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Whitney Williams 2020 Election Questionnaire

Whitney Williams

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.

Gubernatorial candidate Whitney Williams:

What is your full name as it will appear on ballots?

Whitney Williams

What is your age?


Where do you live?

Missoula, Montana

What is your education background?

Graduate of the University of Montana with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science

What is your current occupation?

Founder + CEO, williamsworks

Why are you running for this particular public office?

Montana’s at a crossroads, and voters have a clear choice in this primary: Focus on new leadership for Montana’s future or anchor to the past.

I believe in our tomorrows. I know you do too.

In these challenging times, as we control the coronavirus and rebuild our economy, Montana needs a new generation of leadership who has experience not only in government but in running a successful business as well.

I’m a sixth-generation Montanan. I started my business about 20 years ago. I’m a businesswoman who’s helped folks around the world recover from crisis. I’m the only Democrat for Governor who’s created jobs and helped communities rebuild after disaster strikes.

As an executive, my leadership skills developed working in government and business make me the best-positioned Democratic candidate to defeat likely GOP opponent Greg Gianforte.

The challenges ahead are unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetime. Getting folks working again and helping business rebuild takes energy, new ideas -- and a different kind of experience.

Montana faces tough challenges:

? Controlling the coronavirus, ensuring that Montanans are healthy and safe, and rebuilding our economy are Job #1.

? Health insurers and Big Pharma are taking advantage of Montana families, and politicians in Washington are sitting on the sidelines and want to take away our access to healthcare.

? Public education is under attack by those who want to take our hard-earned tax dollars to fund private and religious schools.

? Women’s healthcare funding is being cut and freedom for women to make their own healthcare choices are threatened.

? Wealthy out-of-staters and corporate interests are trying to make Montana their personal playground and are taking advantage of our state.

These new challenges require a new skill set in the Governor’s office, someone who shares Montanans’ core values and can bring energy and new ideas to Helena.

What makes you qualified to hold this position?

I’m a sixth-generation Montanan and businesswoman who founded my own, successful company nearly 20 years ago that works alongside Fortune 500 companies and charities to solve complex problems – just like those Montanans face every day.

With the same grit and toughness that was passed down from my ancestors, I’ve helped law enforcement protect kids from sex trafficking, managed a global initiative to increase the number of girls attending school, and opened new markets and helped farmers rebuild after disaster.

Montana faces a new set of challenges as we recover from this pandemic, and these new challenges call for a new skill set: energy and strong leadership skills. I’m the only candidate in this race that’s helped communities recover from crises, and I’m the only candidate who has relationships with industry leaders across Montana and the world. It’s going to take new, bold ideas to tackle the issues that we face. That's what I bring to the table.

I build bridges between the public and private sectors, I listen, and I work with fierce urgency to solve problems. I know that building a lasting solution requires everyone having a seat at the table, and I plan to build strong and diverse coalitions to move Montana forward.

My parents, both long-standing public servants, instilled in me the value of service and roots: My father, Pat, served as our congressman for 18 years, and my mom, Carol, served as a leader in the Montana Legislature, as both Senate minority and majority leader. I was raised by some of our state’s finest public servants, and I pledge to fight for Montana families.

What are three policy issues that distinguish you from your opponent(s)?

I’m a businessperson who’s worked in the private and public sectors. My opponent’s a politician who’s spent a lifetime in government.

I respect Lt. Gov. Cooney and his lifetime of service to our state. But Montanans have a clear choice in this primary: Steer to the future or anchor to the past.

My business background, leadership skills and experience in putting together partnerships with the private sector, public sector and philanthropic world clearly distinguish me from my opponent, who’s worked in government for 40 years. Plus, I tapped Buzz Mattelin, a Culbertson farmer and president of the National Barley Growers Association, as my running mate. It’s time we had another farmer at the table in Helena.

Stark policy differences separate us as well:

  1. Decades ago, on the State Land Board, Cooney voted to extend the lease for a heap-leach cyanide gold mine on the headwaters of the Blackfoot River. In the last month, Cooney’s administration issued a permit for a copper mine near Montana's beloved Smith River. A mine should never be built. I’ll do everything in my power to protect Montanans’ access to our public lands and protect our outdoor heritage.

  2. I support legalization, regulation and taxation of small quantities of recreational marijuana. Cooney doesn't.

  3. Cooney’s administration cut $50 million dollars a year in mental health services during a crisis. I wouldn’t have. Cooney dropped out of a debate on these very critical mental healthcare issues. I showed up.

These issues demonstrate that I’ll be a strong leader to get Montana moving again. I'll use my energy and leadership skills to bring people together to face the urgent set of new challenges as we work our way through this current crisis and face the future with the toughness, grit and determination that Montanans are known for.
What are the greatest issues facing Montana that have gone unsolved by elected officials and how would you address them?

Montana faces a new set of challenges, including coronavirus. That will take new leadership, and bringing new, bold ideas to Helena. New, strong, tough, and determined leadership -- that’s the difference.

We still need to:

? Control the coronavirus, and make sure that Montanans are safe and healthy enough to go out and help rebuild our economy. That won’t happen until Montanans are safe. Rebuilding our economy, boosting business, creating jobs and ensuring public health safety are Job #1. They’ll be my primary focus today and tomorrow.

? Continue our efforts to ensure access to quality, affordable health care for all Montanans, including for prescription drugs (taking on Big Pharma), guaranteeing that Medicaid Expansion continues, fixing our ailing mental-health system, and making sure seniors can age in their homes. I’ll stand up to the big out-of-state interests and Washington politicians that try to gouge us on prescription drugs and healthcare, or simply take these needed services away.

? Stop assaults on our quality public education system by people like Greg Gainforte, who want to privatize a public system that ensures our students can learn locally and compete globally. I can defeat Gianforte in November.

? Protect women’s healthcare funding from being cut and ensure women’s freedom to make their own healthcare choices. I’ll stand up for women’s reproductive health care.

? Stop wealthy out-of-staters and corporate interests from trying to make Montana their personal playground and take advantage of our state. I’ll ensure all Montanans have access to our public lands and outdoor heritage.