Rosendale talks policy, touts endorsements

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ROSENDALE

State Auditor Matt Rosendale visited the Daily Inter Lake recently to discuss his candidacy for U.S. Senate. He is among a slate of four Republicans seeking to unseat Sen. Jon Tester.

Originally from Maryland, Rosendale moved to Montana in 2002, and has since worked as a real estate developer while also owning and maintaining a ranch near Glendive.

He was elected to the Montana House of Representatives for the 2011 legislative session, and to the state Senate for the 2013 and 2015 sessions, serving as the Senate majority leader in the latter. In 2016, he was elected state auditor, a position which also serves as commissioner of securities and insurance.

Rosendale repeatedly drew on this experience to make the case for his candidacy against Tester, and proposed policy changes for the state and nation.

“I feel that with my background and ... my proven record, I can do a very, very good job of representing the people of Montana.”

His interview touched on multiple policy issues and potential fixes.

“The next step that I would like to see in the tax code,” he said, “is to start reducing the number of brackets that we have.”

“When we start reducing the number of tax brackets down,” he argued, “and flattening out the tax, then we start eliminating loopholes, we start eliminating special interests and we start eliminating some of these games that get played with the tax code.”

Another type of tax — President Trump’s recent tariffs on imported steel and aluminum – has drawn varying degrees of concern from all three members of Montana’s congressional delegation, and warnings of their potential adverse effect on state farmers. But Rosendale instead views the tariffs as a bargaining tool.

Trump, he said, is “walking in from a very strong position and saying, ‘This is where we’re going to be’”

“We haven’t seen the end result of those [tariffs] yet,” Rosendale continued. “What we’re doing is seeing this whole transaction play out.”

He raised several possible changes for the health-care sector. No fan of the Affordable Care Act, Rosendale advocated for a suite of alternatives. These included an expansion of health savings accounts; greater transparency from medical facilities and pharmaceutical makers; direct primary care, in which a patient pays providers for care without involving insurance, and health-care-sharing ministries, in which members of the same faith pool funds for health-related expenses.

Rosendale has advanced those last two policies as state auditor. Health-care ministry Medi-Share was permitted to return to Montana after a 10-year absence. While Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed legislative proposals for direct primary care, Rosendale signed an advisory memo allowing them.

On gun violence, Rosendale argued that “the best thing that we can do at the federal level to help our schools is to remove any obstacles that would prohibit the school districts from providing the type of security that they feel is best for their specific school district.”

More locally, he voiced deep misgivings about the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal water compact. “We owe it to the people of the state to try and develop a better product” — one that, he said, showed stronger consensus from the parties involved.

Many of these stances echo those of his three opponents in the race’s Republican primary: Kalispell surgeon and state Sen. Al Olszewski, former Billings judge Russ Fagg, and Big Sky businessman Troy Downing. Among this group, Rosendale said, “I’m the only candidate that has a campaign structure in place.”

In addition to his state-level support and campaign network, Rosendale has already claimed some significant national endorsements: Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have already given him their support.

So has Steve Bannon. This past October, Rosendale tweeted a picture taken with the former presidential advisor, adding that he was “thrilled to have his support.”

Asked if he still felt that way about Bannon’s endorsement, Rosendale replied, “I’ve got a load of endorsements in case you haven’t checked ... It’s funny you only asked about the [Bannon] one though.” He then discussed the backing he had received from a wide range of figures.

The “Endorsements” section of Rosendale’s website does not mention Bannon, but he said that “I’ve got a lot of folks that have endorsed me that end up not showing up on there.”

Asked why he had been glad to accept the controversial strategist’s support, the candidate replied, “I’m glad to have support from a whole host of people across the state and the nation ... In order to win this election, that’s what it takes.”

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com or at 758-4407.

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