Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Three Libertarians vying for nomination in Montana's 2nd Congressional District

 Sam Rankin, Roger Roots and Sam Thomas are running in the Libertarian primary for Montana's 2nd Congressional District.
Courtesy candidates
Sam Rankin, Roger Roots and Sam Thomas are running in the Libertarian primary for Montana's 2nd Congressional District.

The three Libertarians running in Montana's 2nd Congressional District have different views on what the role of government should be.

Sam Rankin, Roger Roots and Samuel Thomas all fall on different points of the Libertarian spectrum.

Rankin is a moderate Libertarian from Billings who previously ran for the U.S. House in 2012 and the U.S. Senate in 2014. He says he’s running for office again because he wants to get the influence of money out of politics.

"There is a way somewhere in the middle and I think we need to find it and that’s hopeful what I’ll do back in Washington," Rankin said. "Without the influence of money ... I can compromise and assess and take a moderate position of a lot of different positions that people say now you can't do if you're gonna be a Democrat and you can’t do if you’re gonna be a Republican."

Roots — a lawyer who grew up in Big Timber — describes himself as a hardline Libertarian. Though he ran for state auditor in 2020, receiving 5% of votes, he advocates for sweeping deregulation and the reduction of government.

"I think that’s what we need right now most of all in this country, is someone who is just anti-government. Just completely anti-government," he said. "Because the government has gotten so out of control.

"The federal government, I will openly say, is tyrannical."

Thomas’ support for government-run programs like universal healthcare makes him stand out in the Libertarian race. He describes the drive behind his campaign as giving voters an alternative to the incumbent, Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale.

In particular, Thomas — a first-time candidate from Missoula — disagrees with Rosendale’s vote to not certify the 2020 election.

"I believe that most of our state supported the peaceful transition of power even though the Republican won here in Montana," Thomas said. "I’m sick and tired of Matt Rosendale’s voting record, so I’m making an effort to do something about it."

Roots, in comparison, calls Rosendale one of the more Libertarian members of Congress. Roots says he approves of Rosendale's recent vote to not get involved with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"I gotta hand it to him, that was fairly Libertarian, and in line with Montana traditions, including the great tradition of Jeannette Rankin," Roots said.

Sam Rankin, who says he has a “shirttails” relation to Montana’s first and only congresswoman, says politicians on both sides of the aisle, including Rosendale, are too deeply influenced by money from political action committees and lobbyists.

The three Libertarian candidates also diverge on policy matters. Roots and Thomas fall on opposite ends of the political spectrum when it comes to government programs to address health care, the economy and balancing the country's energy needs with environmental protections.

Roots supports the deregulation of industries and says most government programs should not exist.

Thomas says he supports government-funded social programs, including initiatives to make health care more affordable, investments in renewable energy, and continued financial support for people and businesses affected by the pandemic.

"I mean, we need obviously to keep up with our small business loans and keep those going out to businesses that need it," he said. "I do believe the government still should be helping out small businesses in that way whenever they need."

Rankin falls between the two other candidates on policy matters. While he supports programs like federal small business loans and advocates for investments in renewable energy, he also says the government can’t and shouldn’t attempt to fix all of the nation's problems.

"We really have gotten used to too much money from the government, both individuals and organizations," Rankin said. "I could cut programs on both sides of the aisle — liberal, conservative — without any hesitation and without much compunction because there's a lot of waste on both sides."

The winner of the June 7 primary will be on the ballot for the general election in November.

Copyright 2022 Yellowstone Public Radio. To see more, visit Yellowstone Public Radio.

Jess Sheldahl is a reporter for Yellowstone Public Radio and the host of Morning Edition as well as YPR's daily news podcast, The Worm.
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information