As Montana residents open their ballots, they'll see candidates running to represent their community in the Montana Legislature, and MTN’s campaign coverage turns to contested House Districts in the Great Falls area. First up is House District 20. The area encompasses the east side of Great Falls and mountain view area, a strip down Gibson Flats to the Fox Farm area and Big Bend areas. Ballotpedia says the 2012 census count showed just under 10,000 residents live in this area.
HD 20 is currently represented by Republican Fred Anderson, a Republican, who is running for re-election after winning the seat in 2018 over Democrat Keaton SunChild.
The Great Falls resident has served on Business and Labor, Agriculture and Education Committees during his time representing HD 20. MTN asked Anderson how he felt the state has done in response to the coronavirus. He said he believes officials may have enforced a shutdown too early, which could be a reason for the spike in covid cases we're seeing now.
Anderson would have liked to see Governor Bullock consider more input before dispersing federal dollars and urgency when it came to loans and grants for small businesses. "I would have had the executive do a little different job of distributing, allocating Cares Act Money to small businesses,” he said. “I think that from a business person's standpoint it made it pretty tough when the Executive Branch sat on a large amount of money for a long time and businesses were struggling to keep their head above water."
Democrat Melissa Smith is running for House District 20. She's a professional pianist and teacher in the Great Falls area. This is her first time running for office, but Smith told MTN News she's campaigned on behalf of candidates for over 30 years- most recently working for the Rob Quist campaign in 2017.
MTN News asked Smith what she thought of the state's coronavirus response. Smith said she saw great communication from the state office at the start of the virus.
And as residents continued through the pandemic, more mandates and money came from state leaders, which helped businesses keep order and schools open. But Smith says Public Health became politicized in some ways and residents had trouble accessing state websites and resources. “That was a little frustrating for people and also too y'know if you don't have broadband access it was extremely difficult to figure out how to get help because you know you'd call and maybe you'd get connected maybe you’d be disconnected,” she said. “And our public libraries did an excellent job in trying to help people, but it took awhile before they were open."