regulations and all of the fuel, which would lessen the cost of fuel." Both candidates said they support alternative energy and energy independence, such as wind and solar power and electric cars. Tranel talked about the government installing numerous charging stations for electric vehicles across the state, but Lamb felt that should be done by commercial ventures, like gas companies did.

It took less than an hour for the candidates to get through Garrison's questions. Members of the audience took only about 25 minutes with a dozen questions of their own. On a question about Medicare for all, Lamb said he'd like to see a state run medical program instead of one by the federal government. Tranel said in tackling corporate monopolies, they need to get profit out of pain and make any government medical program an option.

In a question concerning the elimination of Social Security, Lamb said that although growing up in an Amish and Mennonite background, and not utilizing Social Security, he believes it should be something a person could opt out of, but he also said that if a person has been paying into the program, they should be entitled to get it. He doesn't think Social Security recipients get enough money, compared to what they paid into the program. He also said the federal government has abused the money it has received for Social Security by spending it on other programs.

Tranel said she stands behind Social Security, saying it's a contract between the government and the people and they deserve the benefit of it. "Whose interests are served by gutting this program? The big corporations who want us all to be scrambling around at the bottom and they want to privatize things because that's more money for giant corporations. That doesn't work," she said.

Lamb and Tranel had a second debate that evening at the University of Montana. Zinke did not attend. "We made an offer to his campaign to debate in every county and on both tribal reservations in the district, and he has failed to respond to the invite for every single one of those," said Tranel.

Ed Moreth


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