Kathleen Williams: 2020 General Election Q&A
Montana Public Radio is gathering information on all statewide general election 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 150 words per question. These are their unedited responses.
Kathleen Williams is the 2020 Democratic candidate for Montana's lone U.S. House seat.
The country is feeling health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. What steps should Congress and national leaders take to slow the virus’ spread and repair the economy?
We need to stem the pandemic and get our economy back on track. Since late February, I’ve been calling for an effective state/local/federal partnership on testing. We can’t manage what we can’t see. We need to continue to advance science, availability, speed, and accuracy of testing. We need to repair supply chain issues, and focus on the most vulnerable people so they feel safe as they move out into the world again. 70% of our economy is based on consumer spending. We need to safely get Montanans, and Ameicans, shopping and traveling again. We need relief to be targeted to workers and businesses who need it the most and will most benefit the recovery. The last thing we need on top of a pandemic is a spate of homelessness.
As potentially one of the newest members of the 435 representatives serving in the U.S. House, what kind of impact do you believe you can have representing the people of Montana?
I know I can have quite an impact, just as I did in the Legislature being one of one hundred. One must lead by example, treat others with respect, focus on the issues at hand, and find common interests in unique places. It’s an art and a skill. I’ve been around the block enough times to know how to stay rooted in the priorities of Montana and reduce hyper-partisanship – not contribute to it.
How many terms do you hope to serve and do you support term limits?
I will continually evaluate my performance for Montana, and only serve as long as I and the voters feel I’m the best person for the job. I was nonpartisan legislative staff in the 90s before term limits. What I saw before term limits were enacted was a legislative term that functioned fully, where legislators could disagree without being disagreeable, then go out for a beer after. After term limits, we have about the same level of turnover as before, but lose the institutional knowledge that can be so valuable in some members who know what legislation was tried when, can lead on process and decorum, and be mentors to new legislators. Without that, people rely on parties more, lobbyists have more and power and partisanship increases. I say leave term limits in the hands of the voters.
What areas of federal spending should be increased and what should be cut? Do you think Congress should make it a priority to pay down the federal deficit and, if so, how should it be paid down?
I was raised by depression-era parents and I’ve always worked hard to earn my money. I know the value of a dollar. Montanans work hard for what they earn, and representatives have a responsibility to make sure that public funds are used wisely. What I have refused to do is use the concept of reducing spending as a political ploy to slash Social Security and Medicare. We must preserve those programs.
I believe we can save funds by reducing the number of political appointees-every secretary seems to get many undersecretaries and deputies. This often politicizes the agencies, rather than allowing them to focus on their missions. The Department of Defense has never had an audit done; they should have one. And as recent revelations show, we need to address rampant tax fraud that gives the benefits to these who can afford to hire “creative accounts.”
What, if any, changes do you believe Congress should make to Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare? Do you support repealing, replacing or changing the Affordable Care Act? (300 word limit)
We must strengthen, not cut, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I do not support repealing the Affordable Care Act.
I think we should allow 55 and older to buy into Medicare and allow Medicare to bargain for prescription drug prices, like the VA and Medicaid can. I’ll protect coverage for people with preexisting conditions and make sure Congress fulfills its commitment to helping people cover insurance costs. And I’ll fight to allow Medicare to bargain for drug prices - something that could save $11 billion.
I believe we must protect and strengthen Social Security to ensure those who have spent their lives working can retire with dignity. Workers have paid into these benefits and deserve to have them fully repaid.
Do you support transferring federally owned land to the control of the state of Montana? Why or why not?
I do not support the transfer of federally owned lands to the control of the state. Our outdoor heritage is what makes Montana “The Last Best Place.” Montanans deserve a member of Congress committed to our outdoor heritage, and unlike my opponent or our current representative, I’m ready to fight for our way of life in the House. Protecting Montana's outdoor heritage is critical to our state’s communities and economy. I’ve stood up to proposals that would have weakened land and water protections and transferred public lands. My entire 37 year career has been spent bringing diverse interests together to craft win-win-win solutions to thorny natural resource issues. I’ll continue that work in Congress. I’ll protect our clean air and water, ensure access to public lands, return science to climate deliberations.
Do you support changes to federal gun laws? If so, what specific changes do you want to see?
No organization should be able to tell us that we can’t have a discussion about how to keep our communities safe, and as a hunter and a gun owner, I believe we can protect our rights and have a conversation on how to keep our schools, churches, and communities safe. I support closing the internet loophole, the gun show loophole, and background checks. I also support closing the boyfriend loophole.
My opponent supports no restrictions on firearms, which I can only assume means he wants to repeal the federal firearms act that controls weapons such as machine guns and bazookas. I don’t want to see those on Montana streets, and I can’t imagine law enforcement does either.
What role, if any, should the federal government take in addressing the effects of climate change?
Whether a farmer, rancher, recreationist, or a water specialist, we know we are experiencing hotter dryer, summers-longer more intense fire seasons, earlier runoff and more effects of climate change. One of our top priorities needs to be handing down a healthy planet for our kids and grandkids. We also need to be ready for the energy consumers of the future here in Montana.
Farmers and ranchers know that weather is getting more extreme, especially in Eastern Montana. I believe that we need a diversified energy strategy that prepares us for what energy consumers will want. That future does include renewables, and we want to ensure that we don’t continue missing out on key projects like wind farms to states like Wyoming. Please see more on this topic at www.kathleenformontana.com/issues
Protests this summer called for reforms in policing systems across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. What, if any, changes do you think should be made in response to these requests and what is the role of Congress in changing policing systems?
I do not support “defunding the police.” We need to make sure that everyone has equal access to and treatment under the law and that we ensure all can feel safe in our communities. We urgently need to ensure that we as a country can truly move to a place where all can live their lives and have opportunity without being judged, persecuted or arrested based solely on the color of their skin.
If elected, what legislation would you make your top priority during your first term in office?
My issues page was crafted as my “to do” list for arrival in DC. Healthcare is Montana's number one priority. I want to get the 55+ Medicare buy-in going, saving on prescription drugs, and addressing costs for those on the “subsidy cliff” who are often trying to pay $1900 a month with a 9,000 deductible.
Would you have voted to impeach President Donald Trump? Why?
I would have worked my darndest to ensure the process was bi-partisan, and that I was as knowledgeable in the facts and allegations as possible and communicating that to Montanans. I believe my involvement and actions could have made a difference and could have determined my vote. The reality is he was impeached but not removed from office. Now the voters will decide.
Both Congress and the country are deeply politically divided. Would you take steps to bridge this divide and, if so, how?
I’m in this race because Montanans deserve a true, independent voice in Congress, rooted in their hopes, struggles, and dreams, who will work with people of all political stripes on solutions for Montana, not just special interests.
For my entire career, I have worked to bring people together to find win-win-win solutions to very thorny issues. It’s an art and a skill, and that’s why I’m running to cut through the hyper-partisanship and get results for Montana.
I was in the minority while I was a legislator, so I had to work with people of all political stripes to pass bills. I’ll bring that mindset and work ethic to Congress. I will gladly work with anyone if it helps Montanans.
What steps will you take to make sure you are accessible and heard by your constituents if elected? Will this focus on in-person or remote town halls?
A true representative is grounded in the hopes, struggles and dreams of her constituents. That was my favorite part of being a legislator was working to solve problems and foster opportunity for my constituents. I will be available as much as I possibly can- Wednesday delegation, breakfasts in DC, regular online town halls, frequent, relevant and informational newsletters, and in-person meetings whenever possible. I expect to be in Montana, on average every other weekend. Especially when Congress is not in session. In addition, I plan to develop a staffing structure with Montanans in mind, that will efficiently feed me issues, needs and input from Montanans both organically from the ground, and in response to my requests for input on proposals in Congress. I also plan to set up a series of Advisory Committees that I can communicate regularly on specific topics. We will have new Farm Bill proposals soon and I look forward to creating broad input opportunities on that as I ensure it works for Montanans.
What other issues are important to your campaign?
I will fight to ensure all Americans can access quality, affordable healthcare. In the near term, I will work to allow people 55+ to buy into Medicare, fight the skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs, and protect the right of women to make their own healthcare decisions without government interference.
I will ensure that America’s economy works for all by focusing investment efforts on the issues that are important to small businesses, particularly in rural America. This includes investing in infrastructure projects, quality education and healthcare. We must advance regional economic development and value-added opportunities. Businesses need a qualified and able workforce. I agree with efforts to reduce red tape that unreasonably hampers business. Immediately, we need to stem the pandemic and ensure consumers can get to spending again.
I will work to protect America’s natural resources and outdoor heritage from the threat of global climate change and activities that threaten our clean air and water. My background is in natural resources management, and I strongly believe we must bring science back to the policymaking table and America back to the forefront of environmental policy. It is prudent fiscal policy to protect what is still clean, rather than having to restore it. We will have new Farm Bill proposals soon and I look forward to creating broad input opportunities on that as I ensure it works for Montanans.