Troy Downing made the case for his Senate candidacy during a May 3 visit to the Daily Inter Lake.
Downing, 51, is one of four Republicans vying for the nomination to challenge Democrat Sen. Jon Tester in this year’s election.
The Big Sky resident began his career in the technology sector, creating a startup company that merged with Yahoo. After the 9/11 attacks, he enlisted in the Air Force where he served for eight years and completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He is now involved in several business and nonprofit activities.
One of his opponents, State Auditor Matt Rosendale, has a background in real estate, while another, Dr. Al Olszewski, served as an Air Force surgeon. But in Downing’s view, his business and combat experience set him apart in this primary.
“There’s only one person running who’s ever created jobs, who’s ever built businesses in multiple industries,” he argued, “and there’s only one person who’s actually signed at the dotted line and gone to war for this nation, I think that’s huge.”
Downing’s business background informs his stance on the tax code. “I’m glad we got a win on the board in December” with last year’s tax cuts, he said, but added that “we need to really start reining in loopholes, we need to start really making a simpler code.”
Asked if there were any specific exemptions or loopholes he would like eliminated, Downing replied, “I don’t have any specifics, I think we need to have an honest conversation with people that actually want to talk about the problems.”
On another tax-related issue – the Trump administration’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum – Downing has taken a wait-and-see stance. “I think part of this is a negotiating tool that the president is using,” he said. “Obviously nobody wants to get into a trade war,” he said, but predicted that taking a harder line could help “work out some problems” with trade.
On health care, Downing voiced exasperation with
recent years’ battles over the Affordable Care Act, which he views as a debate “about how to insure a broken system.”
“What I think we need to focus on are the things that are pushing the cost of health care up so high. We’ll deal with the insurance part later.”
He blames some of health care’s sky-high costs on a doctor-patient relationship that’s been warped by the insurance system. Discussing ways to mend it, Downing backed the recent repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate, and expressed interest in allowing doctors to charge patients directly for care without involving insurance.
Downing also called for greater transparency in hospital billing, and “most-favored nation” rules, which would require drug manufacturers to sell to U.S. consumers at a price on par with those in other developed nations.
As he’s raised these and other issues on the campaign trail, Downing has enlisted some high-profile support. Michael Flynn, former White House National Security Advisor, has endorsed Downing and planned to appear with him at a May 6 rally in Billings. Flynn later canceled, citing a family emergency.
Downing explained that a mutual friend put the two in touch, and that his candidacy meshed with Flynn’s goal of electing more combat veterans. “He said he would do anything to help, and I was flattered, I was honored.”
The former advisor has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition, and is now cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation.
“I’m not concerned about that,” Downing said. “I think that that is going to run its course ... I think that it’s going to be more and more clear that Mike Flynn is a patriot, and has unfortunately got stuck into some of this muck that has harmed others.”
Downing, originally from California, is facing some questions about his Montana residency. He said he first built a house in Montana in 1999, but his ties to this state have been closely scrutinized. He’s currently awaiting trial for seven misdemeanor counts of illegally purchasing and applying for resident hunting and fishing licenses as a nonresident.
“The way that I respond to that is I’ve never had a problem in my entire life until I filed for office, and I thought it was pretty interesting and convenient when all of this stuff showed up on my doorstep,” he said. “I will say I’m not guilty.”
Additionally, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle recently reported that Downing has received a California property-tax exemption for that state’s residents since 2005.
Asked about this matter, Downing said that family circumstances prompted him and his wife, Heather, to purchase a California home. “Heather, when I was in Afghanistan, filed the exemption ... I never personally signed the exemption, never thought about it over the years. I think [the] first I heard about it is when the Bozeman Chronicle asked me about it.”
He estimated its value at 75 dollars. “It’s a silly thing to dwell upon.”
As the June 5 vote approaches, Downing’s confident that his background and goals will trump these concerns.
“No matter how the chips fall, I guarantee that we have put in the most time, the most miles and met the most people,” he said. “What I truly believe is, if the message gets out about my campaign, I win.”
Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly
Senate candidate Downing touts military, business experience
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