MISSOULA — The two women vying to be the next Montana Public Service Commissioner in Western Montana are both rallying around themes like "integrity" and professional experience in the final campaign stretch.
The differences become more apparent when the conversation turns to points like climate change, and future energy development.
Republican State Senator Jennifer Fielder and Democrat Monica Tranel have been locked in an intense campaign since the primary votes were final.
The contest pits a lawmaker known for her strong right views against a lawyer with a track record of fighting rate cases for Montana consumers.
Both use the word "independent" in their descriptions. But while Tranel faults the current Republican commissioners for struggling to control rates and endorse more renewable energy technologies, Fielder still sees a future for legacy power sources.
“Because while we are paying attention to all the noise and the distraction, the commissioners have voted unanimously to raise your rates. So I will walk in the door and raise the bar simply by virtue of being there because I bring so much experience and on the job knowledge," Tranel said. "I want to restore professionalism and Integrity and let the staff know that they now have commissioners who are going to act as commissioners, lead the agency and demonstrate leadership.”
“You know if there's one thing I could do, I would remove politics from the debate over energy supplies and talk to these fellow commissioners about, let's do what's going to work the best for the people of Montana," Fielder said. "Let's not take aside for one particular type of energy or against another type, but let's actually look at the science and mathematics, the economics.” :52
Fielder told the online audience for the Missoula City Club there should be "free market competition" among energy providers. But Tranel said that shows a "lack of understanding" of how energy laws work.