Olszewski, Rosendale debate at Lincoln-Reagan Brunch

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Two of the four candidates vying for the Republican nomination for Montana’s U.S. Senate seat participated in a debate at the Flathead County Lincoln-Reagan Brunch on Sunday afternoon. The debate was part of a program at the Flathead County Fairgrounds that lasted about three hours and included speeches from Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte.

Though it was termed a debate, there was very little disagreement expressed between Kalispell physician and state Sen. Al Olszewski and State Auditor Matt Rosendale. The two other candidates for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, Troy Downing and Russell Fagg, didn’t participate in Sunday’s debate. Kalispell Mayor Mark Johnson moderated the discussion.

Both Olszewski and Rosendale lauded President Donald Trump, railed against what they believed to be a bloated federal government and against Sen. Jon Tester, the Democrat incumbent they are intent on replacing.

Though the two candidates shared no major disagreements, Olszewski was at times more outspoken on specific points. When asked how they felt about the $1.3 trillion spending bill Congress recently passed, both candidates said they disapproved of the bill, but Olszewski took it further by saying Republican senate leadership needed to be replaced.

“Mitch McConnell needs to be repealed and replaced,” Olszewski told the crowd to a smattering of applause.

Rosendale said he thought too many senators are easily swayed to vote for bills such as the spending package because of small inclusions that impact their constituencies. He didn’t approve of that cycle, and said if elected he would try to stop it.

Johnson then asked the candidates what they would do to reduce the federal debt, which both had stated was big and bad.

Rosendale cited his cost-cutting record in the Office of Securities and Exchange, where he said he trimmed the fat off the budget just like he would do federally if given the chance.

“Everything has to be on the cutting board,” Rosendale said. “There are lots of Republicans that won’t vote for reductions in spending.”

He said his perception was that health care was consuming the federal budget, and he would like to see less government regulation in that sector so people had freedom to choose doctors and plans that fit their budget.

Olszewski mentioned how beneficial he thought the tax cuts were. He also said entitlement reform was a part of the answer, but nothing would be more effective than growing the economy. He said the best way to do that is to keep money out of federal coffers.

He also suggested that royalties from drilling in the Arctic could be earmarked specifically for paying off the debt.

Both candidates also agreed that term limits were a good thing for democracy. Rosendale said he believes elected officials who are in office for too long develop relationships with other elected officials that grow to influence the way they vote more than their constituency did.

Downing was present at the beginning of the brunch event but departed before the debate began. Fagg reportedly had other engagements.

Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 or pfrissell@dailyinterlake.com.

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