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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Juneau Discusses 'Campaign Of Firsts'

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau
Eric Whitney
Denise Juneau

Denise Juneau is running as a Democrat for Montana’s lone seat in Congress.

Juneau was elected to her current position as Superintendent of Montana’s Office of Public Instruction in 2008. She was narrowly re-elected in 2012. She says the experience as an elected executive branch official qualifies her to serve in the U.S. House.

After officially filing her candidacy with Montana’s Secretary of State office late last week, Juneau briefly sat down with Montana Public Radio to talk about her campaign.

DENISE JUNEAU: “I think I have a record of accomplishment to run on. I think one thing to point to is Graduation Matters Montana. Working with 53 communities across the state to raise graduation rates and pulling in small businesses and diverse stakeholders and students and parents to really confront challenges that matter. We’ve had record-high graduation rates in this state because of that work going on. I think I really have a record of accomplishment and pushing back on the federal government for policies that don’t work for our state and taking my record of getting things done and comparing it to my opponent, who you know, has a book deal, he gets on TV a lot, he wanted to be Speaker of the House early on as a freshman Representative. And taking that and really communicating what I’ve been able to get done compared to what he has not.”

Corin Cates-Carney: "You announced your filing in front of the Jeannette Rankin statue; it seems you’re running a campaign on a lot of firsts - first native women, first women in a long time, first openly gay candidate. Do think those firsts are going to help you or hurt you?"

DJ: "It is amazing that there are still firsts to be had in 2016 and 2017. But I do think that looking at this election cycle, the first women elected to Montana Congress was 100 years ago. We have a choice to repeat that with the second woman elected to Congress this next year. The first American Indian women elected to Congress from anywhere, ever. That is really historic for our state. And I think Montana proved that they are willing to do that when they elected me to state office twice, to Superintendent of Public Instruction. First openly gay candidate, I think that is really exciting for a lot of people, to see themselves reflected in the political process. But also, I think despite all those firsts it’s taking my record of accomplishment and the ability to get things done and comparing that to what is currently not happening with that seat. But at the end of the day I think [voters] look at the records of the candidates in this race and see a very clear contrast and choose me to be their representative.”

An area where Juneau’s record isn’t as comprehensive as her opponent is in the topic of foreign affairs. Zinke is a former U.S. Navy SEAL with international commanding and operation experience. Here’s what Juneau said on her outlook on foreign policy.

DJ: “Well, I do think first and foremost we always have to look at the safety and security of Americans and Montanans. And make sure that whatever foreign policy we are looking at, any kind of defense issues, that we take that into account, and that should be number one. Each of those areas is going to have to be taken apart and looked at and deciding first how we are going to protect Montana citizens and American citizens, and then what we do about those threats, and taking those one by one and considering them. But always looking out for the safety and protection.”

CCC: "How effective do you think you will be as a freshman Congresswoman? You are promising change, but what do you think you can do?"

DJ: “Well, here is what I do know, as a elected official you can get a lot done in this state. And even though we have one voice for one million Montanans, that voice should be one that reflects Montana values. I know what one elected official can do. I’ve done it as state Superintendent. You can get things done in-state. And this position goes back to Washington D.C. and you’re one of 435 positions. But what you can do there is look out for rural America. Look out for rural Montana. And make sure that voice is ever-present in whatever federal policy is being created. But when you come home you can do constituency services. You make sure individuals are looked out for and you can provide those. I think that is something I have a proven record on and I don’t think my opponent is doing that job right now.

CCC: "If you were elected you would be serving under a new president. How do you think you would serve under what could be a Republican nomination of Donald Trump?"

DJ: "Well, thank God for different branches of government, because going back as the U.S. Representative, I’m serving in the legislative branch. And that really is the beauty of the constitutional tensions between the different branches of government. Each of those has a job to do. And whoever the executive happens to be, as the elected representative to the U.S. House from Montana, I am going to my do very best to make sure the voices of Montanans are carried to Washington in whatever policy we are looking at and bring that voice of reason, bring that idea that we can do compromise, that we can collaborate and still get things done in this state, and take that voice to D.C. We could use more Montana reasonable voices in D.C."

Juneau is running against Republican Ryan Zinke for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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