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Familiar Themes Punctuate Final Gubernatorial Debate

Photo montage of Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, L, and Governor Steve Bullock, R, from the September 19, 2016 debate at MSU Billings.
Photo montage of Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, L, and Governor Steve Bullock, R, from the September 19, 2016 debate at MSU Billings.

Democratic incumbent Steve Bullock and Republican challenger Greg Gianforte aimed familiar barbs at each other during a televised debate Saturday night. As Jackie Yamanaka reports the criticisms have been airing over and over on the television ads.

Photo montage of Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, L, and Governor Steve Bullock, R, from the September 19, 2016 debate at MSU Billings.
Credit Patrick Williams / University Relations, MSU Billings
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Photo montage of Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, L, and Governor Steve Bullock, R, from the September 19, 2016 debate at MSU Billings.

Democratic incumbent Steve Bullock and Republican challenger Greg Gianforte aimed familiar barbs at each other during a televised debate October 8, 2015 from Great Falls. 

The just over 1 hour debate, sponsored by the MTN Television Network, featured criticisms Montanans have heard in television ads over the last several months.

The verbal wrangling began from the start.  Gianforte questioned the integrity of the Bullock Administration, pointing out the incubment’s use of the state airplane and called him a career politician.

Bullock responded by calling Gianforte an out-of-state millionaire who shut the gate on river access to sportsmen and women and outsourcing jobs overseas.

When a question was asked about Gianforte’s claims he’s a job creator, Bullock pounced. He said a Forbes article noted Gianforte’s company took outsourcing to a new level.

“Even Greg Gianforte in an investor call said one of the biggest drivers of our business is outsourcing,” said Bullock. “His former chief financial officer said that the model really was to eliminate employees and you could outsource overseas using a new technology service platform. You can’t deny that jobs that he certainly could have put in Montana he outsourced engineering jobs to Armenia and service jobs to India.”

“I’m glad you brought up that Forbes article,” said Gianforte. He said

the article did say his company did take outsourcing to a new level.

“And what they were referring to, that article doesn’t mention foreign jobs at all,” Gianforte said. “What they’re referring to is that through our technology major corporations all over the world – American Express, Sony, Motorola, and others – outsourced their customer service technology to a little company in Bozeman, Montana and we created jobs here.”

He said he and his wife are proud of that. Gianforte charged Bullock is a career politican, “Who will do or say anything and is willing to villainize success for his own political gain.”

Bullock returned to that talking points later in his closing statement after he said Montanans are working and the economy is strong. And he circled back to paint Gianforte as an advocate for the wealthy.

“He’s written more than $3 million worth of checks to try to buy this election. Montana’s not for sale,” said Bullock. “Not our public lands. Not our resources. Not our education system. And not our state Capitol.”

Gianforte said in his closing statement Montana needs more high wage jobs and integrity back in state government. He didn’t apologize for putting his own money into his campaign.

“This is your decision, not mine. But I’m putting myself forward,” he said. “I have clearly said I will not take any special interest money in this campaign, only those from individuals. And I have put my own resources in it because I love this state.”

This live, televised debate was the final face-off between the gubernatorial candidates of the fall campaign season. It was sponsored by MTN, the Montana Television Network.

The general election is November 8, 2016. Absentee ballots will be mailed out beginning October 14, 2016.

Copyright 2016 Yellowstone Public Radio

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