Feb 28, 2012 8:30 AM by Kay Rossi (KRTV Great Falls)

9 MT gubernatorial candidates square off in Great Falls

GREAT FALLS_ The primary election is just 15 weeks away and Montana's gubernatorial candidates are scrambling to get their messages out to voters.

The Cascade County Farm Bureau helped them through it's first ever candidate forum on Monday night in an event that turned out to be a very civil debate.

Other than sole democratic candidate Larry Jent referring to the opposing party as "crazy Republicans", no one pointed fingers and there was no need for any rebuttal.

Early on candidates were asked how they intend to maintain the integrity of the state's cattle population amid the threat of brucellosis.

"This is a brucellosis-free state and I pledge to you that we're going to keep it that way if I have to stand on the border of the Yellowstone Park and shoot the first bison that comes wandering," Republican Neil Livingstone said.

"As Governor, I will actually mandate the National Park takes care and controls their herd," said Republican Jim Lynch.

Another question dealt with the increasingly common issue of combination schools in rural communities.

"One of the things I'm advocating is using the oil and gas revenues that are going to come to the state of Montana to change the funding formula for education," Republican Rick Hill responded.

Jent echoed the comment saying, "The head count formula called ANB doesn't work very well."

Candidates also shared their thoughts on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

"I don't support eminent domain, taking land from our farmers and ranchers in particular, but a balance and a route can be done to accomplish that," Republican Ken Miller said.

"We have to make sure that we don't get oil in our water supply, that's critical, but I'm sure the technology is there," Republican Jim O'Hara added.

Finally, each of the nine candidates were given one last opportunity to make their case to voters.

Their closing speeches included some of the following quotes:

Republican Corey Stapleton said, "My running mate is just as passionate and independent as I am. We're a conservative, common sense people."

Libertarian Ron Vandevendor said, "He who leads best, governs less."

"If you want business as usual in this state, you don't want me," said Livingstone. "I'm a fighter."

Republican Bob Fanning said, "All Montana land is under assault. It affects us all."

Jent told voters, "What I choose is a Montana where we sensibly develop our energy resources."

"I believe in Montana. I believe we're in the best spot," said O'Hara.

Lynch said, "We don't need politicians that couldn't get it done. We need someone who understands the urgency that the private sector has in our state."

"If you want somebody that's proven in the private sector, I've built multiple successful businesses," said Hill.

Miller joked, "Here's all you have to do. It's real simple. It's Miller Time."

It was a great turnout at the Montana Expo Park, not only with a full room of voters but also with nearly all of the packed primary contenders in attendance.

The candidates will have another chance to share their platforms with voters and most, if not all, of them will speak at an economic development event in Helena Tuesday. This includes Attorney General Steve Bullock who was not present at Monday's debate.


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