COLUMN: Democrats go low in campaign against Gianforte

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If you wondered why it is so hard to get quality candidates to run for public office, you donít just have to look at the food fight that is the 2016 presidential election campaign.†

Sure, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton get most of the attention, but there are examples in our own state that are just as bad.

Take the incessant ads claiming that Republican Greg Gianforte supports a sales tax. Gianforte, a Bozeman businessman, is running for governor against incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock, and despite the attack ads claiming otherwise, Gianforte is running on a platform of opposing a Montana sales tax.

Indeed, his signature ď406 Tax ReliefĒ plan spells out explicitly that the zero in 406 ďmeans zero sales tax.Ē

That hasnít stopped Bullock and the Montana Democratic Party from blasting those ads across the state alleging that Gianforte supports a sales tax. In one of their press releases, the Montana Democrats even claimed to show how much this imaginary sales tax would cost a family of four in grocery purchases. This despite the fact that even a real sales tax usually exempts grocery purchases, although I suppose an imaginary sales tax can do whatever the Democrats want it to do.

All this calumny has been heaped on Gianforte because back in 2002, as the founder of RightNow Technologies, he said that it would make sense to eliminate the state income tax and capital-gains tax and replace them with a sales tax.

That was 14 years ago, folks! To claim that candidate Gianforte supports a sales tax in 2016 because he supported a sales tax in 2002 is to ignore 14 years of history. It would be like saying that someone who said in 2002 that he liked his LG flip phone could never use an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy in 2016. Heck, there wasnít even a Blackberry smartphone in 2002. Times change, and so do viewpoints.

Before Gianforte announced his intention to run for governor, he visited with the Daily Inter Lakeís editorial board in 2015 and told us point-blank he didnít support a sales tax. Not only that, but he said there is no statewide support for a sales tax in Montana and it would never happen. He wouldnít even commit to supporting a local-option sales tax, which Kalispellís Chamber of Commerce and the Daily Inter Lake have both promoted for years as a way for Kalispell to tap into the wallets of our thousands of tourist visitors to pay for infrastructure and other needs.

Nope, Greg wasnít having any of it. And he told the same thing to the Billings Gazette as recently as last month after hearing the Billings Chamber of Commerce do a 40-minute presentation in support of the local-option tax.

So why exactly is Gov. Bullock claiming that Gianforte supports a sales tax? You can use any word you want to describe the tactic, but the one that comes most readily to mind is ďsmear.Ē

By the way, it should be noted that Gianforte has repeatedly made himself available to the Daily Inter Lakeís editorial board for frank discussion of the issues. His opponent on the other hand has never sat down with us, despite repeated invitations both before and after the start of his term as governor.

Actually, he didnít decline our invitations, he ignored them, with not even a polite email to let us know he would not be available.

Public officials who want to communicate their policies to the public generally reach out to the local newspaper and ask for time to talk about their agenda. Not so, Gov. Bullock.

Maybe he just doesnít want to talk to a daily newspaper in conservative Northwest Montana, but even if he doesnít like us, he should respect our readers, many of whom voted for him.

That goes for all public officials. Our door is open, and if you give us a call, we will give you our time. Part of the solution for a civil dialogue, whether for politicians or anyone else, is to sit down and start talking.

Frank Miele is the managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake.

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