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Mike Cooney: 2020 General Election Q&A

Mike Cooney is the 2020 Democratic candidate for governor.
Mike Cooney is the 2020 Democratic candidate for governor.

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.

Mike Cooney is the 2020 Democratic candidate for governor.

What makes you the best candidate to be Montana’s next governor and how do you stand out from your opponent(s)?

I have dedicated my life to serving Montanans, and I have a record of delivering results for our state. Throughout my career I’ve led on improving the economy, I helped expand access to quality, affordable health care, and I’ve opened up access to more than a quarter million acres of public lands in our state.

My opponent doesn’t share the values I grew up with. While I’ve spent my life fighting for Montana families, my opponent started a company that outsourced American jobs. While I worked to pass Medicaid expansion, my opponent fought to eliminate it. While I worked to protect our public lands, my opponent sued to block access to a fishing spot near his mansion. 

I know how to bring Democrats and Republicans together to get things done. My opponent toes the party line back in DC, and has demonstrated he doesn’t have the temperament a Governor needs.

States across the country are feeling health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. What role should the governor take over the coming year to slow the virus’ spread and repair the economy?

Guiding Montana’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis will be my top priority as Governor. First, we must continue following the science in addressing public health. Measures like wearing masks, social distancing, and following health guidelines will be critical to protecting the health and safety of our state. 

Before the pandemic hit I worked with Governor Bullock to build a foundation for a strong economy, and thanks to our efforts, Montana’s economic recovery has been one of the best in the nation. But there is more work to be done: as Governor, I will make sure Montana businesses have the tools and resources they need to bounce back stronger and more resilient than ever and create more good-paying jobs for the working women and men of our state.

What actions would you take or what issues would you prioritize that you believe haven’t been addressed by the current governor?

I am proud of the record Governor Bullock and I have built working together to deliver results for Montana. We have brought Republicans and Democrats together to expand access to health care, build a strong economy, and break the logjam on infrastructure funding. I am especially proud of the work we have done to address the COVID crisis. Because of our work, Montana’s jobs recovery has been one of the best in the nation, and we have kept our infection rates among the lowest in the country.

Every administration faces unique challenges and circumstances. My Administration will be focused on bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, addressing the impacts of a changing climate, and protecting all of the progress our Administration has made.

What are your top three policy priorities that you would like to see passed during the 2021 legislative session?

I’m running for governor to bring Republicans and Democrats together to tackle the biggest challenges of our time. I’m proud of what Governor Bullock and I have accomplished and I’m going to fight tooth and nail to protect our record of results for the people of Montana. But there’s always more work to be done. As Governor I’ll work with Republicans and Democrats to continue guiding Montana’s COVID economic recovery, lower the cost of prescription drugs, and establish a public pre-K program.

What areas of state spending should be increased and what should be cut? Please provide specific policies, programs or agencies.

Thanks to our Administration, Montana’s budget is in a good place. Governor Bullock and I worked hard to build a strong economy before the pandemic, and thanks to our leadership. Our job recovery ranks among the best in the nation. 

I will continue that work as Governor. I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats to balance a budget every year I’ve been in office, investing in areas that reflect our values and leaving enough cash for a rainy day. In Montana we balance the budget the way we balance our checkbooks: we don’t spend more than we take in. I’ll bring folks together, like I always have, to balance the budget and make critical investments in the areas Montanans expect.

What changes, if any, do you believe Montana should make to the state’s tax system?

The middle of a pandemic is no time to be raising taxes. Over the long term one thing I have proposed is increasing the income tax on folks like my opponent who make more than $500,000 a year. It doesn’t make sense to me these folks pay the same rate as someone making minimum wage. 

What is the top health care issue Montanans are facing and how would you address it?

Obviously the top health care issue our state faces is the continued threat posed by the coronavirus crisis, and I will continue pushing our robust and effective response that includes mask wearing, social distancing, and following the science to keep folks healthy and safe.

But another threat to our health care is looming: one week after the election the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the Affordable Care Act. Overturning the ACA would scrap Montana’s Medicaid expansion program, and strip health care coverage away from 1-in-10 Montanans and remove protections for folks with pre-existing conditions in the middle of a pandemic.

If the ACA is overturned and Medicaid expansion eliminated, I will bring Republicans and Democrats together to codify, in state law, the critical and popular protections offered by the Affordable Care Act.

What role, if any, should the governor of Montana take in reducing the effects of climate change?

We must continue to be a leader in transitioning to a clean energy economy, supporting good new jobs for Montanans who have helped power the country for decades. We can best maintain these jobs - and create new ones - by setting our own destiny.

Montanans know our climate is changing because we see it in front of our own eyes. We must take action to protect Montana for future generations without leaving anyone behind.

Montana has always been an energy leader, and energy production has long provided good jobs for hard-working Montanans.

It is essential that we rely on the science behind climate change while making informed decisions that reflect Montana values.

What does "protecting public lands" mean to you and are there specific policies you would support to forward that vision?

Public lands are part of who we are as Montanans. I grew up hiking and fishing on our public lands and I’m looking forward to making new memories with my first grandchild, Jackson, on our public lands. I’ve fought to protect and expand access to our public lands my entire career, and I never have and never will support a federal public land transfer. 

As Governor I will work to ensure that the current work underway to increase access to public lands. I will veto legislation that impairs or hurts our ability to increase access, damages our access programs, or privatizes our wildlife resource, and I will do everything in my power to protect our public lands, our clean air and clean, enhance our outdoor economy and support good-paying jobs.

Do you support changing laws regarding access to abortions in Montana? What specific changes would you support and under what circumstances do you believe abortions should be legal?

No. I believe in a woman’s right to make her own private health care decisions, and I will stand firmly in the way of anyone who wants to put government between a woman and her doctor.

Do you believe the current gubernatorial administration is transparent and accessible? What will your administration do to make sure your actions are transparent and accessible to the public and the press?

Montanans expect their elected officials to behave responsibly and with integrity. The voters trust us to conduct their business on their behalf, and to do so with honor. Throughout my career in public service that’s exactly what I have done - including during my time as Lt. Governor. 

Our administration has taken steps to increase transparency in government spending while in office. Immediately after becoming governor, the Bullock administration launched Montana’s first ever online database for Montanans to see how state money was spent on contracts. My Administration will continue this tradition of transparency and accountability. 

What other issues are important to your campaign?

I’m a lifelong Montanan. Throughout my career in public service I have led on increasing wages and job opportunities, on protecting and expanding access to affordable healthcare, and defending our public lands. As Governor I will continue leading, and I will fight to secure a brighter future for our state. To read more about my priorities and plans for supporting farmers and ranchers, increasing access to affordable housing, taking care of veterans and military families, and more please visit my website:

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