Austin Knudsen 2020 Election Questionnaire
Montana Public Radio is gathering information on all statewide primary candidates to publish as a resource for our audience. We asked all the statewide candidates to respond to the following questions via email, limiting their answers to 300 words per question. These are their unedited responses.
Attorney General candidate Austin Knudsen:
What is your full name as it will appear on ballots?
What is your age?
Where do you live?
What is your education background?
BS, BA, Montana State University. JD, University of Montana School of Law
What is your current occupation?
Roosevelt County Attorney
Why are you running for this particular public office
I am running for Attorney General because Montana needs an aggressive,conservative criminal prosecutor as the top law enforcement official. Mexican drug cartels are flooding our state with toxic methamphetamine and other dangerous drugs, and this has led to a sharp increase in violent crime in Montana since 2013 (36% according to the U.S. Department of Justice). My primary opponent, the current Chief Deputy Montana Attorney General, has responded to these problems by growing state government and giving pay raises in Helena. This has done ZERO to stop the flow of dangerous drugs and violent crime. We need an Attorney General who has actually set foot in a courtroom and worked with law enforcement, not simply a Helena bureaucrat. I want to redirect assets to the county and city prosecutors and local law enforcement, who are actually dealing with this meth crisis on the front lines.
What makes you qualified to hold this position?
I am a full-time criminal prosecutor, dealing first-hand with the severe methamphetamine and violent crime problems in Montana. Additionally, I have over a decade of real-world legal practice in Montana. I spent 10 years in private law practice in northeast Montana: 5 with a small firm in Plentywood, and 5 with my own law practice in my hometown of Culbertson. During that time, I represented farmers, ranchers, neighbors, and small businesses, and handled just about every type of legal question imaginable.
What are three policy issues that distinguish you from your opponent(s)?
I want to decrease the violent crime rates in Montana. The only way we accomplish this is by stemming the flow of methamphetamine pouring into our state. I want to work with the Legislature and our new Governor to redirect funds away from Helena and out to the local and county level, where local sheriffs, police chiefs, and criminal prosecutors have real need and know where to use those resources better than Helena. I also want to reduce the size of the Department of Justice bureaucracy in Helena. The DOJ budget has ballooned from $85 million in 2012 to nearly $106 million today. These increases have had no effect on violent crime in Montana; to the contrary, violent crime has increased drastically in that same time period.
What are the greatest issues facing Montana that have gone unsolved by elected officials and how would you address them?
As I’ve already mentioned, number one is the flow of dangerous drugs into Montana leading to skyrocketing violent crime rates. I want to work with the next governor to stop the flow of dangerous drugs in Montana communities. I’ve already mentioned one of the ways
to do that is to redirect resources to the front lines. Another way is to work with the President and his administration to get this done. The current Montana Attorney General and my opponent have consistently worked against President Trump. As an example, my opponent and his boss joined a group of Democrat AGs to sue President Trump in order to save Obamacare. Second, bureaucracy exists to feed itself. The level of bureaucracy in the DOJ over recent years is appalling and has not produced positive outcomes. I want to cut bloat and waste by rooting out inefficiencies and cutting or reallocating the resources to where they will do the most good. Overall I believe that the Department of Justice can operate much more effectively and at a reduced budget.