Dunn, Illi face off in HD9 primary

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State Representative Randy Brodehl has reached his maximum number of terms representing House District 9, which covers Northeast Kalispell and Evergreen.

Two Republicans, David Dunn and Warren Illi, will face off in the June 5 primary to take his place.

Farmer David Dunn closely identifies with the outgoing representative, recently telling the Daily Inter Lake that “a vote for me is like a vote for Randy Brodehl.” In another interview this week, he elaborated on the conservative stances he would bring to Helena.

In his view, “there’s a big problem in the legislature [in] that there’s a lot of Republicans that vote Democrat half the time, and I’m not going to be part of them.”

“I just really want to be part of a conservative majority that holds the line on government increases while we try to make the business environment better for everyone in the state,” he said.

To that end, Dunn would seek to increase mining and natural-resource extraction while opposing tax and government increases. He singled out taxes on tourism — which some lawmakers have discussed as a means to adapt Montana’s revenue structure to its current economy — as a policy he would oppose.

Beyond economic issues, Dunn said he would “try to mimic” other pieces of state legislation that prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

He also pledged to oppose “red flag” laws, which allow authorities to temporarily restrict an individual’s gun access when they show signs of threatening behavior, and to support armed protection for schools.

“Taking away that ‘Gun Free Zone’ sign is a really good deterrent,” he argued. “We just can’t advertise that they’re sitting ducks anymore.”

Dunn, 30, owns DW Organics, LLC in Whitefish.

His opponent in this race, Warren Illi, considers Montana “one of the last bastions of rugged individualism where people are self-reliant and responsible for their own actions.” He wants to ensure that the state’s laws and regulations don’t hurt that dynamic.

The state’s extractive industries, such as logging and mining, are a top priority for him. “Montana’s a natural resource state...We have to develop natural resources if we’re going to have a strong economy in this state,” he said.

Illi, 79, worked as a U.S. Forest Service timber management officer for decades, and has taken part in several nature-related groups and activities over the years, including writing a column for the Daily Inter Lake’s Outdoors section.

He identified some concerns about the state’s wildlife management that he would bring to Helena if elected.

“We need to take action to somehow reduce the wolf population,” he said. Montana’s wolf population has increased nearly tenfold since the 1990s, a shift that’s heartened conservationists but riled hunters. The animals were recently removed from Endangered Species Act protections.

Illi stressed that any reduction in wolf numbers shouldn’t be “to the point of re-endangerment.”

He’s also worried by population drops among state game animals, like moose, elk and mountain goats. If elected, Illi said he would press Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to research these trends.

In addition to natural-resource issues, Illi also has his eye on education funding. “I need to take a look at the funding of our schools,” he said.

“The County Commissioners have done a good job of trying not to raise property taxes...But the school district seems like they just constantly want more money.” He argued that the state needs to provide “higher quality school districts with lower dollars.”

The primary will take place June 5. Absentee ballots were mailed out May 11. The winner will face Democrat Robert Petersen in November.

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

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